SEAT Alhambra review
The seven-seat SEAT Alhambra offers strong value, plus is practical and well equipped
Forget the Volkswagen Sharan. The SEAT Alhambra is mechanically identical, better looking, better value for money and just as practical. It's a well equipped, well built people carrier with low running costs, thanks to a range of powerful yet fuel efficient diesel engines. Just two trim levels are offered, S and SE, and both offer plenty of kit. The Alhambra is surprisingly good to drive, thanks to accurate steering and a sporty suspension, while buyers with an eye on fuel economy, should opt for SEAT's diesel engined Ecomotive edition capable of returning more than 50mpg.
Our choice: Alhambra 2.0 TDI (170) SE
Even though SEAT's Alhambra is mechanically identical to the Volkswagen Sharan, it's a very different car to look at, inside and out. We think the SEAT's unique styling is superior to that offered by the VW, it's bodywork is less fussy, and much easier on the eye, while on the inside there's plenty of kit on offer. SE versions get sat-nav as standard but even the base S spec is well equipped. There's also no doubt the tougher looking fabrics and plainer dash design are better suited to family life. Ultimately the Alhambra's star quality is that it offers all the practicality and quality of the more expensive Volkswagen, but for less money. Its rear sliding doors are worth special mention too, as they make loading the car with passengers and luggage far easier.
While the SEAT Alhambra is not quite as good to drive as its rival, the Ford S-MAX, it's still an appealing prospect. The suspension can feel a little firm on very rough roads, but it's a capable cruiser, while accurate steering helps make the car feel a bit smaller than it actually is. Six-speed manual and DSG automatic gearboxes are available, and the latter improves both performance and fuel economy. The engine range features just two basic units, one turbocharged and supercharged petrol 1.4, and a larger 2.0-litre diesel. The engines are available in four different states of tune. The fastest, a 2.0-litre 168bhp diesel, offers a 0-62mph sprint of 9.5 seconds.
The SEAT Alhambra gets a five star rating from the experts at Euro NCAP, as well as an adult protection rating of 97 percent, one of the highest ever awarded. Build quality is reassuring too, as it all feels very well put together and there are no squeaks or rattles from the dash. Though SEAT's cars have in the past been marked down for patchy construction, the Alhambra sets new standards and feels as robustly made as anything from Volkswagen. The tested engine range has no known faults, and has proven reliable in cars built by Audi, Volkswagen and Skoda.
As you would expect of a full sized MPV, the Alhambra's greatest strength is its practicality. The car measures 2081mm wide, which helps make the cabin feel light and airy. There are seven seats, and you can fold the second and third rows completely flat. As an option, you can choose a front passenger seat that can can be folded flat too, allowing the SEAT to carry loads up to 2.95m long. With all the seats in place, the boot is a little on the small side, at just 267 litres, although that makes it still deep enough to hold five full supermarket carrier bags. With the rearmost seats folded there's 1,167 litres of space on offer, increasing to 2,297 with the second row folded as well. However, like many MPV rivals, the third row is only really suitable for carrying children. The good news is the boot and rear sliding doors can be electrified as an option, which makes access incredibly easy.
It may be the cheaper than the VW Sharan, but that doesn’t mean it's the cheapest MPV out there. Rivals like the Vauxhall Zafira may cost less, but none can quite match the Alhambra's practicality or economy. We particularly like the 50mpg 113bhp Ecomotive badged car, for its blend of efficiency and low running costs.