Up until fairly recently Seat had a tradition of naming all their cars after Spanish towns and districts. When I was writing this review it got me thinking.. would British Leyland have been more successful in the 70’s and 80’s if they had done similarly and named their cars after parts of the UK?
What about the Mini London? – the perfect budget urban car, ideal for sitting in traffic on the Old Kent Road, or the Rover Penines GL, an MPV that loves the open road and steep hills, perfect for towing your caravan in high winds. Hmmm probably not.. things always sounds more exotic when they are somewhere else.
Anyway back to the Seat Alhambra (incidentally south of Madrid, in case you are wondering). The car began life way back in 1996 and this particular version has been on the market for just over a year. Even without all the gadgets and extras included on the SE Lux 2.0 litre diesel we tested, you can still see the difference in build quality and design the upgrade has implemented.
Since its launch the Alhambra has been popular, winning a number of awards, including What Car?’s Car of the year (Best MPV) and another one just this week for ‘Scottish MPV of the Year’. No mean feat for a car with the Renault Espace, the Ford S-Max and Peugeot 5008 as competition.
Despite being slightly wider (and longer) than it’s predecessor, it’s not an unwieldy MPV to drive and there is plenty of power in the 2.0 litre engine. While the steering and all-round handling are sensible and grown up it has good acceleration, and the Automatic (Direct Shift Gearbox) works well giving you the best of both worlds. Ideal for a quick change should the need arise for an extra burst of speed.
The high driving position and excellent visibility is always something I prefer, it allows you to asses possible road situations ahead much sooner, and more importantly to avoid them. Safety wise, the Alhambra is top of the class with a maximum 5 star EURONCAP safety rating, standard in all Alhambra’s are 7 airbags, Electronic brake assist, trailer stabilisation, ABS brakes and a tyre pressuring system.
If you drive over a nail, a protective layer on the inside of the tread will seal the hole so no air escapes. Luckily I didn’t get a chance to test it, but this is a nice touch to keep you on the move until you get a chance to fix it properly.
For a large or busy family the Alhambra offers tons of flexibility in terms of seating and transporting space and the 3 rows of seats have nearly as many combinations as a Rubiks cube, making it a good choice for small business owners (or even the manager of our local 5 a side football team).
I like sliding doors on an MPV. I’ve lost count of the times a car has parked so close I have to climb through the boot to get in.
Althought they don’t solve the problem your rear seat passengers will find it much easier to get in and out, and as any driver will tell you they are the people most likely to bash the door against something.
The ‘Ecomotive’ version we tested benefits from a start/stop system popular now with many of the manufacturers. By cutting the engine when stationary it reduces emissions and absorbs the energy produced when braking back to the electrical systems
It’s C02 emissions are 154 co/2 (the 2.0 Ecomotive 115ps has a lower figure of 146), which is good for such a big car and comparable to it’s ‘green’ rivals. Fuel consumption is good, and you should get close to 50 miles per gallon in most scenarios.
If you are willing to spend the cash, you can get some pretty nice extras too. The huge sun roof is fantastic, and it was so nice to peel the top of the car on a warm day in October(yes, October) and feel the fresh air without all the noise and potential bad hair day issues (not me, that’s just a memory, but you get the idea).
The Sat Nav/Entertainment system is top notch too, similar to the one in all the VW’s, Audi’s and Skoda’s. It’s very user friendly and one of the best systems around. Also worth looking at are the integrated child seats, a great idea allowing you to turn a regular seat into an Isofix child’s seat with a pull of a handle. The kids love them, also the aeroplane style folding trays on the backs of the front seats are a simple but well thought out touch.
It’s hard to be negative about the Alhambra, we fully tested it with 7 people, 4 adults + 3 kids and it did the job well.
It’s not an especially exciting car to look at, and Seat’s are no longer the bargains they once were, (the basic S version starts from £23,525 and the SE Lux we tested from £32,585) but if you can cope with those things and need a reliable, safe and practical MPV, the Alhambra should be very high on your shortlist when arranging test drives.
Seat Alhambra SE 2.0 LUX TDi CR 170 PS 6-Speed DSG-auto
Engine size: 1968 cc
0-60mph: 9.8 secs
Top speed: 127 mph
Tank Range: 737 miles
Fuel Economy: 48 MPG
CO2 emissions: (g/km combined)154
Fuel Economy: Grad G
Road Tax (VED): Band G
Road Tax (year 1): £165.00
Road Tax (annual):£165.00
Insurance category: group 21
Warranty: 36 months / 60000 miles
For more info visit www.seat.co.uk