It seems hardly five minutes ago that the perennial Seat-related question was not a matter of shiny new product but whether the Spanish car maker could possibly hope to survive its seemingly endless non-profit status.
Last-chance survival plans and borrowing end-of-line Audi machinery have featured in the manufacturer’s recent past, as has filling its Martorell factory with Q3 production in an effort to finally make it a cost-effective operation.
Now, though, the future looks suddenly bright. The firm actually claimed a wafer-thin profit in 2016, evidence that its latest business plan was on the right track – a track leading inexorably to this, the proclaimed light at the end of the tunnel: the Ateca.
It’s possible to overstate the importance of the introduction of a crossover into some manufacturers’ line-ups, but probably not in Seat’s case, where the chronic lack of anything SUV-shaped meant that the brand was virtually absent from half of the current car market.
The Ateca plugs that hole in style - so much so that the Barcelona-based manufactuer has swiftly followed it up with the?hatchback-cum-crossover Arona,?based on the fabulous new Seat Ibiza. Why have one class-leading example in a segment, when you can have two?
Closely related to the Volkswagen Tiguan and the Skoda Karoq, this Spanish interpretation of the SUV looks mildly sensational and, with a very small petrol engine aboard, can be had for less than ￡18,000.
That makes it cheaper to buy than the equivalent entry-level Nissan Qashqai, the car Seat is obviously hoping to blow out the water.
While harbouring that same ambition has not resulted in a host of other manufacturers overcoming Nissan’s superstar, recent group testing has already revealed the top-spec Ateca to have all the makings of a new class leader.
Now, though, we descend into the fleet-biased nitty gritty: road testing the car not with the more powerful engine and drivetrain to which Nissan doesn’t really possess an answer, but with the far more modest front-wheel drive/small diesel combination that it most certainly does.
The mid-spec 1.6 TDI SE model we have here starts at ￡21,900 – practically the same money that buys you a Qashqai 1.5 dCi Acenta. Game on.?