Which of our trio is the top-dog small SUV?
A winning mix of good looks and handling meant Seat’s new Ateca recently beat the excellent Nissan Qashqai in a test of small SUVs, while Peugeot’s new 3008 is a restyled version of an ex-What Car? Car of the Year. Finally, the Tardis-like qualities of Toyota’s new C-HR make it another interesting competitor. We pitch the 3008 1.2 Puretech 130 Allure against the C-HR 1.2 Turbo Excel and Ateca 1.4 EcoTSI 150 Xcellence to find out what impresses the most.
Engine and performance
The Toyota’s 1.2 engine feels fairly limp next to its rivals here, and delivers less power and torque than the Peugeot. And while the powerful Seat becomes a little noisy at higher revs, it’s easily the fastest-accelerating model here. Still, the C-HR is the most refined, while the 3008 suffers more vibrations through the controls and a sloppy gearshift.
Ride and handling
Seat Ateca 1.4 EcoTSI 150 Xcellence
Engine: 1.4-litre turbo petrol
Torque: 184Ib ft
Top speed: 125mph
Fuel economy: 52.3mpg
CO2 emissions: 123g/km
We rate the Seat’s handling the best, thanks to its accurate steering and well controlled behaviour in fast corners. The Toyota isn’t far behind, though, with extra grip and less lean, although its steering is slower. Numb steering and excess diving and pitching under braking and acceleration let down the Peugeot.
Ride-wise, the Ateca’s firm suspension means it transmits sharper ridges into the cabin, while the floaty 3008 absorbs bumps much better but is more likely to be thrown off line by mid-corner potholes. The C-HR has the best balance of ride and handling, keeping its composure over all sorts of surfaces and ensuring a quiet and comfortable experience.
Each of the trio offers a generous seat and wheel-adjustment range for drivers, but in the rear the Toyota’s radical styling and slit-like windows give a claustrophobic feel. Its load area is the smallest here, too. All models come with a reversing camera as standard.
We love the Peugeot’s soft, fine-quality cabin materials and great attention to detail. The Seat’s build quality is great, too, but the C-HR shadows it with its more engaging mix of interior colours and textures. The latter’s switches and plastics feel a bit low rent, though, and its eight-inch touchscreen is the lowest resolution of the trio, with sluggish responses, complex menus and no smartphone sync. We do, however, rate its DAB, sat-nav and optional JBL stereo.
Toyota C-HR 1.2 Turbo Excel
Engine: 1.2-litre turbo petrol
Torque: 136lb ft
Top speed: 118mph
Fuel economy: 47.1mpg
CO2 emissions: 136g/km
We like the 3008’s clear 12.3-inch digital instrument and eight-inch touchscreen, even if it needs a good prod to get the best from it. Some of the Peugeot’s buttons are too small, as well. Sat-nav, DAB radio, Apple CarPlay and Mirrorlink are all fitted as standard. A five-inch monochrome screen, FM radio, USB port, SD card and Bluetooth connectivity are all fitted in the base Ateca S, while the SE introduces a full-colour eight-inch touchscreen. It has higher levels of functionality and clarity than, say, an Kia Sportage.
Further standard kit on all three models includes auto emergency city braking, 18-inch alloys, auto headlights and wipers, climate control plus rear park sensors. Seat charges extra for the road-sign recognition, lane departure and blind-spot warning that its rivals here include for free, but it does feature LED headlights and full leather trim, plus (along with the CH-R) heated front seats and keyless entry and start.
Our cars all cost less than £24,000 to buy, with the biggest potential initial discounts – of more than £2,000 – on the Peugeot. Over three years, however, the Ateca will save private buyers the most money, thanks in part to slower predicted depreciation. Despite having marginally the worst performance in our real-world mpg testing, it’ll cost about £700 less than the 3008 and £1400 less than the C-HR.
Peugeot 3008 1.2 Puretech 130 Allure
Engine: 1.2-litre turbo petrol
Torque: 170lb ft
Top speed: 117mph
Fuel economy: 55.4mpg
CO2 emissions: 117g/km
The C-HR is our third-placed car here. It has a superb ride and handling balance, a well equipped, attractive cabin and the back-up of Toyota’s well known reliability record. However, its CO2 emissions disappoint for such a small-engined small SUV, which affects running costs, and it’s expensive to buy. Practicality is constrained by a small rear compartment and boot, too.
While the 3008 isn’t exactly big in the back, either, the cabin’s premium look and feel as well as great practical touches and safety aids help put the car in second place. Unfortunately, its steep depreciation and the less-than-slick operation of its main controls help keep it off the top spot.
A firm ride is our main gripe with the winning Ateca, but other than that we love this range-topping Xcellence’s spacious cabin, great drive and excellent kit levels. A worthy winner.