Sporty, MPV, and diesel are not words that usually appear in the same sentence - unless, that is, you're talking about the new SEAT Alhambra TDI SE. And that's because the Spanish people carrier is now on offer featuring the Volkswagen Group's impressive high-performance 1.9-litre 130bhp turbodiesel.
Already available in the Alhambra's sister car, the VW Sharan, this strong oil-burning unit offers better pulling power as well as great economy. With 130bhp on tap, the full-sized MPV can cover 0-60mph in 12.8 seconds and go on to a top speed of 116mph.
While this may not seem that fast on paper, the sprint times don't tell the whole story. In-gear acceleration and throttle response are excellent for such a big vehicle, thanks to a whopping 310Nm of torque available at a lowly 1,950rpm, which makes overtaking at motorway speeds a breeze.
But if you want even swifter progress, you can work the six-speed manual box. That's no hardship as gearchan-ges are accurate and, for a diesel, the engine is keen to rev. However, the best bit is that, even with a heavy right foot, the economy is not sacrificed, as the Alhambra 1.9 TDI SE will return a frugal 42.5mpg in mixed traffic conditions.
The 130bhp unit is only available in SE trim, which includes such luxuries as 16-inch five-spoke alloy wheels plus headlight washers, front foglights, a heated windscreen, sports seats and parking sensors. To complement the lively nature of the engine, the SE's suspension has been modified to provide a more involving drive. The ride height has been lowered by 25mm, which helps to reduce roll through corners and sharpens steering response.
The inclusion of lower, firmer suspension, however, has had an impact on ride quality, which is not as smooth as it is in the 115bhp diesel version. Improved dynamics more than make up for this, though, and we think the latest Alhambra has remarkably controlled dynamics for such a large vehicle. The people carrier's new character also seems to fall in with SEAT's mission to produce a range of models that are fun to drive and own.
After all, the brand's image is all about offering motoring enjoyment at a competitive price. At £20,600 on the road, the new Alhambra 1.9 TDI SE ably demonstrates the point, despite being a seven-seater diesel MPV.