The Seat Ateca has a four-wheel-drive mode, which is unusual among compact crossovers on sale in Singapore
Seat Ateca impresses with its performance and equipment The Seat Ateca has a four-wheel-drive mode, which is unusual among compact crossovers on sale in Singapore. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

Most reviews of Seat cars will inevitably point out that the car is based on a Volkswagen model. The Spanish brand is, after all, owned by Volkswagen.

Not the Ateca. This Seat does not have a direct Volkswagen sibling. Instead, it borrows from its other sister company, Skoda, which is also owned by Volkswagen.

The compact crossover's relative, the Skoda Karoq, is not in Singapore yet. This makes the Ateca, which is named after a Spanish town, refreshing.

At 4,363mm, it is slightly smaller than the Volkswagen Tiguan, but is about the same size as the ubiquitous Honda HR-V and Nissan Qashqai.

Still, the Ateca cannot avoid a Volkswagen-sourced drivetrain. It is powered by a familiar 1.4-litre engine mated with an equally familiar six-speed dual-clutch gearbox - which is what drives the Tiguan too.

But being 123kg lighter than the Tiguan (1,375kg versus 1,498kg), the Ateca is quicker off the mark and sprightlier on the move. It clocks the 0-100kmh dash in 8.9 seconds, which pips the Tiguan's 9.2 seconds.

There are other impressive things about the car. It has keyless entry, LED headlights and tail lights, adaptive cruise control and blind spot detection.

It has as modern a cabin as any Volkswagen, but a couple of features stand out - like the thoughtfully designed wireless phone-charging tray, which is angled to receive a phone easily.

The car also comes with a 360degree camera, a high-end feature. There are cars twice the price of the Ateca which do not have this.

Then, there is the welcome light on the driver's door. It projects the car's name as well as its silhouette onto the floor.

Unusual among compact crossovers on sale here, the Ateca has a four-wheel-drive mode, which means it is capable of going off-road should the need arise.

There are five other driving profiles: Normal, Eco, Sport, Snow and Individual, which allow drivers to mix and match.

Over a 122km test-drive, I found that there was little difference between Normal and Eco modes. In both, the car shifts to the tallest sixth gear at 50 to 60kmh.

Thankfully, there are paddle shifters for those who want a more involved drive.

Alas, the car averaged 11 litres/ 100km - much higher than the official 6.3 litres/100km figure.

Overall, the Ateca reminds me of the Volvo XC40. Both are compact and practical European crossovers, and are new models.

Yet, the best-equipped version of the Ateca (reviewed here) is about $50,000 cheaper than the $177,000 entry-level Volvo XC40 T4. The Volvo, however, is a bigger car with arguably bigger brand appeal.

If a buyer can accept the Seat badge, the Ateca is a compelling choice. At $127,600, it is even cheaper than the smaller 1.6-litre Hyundai Kona, which is listed at $132,999 before discounts.

And for those who can do without frills, such as the 360-degree camera, Alcantara seats, LED headlamps and different drive modes, there is an entry-level Ateca for about $13,000 less.

The Skoda Karoq arrives in Singapore early next year. Until then, the Ateca has the unique position of being a Volkswagen-engineered car at a compelling price.