Road test: SEAT Alhambra SE Ecomotive CR TDI 140 DSG

The last SEAT Alhambra earned friends and awards alike by being a high-value alternative to sister cars, the Ford Galaxy and the Volkswagen Sharan.

Now, after 10 years there's a new Alhambra. Also based on the new Sharan, but with prices close to its German sister car ,why should you go for the SEAT? I spent a week with a £27,065 (without options) Alhambra SE Ecomotive CR TDI 140 DSG to find out.
My first thoughts are that the Alhambra lacks the design flair of other modern SEAT models. Tall, sensible and functional best sum up the the MPV styling.

Probably looking best from the front, the Alhambra's deeper air intakes, SEAT family grille and darkened headlight surrounds give it more aggression than the Sharan.

Get inside the front of the Alhambra and you're presented with a sturdy, logically laid out dashboard. Again, if it wasn't for the refelective piano black dashboard trim, the different optional (£665) sat-nav system and the SEAT three-spoke multi-function steering wheel, I could have been fooled into thinking I was in a Volkswagen Sharan.

Move to the rear of the Alhambra and there's plenty of head and legroom for five adults. The cleverest design feature of the Alhambra and Sharan has to be the way the rear rows of seats fold into the floor, so there's no need to remove them.

The Alhambra is a big car, as such with the the third row of seats folded into the floor, boot space is an excellent 658 litres. This grows to a van-like 2,297 litres with all the seats folded. There was certainly more than enough room for all of my seven-month old boy's buggy and kit.

Another of the Alhambra's family-friendly features are the large twin sliding rear doors, which made getting my baby boy in and out of the back very easy. Along with the boot, they were power-operated on the test car too (a £795 option).

So what's this big SEAT people-carrier like to drive? The 2.0-litre TDi diesel engine has 138bhp and 236lb-ft of torque, which in the Alhambra's heavy body is really all you need. Mated to the seven-speed DSG, dual clutch transmission, the dash to 62mph is covered seemlessly in 10.9 seconds. Top speed is 119mph.

I did a mixture of long motorway runs and town driving whilst I had the car and considering it's a big MPV, it proved to be quite frugal averaging about 30mpg. This is helped by the standard-fit start-stop system.

The Alhambra's weighty steering is a pleasant surprise. It's quite direct and has plenty of feel, making it easy to place even on the tightest country roads. The ride strikes an excellent balance between being comfortable and absorbing the bumps. There is some bodyroll, but the handling always feels safe, even if it's not sporty in the same way a Ford S-Max is.

To sum up, the Alhambra is probably the best SEAT after the Audi-based Exeo. However, I wonder if it's too close in design and now price to the Volkswagen Sharan (roughly £1,100 more the Volkswagen). However, if you're in the market for a premium MPV that can carry seven people and their luggage, with a high-quality interior, the Alhambra is a good place to look.
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