What's it like?
The 1.4 EcoTSI petrol engine marks the real sweet spot of the Ateca range, but it’s not quite as sweet here hooked up to an automatic as on earlier tests with the standard six-speed manual. You have to work a bit harder to access its wide spread of torque and exploit the engine’s willingness to rev, which is at odds with the fact step-off is so blunt and gives the car a mighty shove forward when pulling out of a junction. The gearbox’s more relaxed nature also stops you fully enjoying the chassis, which is the class’s most involving.
Still, forgetting the gearbox, this Ateca did manage to display the car’s impressive handling traits we’ve quickly got used to. This is an SUV that you can really enjoy driving; it turns in nicely and has a grippy front end, all of which bodes well for the upcoming Ateca FR and Ateca Cupra versions.
Our test car’s 19in wheels were further evidence that larger sets should be avoided on an Ateca; they push the ride over to the uncomfortable side of sporty. The Ateca is a firm-riding car anyway - the trade off for its tidy handling - but these 19in wheels are where the line should be drawn. There was plenty of tyre roar from the low-profile tyres, too.
Fuel economy wasn’t great on our test route; a steady 300-mile journey, a fair chunk of it on motorways and dual carriageways, produced closer to 35mpg than 40mpg. That's well short of the claimed 51.4mpg figure, although there's no surprise in that.
The well-specced interior is the same as on other Ateca models, and adds in leather on this Xcellence trim. There were a couple of technical gremlins in our test car, though, and are worthy of note. The voice control system felt like a throwback: for instance, ask to call your mum and Planet Rock ends up on the radio station. The DAB radio reception itself was also quite patchy, which is an even bigger frustration given that it's not standard kit lower down the range.