Seat puts some extra gloss on its Ateca SUV
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Seat Ateca FR 4Drive
Looks sharp, great to drive, unique offering in the VW Group world.
Potentially overlooked in the SUV crowd, cabin doesn’t match VW Group siblings.
If you wish your Volkswagen Tiguan was a bit smaller and more nimble, or your Skoda Karoq was a bit more grunty and aggressive, then you might need a Seat Ateca FR.
Tiguan, Karoq and Ateca are the triumvirate of VW Group’s medium-SUV parts bin. They are definitely different, but also the same: they share a platform, powertrain components and electronic architecture.
Ateca and Karoq even share their rear doors – and while the former is a creation of VW’s Spanish division, it’s actually built by Skoda in the Czech Republic.
So it’s clear VW is a master of platform sharing. A slightly different skew to local specification for each model also makes the local importer of all three brands quite clever at marketing these various SUVs… even if they’ll tell you each brand is just doing its own thing.
The Ateca FR 4Drive is a case in point. It’s powered by a 140kW/390Nm 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine in a state of tune that you can’t have in a VW or Skoda in New Zealand. The Tiguan sits either side at 132kW (TSI Highline) or R-Line (162kW), while the Karoq doesn’t currently go beyond 110kW.
An Ateca-equivalent powertrain did come briefly in the VW T-Roc (it’s kind of a Tiguan coupe) at the end of 2018 in a limited run of models, and that’s set to return as part of the mainstream VW range this year.
Actually, aligning T-Roc and Ateca FR in your brain isn’t a bad thing, because Seat’s brief within the VW character universe is to be the sporty, fun brand and the Ateca has always felt that little bit sharper on the road than your average Tiguan or Karoq. A bit more special.
That’s partly down to the lively engine, partly down to a slightly more aggressive state of suspension tune and perhaps a bit to do with the fact that Ateca is noticeably more compact than Tiguan: it’s 123mm shorter overall.
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We reckon it’s also the looker of this bunch (fashion-forward T-Roc aside, of course). But that’s a matter of personal taste.
Ateca was the original Seat SUV and really the catalyst for the brand’s introduction into the Kiwi market. It’s been around in Europe since 2016 and here in NZ since 2018.
Which presents a bit of a problem, because it’s now been overshadowed by newer Seat SUVs like the baby Arona and larger Tarraco. There’s also now also a $6000-cheaper 1.4-litre front-drive version of the Ateca FR, which broadens the range but also takes a bit of the gloss off the 4Drive version. Especially when the $6k-cheaper FR FWD is currently $12k cheaper as part of a Seat promotion at the time of writing.
Not to mention Seat’s decision to launch its standalone Cupra brand with a version of the Ateca last year. Because that means the FR 4Drive is no longer top gun in the range (okay, the Cupra isn’t technically a “Seat”).
All of the above works in a brand/business way but also works against the FR 4Drive’s standing in the scheme of things and that’s a shame, because in many ways it’s the hidden gem in this cluster of this VW Group German-Czech-Spanish medium SUVs.
It’s around this time that a mid-life facelift could give a model a bit of a shove and the Ateca has just had one. Well, kind of. Inside, there’s a new infotainment unit in line with the latest VW/Skoda stuff, including a high-gloss glass front with fewer physical buttons and much sharper graphics.
Anyway, that’s about it. Unless you count the sparkling new Crystal Black colour of our test car, which actually has a fair bit of blue in it (check it out in bright sunlight). It’s a $700 option, but you know you want to.
SEAT ATECA FR 4DRIVE
ENGINE: 2.0L turbo-petrol four
GEARBOX: Seven-speed automated dual-clutch, AWD
PROS: Looks sharp, great to drive, unique offering in the VW Group world.
CONS: Potentially overlooked in the SUV crowd, cabin doesn’t match VW Group siblings.