Any suspicion that Volkswagen’s downsized 1.6-litre diesel engine might not be quite up to the job of satisfactorily lugging around a shapely new crossover prove largely unfounded.

The Ateca’s venerable 1.6 TDI may not qualify as spring chicken, nor particularly accelerate like one, but a life cycle pockmarked by tweaks and updates means that the unit’s performance is never less than dutiful – an impression corroborated by a recorded 10.5sec 0-60mph time that is a full second quicker than advertised.

Nic Cackett

Nic Cackett

Road tester
Sharp inclines expose the 1.6 TDI’s lack of puff; the chassis could carry more pace through the left-hander than this engine can deliver

As is the case in this engine’s other applications, wide throttle openings are required to keep up a modest head of steam; sagging much below 2000rpm is generally fatal due to the engine’s tendency to wilt when not being subsidised by its turbocharger.

Given that this tends to occur at 40mph in the predictably long final ratio, it can make economical driving seem a bit more tiresome than in the more giving 2.0-litre variant.

But as it revs keenly enough and comes furnished with the snappy gearchanges of the Volkswagen Group’s six-speed manual ’box, it’s rare that you feel yourself getting grouchy with the quality of progress.

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Such a reaction is best reserved instead for the amount of noise the engine generates.

The core strength of the current Qashqai is its striking refinement, the cabin being very well isolated from the combined racket of road and engine.

In the Ateca, it’s less easy to disassociate yourself from the background drone, and while it never becomes so unruly as to disrupt quiet conversation, its presence is audible at idle and downright insistent at higher revs.

Our noise meter recorded a 3dB penalty at 70mph versus the 1.5dCi Qashqai we drove and a 6dB difference at big crank speeds in third. Although not ruinous, the highish noise level is a chink in what is otherwise convincing armour. 

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