SEAT specialises in adding a touch of spice to its models and nowhere is that more obvious than in the attention-grabbing Ateca.

Even at a standstill the compact sports utility vehicle radiates real eye-catching style, more so when it is finished in glowing Samoa Orange metallic paintwork.

The Ateca was a late arrival in the hard-fought SUV sector but it made an instant impact thanks to its blend of sharp styling, matched by equally sharp handling, superb practicality and keen pricing.

The five-seater’s combination of spacious cabin, thumping great boot and plenty of storage spaces make it a perfect family purchase.

The Spanish carmaker has always been the slightly boisterous member of the Volkswagen Group family but underneath the striking looks sits some serious engineering.

Just to illustrate the complexity of modern car manufacturing, though the Ateca was designed and developed in Barcelona it is built by SEAT’s sister Volkswagen Group brand, Škoda, in the Czech Republic.

SEAT had its pick of the group’s engines and has put together a wide range of petrol and diesel units, all fitted with stop-start and energy regeneration, together with the option of seven-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive.

The car driven here was powered by a 1.5-litre, 150 horsepower petrol unit with a trick or two up its sleeve. It’s lively and flexible, perfectly matched to a crisp six-speed manual gearbox allowing for smooth cruising and swift overtaking. The clever part of the four-cylinder engine is an ‘active cylinder management’ system. On part throttle loads between 1,000 and 4,000 rpm, it shuts down the middle two cylinders, cutting combustion and helping to save fuel.

The switch from four-cylinder to two-cylinder running is virtually impossible to detect, with an indicator in the middle of the instrument display the only clue of the shift.

All models are well equipped, with the entry-level model fitted with alloy wheels, air conditioning, Bluetooth and electric parking brake.

Move up the five trim levels on offer and in come cruise control, satellite navigation, dual-zone climate control, smartphone connectivity and electrically-adjustable heated and folding door mirrors.

The car driven here in top-of-the-range XCELLENCE trim adds leather upholstery, wireless phone charger, chrome tailpipes and window surrounds, ‘puddle’ lights integrated in the door mirrors, automatic headlights and wipers, auto-dimming rear-view mirror and a rear-view camera.

Safety has also received a significant boost with tiredness recognition, front assist, city emergency brake and pedestrian protection safety systems all fitted as standard.

Tiredness recognition ‘learns’ your driving style over the course of a journey by monitoring the steering movements and notices if it changes, indicating you may be tired and losing attention. At that point it sounds a warning and displays a visual alert on the instrumentation, suggesting you take a break.

The radar-controlled front assist and city emergency braking with pedestrian protection systems constantly scan the road ahead for collision risks, sounding warnings and even triggering emergency braking.

Options include adaptive cruise control, traffic jam assist and – for the first time in a SEAT – emergency assist. This detects if the driver has become inactive – possibly in a medical emergency – and brings the car to a straight-line halt with the hazard lights illuminated.

Auto facts

Model: SEAT Ateca 1.5 TSI Evo XCELLENCE

Price: £26,890

Insurance group: 18 (1-50)

Fuel consumption (combined): 54.1mpg

Top speed: 125mph

Length: 436cm/171.6in

Width: 184cm/72.4in

Luggage capacity: 18 cu ft

Fuel tank capacity: 11 gallons/50 litres

CO2 emissions: 126g/km

Warranty: Three years/ 60,000 miles