Seat’s first SUV will be called the Ateca

Spanish marque of the VW Group aims at high targets with Qashqai rival

Coming to Ireland this summer: Seat’s long-awaited new Ateca crossover

Coming to Ireland this summer: Seat’s long-awaited new Ateca crossover

 

So, it’s to be called the Ateca and it is the culmination of a project that dates back at least as far as the IBX concept of 2011, and actually has a final production form that doesn’t look all that different from the IBX.

The Ateca (named for a Spanish village, near Zaragoza) is Seat’s first-ever SUV or crossover (unless you count the slightly jacked-up Leon X-Perience 4WD estate) and it comes at a critical time for the Spanish car maker. Its sales, although significantly better than they have been, are still not healthy enough for Volkswagen Group’s bean counters, and with “dieselgate” weighing heavily on the group as a whole, Seat has to finally make good on its promises. An SUV is critical to that kind of sales success.

Based, of course, on the VW Group MQB platform, the Ateca is actually around 20mm shorter than its primary rival, the Nissan Qashqai, but has a significantly larger boot: 510 litres on the front-wheel-drive models, 485 litres on the four-wheel-drive ones.

“We have put together an amazing package of technologies and innovations for the Ateca, delivering more safety and utility but, above all, the most dynamic driving experience possible. We will set a whole new standard within the segment with its light-footed, precise handling,” says Dr Matthias Rabe, Seat’s vice president responsible for research and development.

The styling is unsurprising, taking sharp-nosed cues from the current Leon and Ibiza models and adding height and bulk, while the interior is also very familiar and indeed looks to have been lifted directly from the Leon.

It will come with some high-tech options though, including a traffic jam assistant, which can start, stop and steer as you creep along in heavy traffic, and an emergency assist, which can not only sound a warning and jab the brakes if it thinks the driver has fallen asleep, but even bring the vehicle to a controlled stop.

Rounding off its array of additional support technologies are active cruise control with front assist, traffic sign recognition, blind spot detection, rear cross traffic alert and top view camera for parking.

Inside, there will be the option of an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system, and a wireless phone charging pad built into the armrest.

Engines will range from a 115hp 1.6-litre turbo diesel (likely to be the biggest seller in the Irish market) to the familiar 2.0-litre TDI with either 150hp or 190hp. There will also be a range of petrol engines, kicking off with a 115hp 1.0-litre three-cylinder unit with Co2 emissions of just 112g/km, plus the more familiar 150hp 1.4-litre turbo petrol. Petrol engine availability hasn’t yet been confirmed for Ireland, however.

Niall Phillips, brand director of Seat Ireland, said: “The Seat Ateca marks the brand’s entry into a new segment for us and it will, we believe, set the standard in its class.”

Seat knows, though, that the Ateca will be something of a make-or-break car for the brand. As Phillips points out, the SUV and crossover market is burgeoning and taking over from more traditional saloon and hatchback sectors.

Failure to perform well in a buoyant market could spell the end for VW’s patience with the Spanish marque. Its current president, Luca de Meo, is a former senior Audi executive and not a man known for his tolerance of failure. Launching the car, he spoke of Seat’s too-long-hidden excellence and the fact that its Martorell factory is considered of high enough quality to build Audis (although the Ateca will actually be built for Seat in Skoda’s Czech factory).

“The Ateca is perfect for an urban lifestyle. It possesses stunning design and dynamics, and boasts compelling quality and utility. But, above all, the Ateca exudes unmistakable character,” said de Meo. “Our first SUV marks the start of a new era for Seat. The Ateca is a clear development of the Leon DNA and will drive forward the success of the Leon range. Seat is a brand on the move.”

The Ateca will make its public debut at the Geneva motor show next month and will go on sale here in the summer.