SEAT Ateca: Say it again for Spanish
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The next four months are going to be busy for New Zealand’s latest car company, Spanish brand SEAT, with the opening of its first store and then an influx of new products.
SEAT is well known in Europe and was previously known as the “Spanish Fiat” before Volkswagen Group bought it in 1986.
In New Zealand, it joins European Motor Distributors' VW Group brands, such as Audi, VW, Porsche, Bentley and Skoda.
SEAT is an acronym for the Sociedad Espanola de Automoviles de Turismo; which translates as Society of Spanish Automobile Tourism.
It’s pronounced “say it” though the company isn’t going to turn away a sale if you call it “seat”.
The brand's first vehicle here in October was the Leon hatchback, including the Cupra sport model. The Ibiza small hatch is now available from $25,900 for the Style version.
Those two hatchbacks are being joined by the Ateca SUV diesel. By February, petrol versions of the Ateca will be on sale before the medium SUV Arona arrives.
In 2019, SEAT will have its next SUV in its lineup, though details are still hush-hush. There are four choices for the name: Alboran, Aranda, Avila or Tarraco with the public picking the final badge.
But this week, SEAT NZ has been busy opening its first store at Newmarket, Auckland with the brand moving away from traditional dealerships and instead focusing on customers, as Tesla does with its stores.
The SEAT store sits among traditional car yards on Great South Rd, Newmarket and and the Ateca sits in a crowded, and popular, segment: compact SUV.
Kia’s Sportage reigns after it offered the vehicle for a competitive price of $30,000 at start-up. Hyundai’s Tucson is second while Mitsubishi’s ASX is third in the segment.
Volkswagen’s Tiguan is fourth and the Ateca could be mistaken for its sibling as they have a similar platform plus interior while the exterior styling is more conservative in the Spanish brand.
But its real twin is the Skoda Karoq that shares its platform and is built in the same factory in the Czech Republic. The Karoq goes on sale in New Zealand next year.
There are four versions of the Ateca: 1.4-litre, 110kW/250Nm petrol Style ($38,900) and Xcellence ($44,900); 2-litre, 140kW/320Nm petrol FR 4Drive ($50,900) and our test model, the 2-litre 140kW/400NM Xcellence diesel.
The 1.4 petrol versions are front-wheel drive though the FR and Xcellence diesel are all-wheel drive. All are paired to a seven-speed DSG transmission, and all models have five-star EuroNcap rating.
The Style sits on 17in alloys, has blind spot monitoring, autonomous braking, rear-view camera and rear parking sensors plus an 8in touchscreen with apps. The drive selection includes economy, comfort, and dynamic.
The Xcellence models sit on 18in alloys and as well as the same specs as the Style, have adaptive cruise control, surround view camera, heated front seats, keyless entry, electric tail gate plus the drive selection of economy, comfort, dynamic and off-road.
The top spec FR also gets sports steering wheel, body coloured bumpers and alcantara upholstery.
Price comparison to the Tiguan sees the Ateca between $3000 and nearly $8000 cheaper.
And that’s an interesting prospect for Kiwi buyers.
Only diesel is currently available, but once petrol models arrive, interest will be piqued as this is the fuel of choice for all but a few buyers in this segment.
Though SEAT is a new name to most New Zealanders, the Spanish company can take heart from Skoda’s experince in this country. It wasn’t so long ago that Kiwis were making jokes about the Czech brand and its 1970s and 80s models.
But its move to the VW Group in the 1990s saw Skoda become an automotive player, while its value package in New Zealand in recent years — plus styling and performance — means it is a mainstream vehicle for Kiwi buyers.
And so it will be with SEAT in New Zealand, especially for its target market of 27-year-olds who aren’t fussed about badge bragging, instead wanting value for money.
The SEAT Ateca diesel is a solid performer both on the road and when sitting inside it.
Around town there was the diesel “rattle” at low speed but once on the motorway, the 2-litre diesel came to the fore. Put the car into “dynamic” mode and the Ateca moves up a notch when it comes to power. The gear ratio is longer and it overtakes easily in fifth gear at over 100km/h.
The size of the Ateca makes handling at speed sturdy, rather than wallowing like some large off-roaders. The turning circle of the Ateca made it easy to manoeuvre into tight spots while the assistance of surround view camera is a must in the city.
It’s easy to see why the Ateca has won awards in Europe, including best crossover for 2016 from Auto Express, best small SUV 2017 for What Car, and best buy car of Europe in 2017 by AutoBest.
Now it’s time for Kiwis to see what all the fuss is about.
2-LITRE 140KW/400NM XCELLENCE DIESEL, AWD
Pros: $52,900, Good value
Cons: Petrol is favoured