Motorcheck Used Car Guide: Seat Ateca

Years built: 2016 to today

Bodystyles: Five-door family crossover

What is it?

Seat’s mid-size family crossover has never managed to top the sales charts in the same was as its great rivals, the Hyundai Tucson and the Nissan Qashqai, but in many ways it’s actually the superior car. It’s a neatly-styled crossover, with a big boot, a huge cabin, and good driving manners, that also just happens to work really well as a petrol-engined car if you’re done with diesel. How does it stack up as a second-hand buy?

Which one should I buy?

Introduced in 2016, and based on the same VW Group MQB engine and chassis parts-bin as the Volkswagen Tiguan, Skoda Karoq, and Skoda Kodiaq, the Ateca can be had with a choice of two petrol engines, and three diesels.

That base petrol engine is a tiny 1.0-litre, three-cylinder turbo petrol and if you’re thinking that’s not going to be half enough to haul around something the size of an Ateca, you’d be wrong. OK, we wouldn’t try towing any large, heavy, horseboxes with one, but if most of your mileage is in town, and you’re not carrying hefty loads much of the time, then a 1.0-litre Ateca can be surprisingly satisfying.

A better option is possibly the 1.4-litre, 150hp, turbo petrol (more recently upgraded to a 1.5-litre unit with the same power output). Again, many will balk at the idea of trying to run a chunky SUV with a small-ish petrol engine, but again the Ateca will confound your expectations — this is actually the pick of the whole Ateca engine range, as it’s refined, has punchy performance, and yet decent fuel economy.

Those interested in towing, or who drive constant long-haul journeys, should go for one of three diesel options — a 1.6 TDI with 115hp, a 2.0-litre TDI with 150hp, or a 2.0-litre TDI with 190hp. Four-wheel drive is optional on the more powerful engines, and you can have a seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic too.

All Atecas are well-equipped, with even basic SE versions coming with a decent touchscreen infotainment system, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, all-round electric windows, stop-start, LED daytime running lights, an electronic parking brake, and two-zone climate control. If you fancy some sporty styling, it’s worth upgrading to the FR spec model, which gets a chunky body kit and larger alloy wheels, as well as an infotainment system upgrade.

The more important news is that the Ateca is a hugely practical family car, with roomy back seats (just about enough width for three child car seats across the back), and a massive 510-litre boot.

How much should I spend? Circa €20,000 will get you a 2017 Steca.

Here’s one we found:

2017 Seat Ateca XC 1.4 TSI, 59,000km, one owner, €20,950 from a Seat main dealer.

What goes wrong?

Seat has an exceptionally good reputation for both reliability and build quality, and the Ateca is even better built than usual — possibly because it’s actually built in Skoda’s factory in the Czech Republic, and few companies anywhere build a car better than Skoda.

Very little seems to go wrong on the Ateca, although clogging diesel particulate filters have been an issue for TDI models, especially those that have been driven only for low mileages. The 1.4 TSI petrol engine is probably the most reliable powerplant, and indeed Seat (And VW) modified the engine before the Ateca was launched in order to make it more reliable — changes included a more robust turbocharger, and a switch from a timing chain (which had caused problems on the older versions of the engine) to a timing belt, which obviously needs replacing at regular intervals.

The satellite navigations system can develop issues, and the electric motor that powers the (optional) powered tailgate can burn out. If the car has front parking sensors, water can get inside the sensor and cause it to start beeping at odd moments, even when driving on the motorway (!).

One word of warning though: if you’re buying either of the 2.0-litre diesel engines, don’t pair them with the DSG automatic gearbox. The changes that were needed to get that combo through the tough WLTP emissions test means that low-rpm response has been dulled to the point where pulling out of tight junctions in flowing traffic can be quite a hair-raising experience. Stick with a manual ‘box.

Anything else?

There are a couple of high-performance options. Seat does still offer a 2.0-litre TSI petrol engine option, with 190hp (essentially a slightly detuned VW Golf GTI engine) in the FR model. Or, if you want to go the whole hog, you could get a Cupra Ateca, which isn’t technically a Seat (it’s Seat’s high-performance spinoff) which comes with a 300hp 2.0-litre petrol turbo (donated from the Golf R) and some serious performance figures. Or, if you want a seven-seat version of the Ateca, you’ll have to upgrade to the recently launched Tarraco.

And when you’ve found your perfect Seat Ateca don’t forget to get it history checked by motorcheck.ie.