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Ateca sails in as SEAT gets tough 

THE Spanish Armada has launched a major attack on the UK and its guns are blazing at Nissan’s Qashqai.

SEAT – the Spanish brand of the VW group – has drawn up battle plans to win sales in the ever-growing SUV market.

And the company’s first-ever SUV – the Ateca – charged into the UK last month.

Motorists welcomed the compact SUV’s arrival, with more than 11,000 registering their interest in buying one ever before the Ateca reached the showrooms.

That’s great news for SEAT bosses who this model as one of its most crucial cars ever.

SEAT sales dipped in the UK last year mainly because of fewer sales in the sectors its models are in.

It contested just 54 per cent of the UK market but a major offensive will see this rising to 80 per cent in 2017.

Boosting this increased market coverage is the Ateca and a baby brother Arona model that will be launched next year.

The Ateca arrived with a line-up of five trim levels – S, SE, First Edition (limited to 200 models), SE Technology and Xcellence.

And with prices starting at £17,990, SEAT says it is taking the challenge to Qashqai with its undercut prices.

Other rivals who could see sales captured include Renault Kadjar and Ford Kuga.

There is a choice of five engines – two petrol (1.0 TSI 115 and 1.4 TSI) and three diesel (1.6 TDI 115, 2.0 TDI 150 and 190).

Four-wheel drive is available on the 2-litre models that also offer an auto tran-smission instead of the six-speed manual on other versions.

The newcomer has a striking, muscular appearance with its trapezoidal grille, side blisters with their sharp creases and roll bars.

And build quality inside and out is the typical high standard expected in a VW group model.

I sampled two of the mo-dels prior to them going on sale and reckon they’re good enough to make SEAT a much stronger player in the UK.

Interior room is good up front and in the back and I liked the high driving position.

Entry level S comes with a five-inch touchscreen but above this you get an eight-inch colour touchscreen which was simple to use in the two SE models I had a spin in.

What impressed me most was the way the Ateca handled.

I didn’t manage to sample all-wheel drive models or venture off the tarmac – just like the majority of SUV owners won’t – and found a lot to enjoy in this model.

First up was the petrol 1.4 150ps and its performance was much more sharper than I was expecting.

It proved to be nippy enough moving up through the gears and there was next to no wind noise sitting at maximum legal speed.

This SE model has an impressive acceleration time of 8.5 seconds from zero to 62mph and with a stop speed of 125mph it cruised along smoothly on the motorways.

Road grip was excellent and there was no roll when cornering at speed.

Ride comfort was also good and the chassis set up offers four driving profiles – normal, sport, eco and individual.

Four-wheel drive models add snow and off-road options as well as hill descent control.

The 1.6 diesel 115ps – expected to be the most popular engine choice – didn’t have the same zest but didn’t lack mid-range power and was a good overall performer.

While the petrol model is capable of achieving an excellent 53.3mpg average this diesel unit’s average is a whopping 656.7mpg

The Ateca offers lots of versatility with its folding down seats and boot space is impressive at 510 litres – 80 litres more than Qashqai – rising to 1,604 litres with rear seats folded.

Standard features on these SE models include cruise control, electrically adjustable heated and folding door mirrors, rear parking sensors, Full Link smartphone connectivity, voice control and Bluetooth audio streaming, dual-zone climate control, 17-inch alloy wheels, LED taillights and black roof rails.

If you’re looking for a lot more the top-of-the-range Xcellence – priced from £23,850 – model’s features include black leather uphol-stery, wireless phone charger, keyless entry, satnav, rear view camera, 18-inch Performance alloys wheels, chrome roof rails and window surrounds, chrome double exhaust pipes and full LED headlights.

SEAT is a brand on the move and it’s in for a busy year following the arrival of this super value-for-money Ateca.

An updated Leon is next in line with a fifth-generation Ibiza and the new SUV crossover Arona also coming in 2017.