SEAT Altea review
The SEAT Altea is a sporty-looking version of the VW Golf Plus, and offers great handling and a range of efficient engines
The SEAT Altea is based on the Volkswagen Golf Plus and offers good practicality, decent equipment and good value. It's been around since 2004 so doesn't offer the flexibility of some of its newer rivals, but it still drives well, looks good and the introduction of the efficient and punchy Ecomotive diesel engines means it also offers impressively low running costs. There's also an Altea XL, which has an extra 123 litres of boot space and roof rails as standard.
Our choice: Altea 1.6 TDI SE Ecomotive
The SEAT Altea is a sportier-looking version of the VW Golf Plus, and comes with the firm's trademark family face and swooping lines. On the inside, the cabin is a bit plain but it all feels robust if a bit plasticky. There are three trim levels - S, S Emocion and SE - and all versions come with front electric windows, heated door mirrors, air-con and MP3 connectivity. S Emocion adds 16-inch alloy wheels and front fog lights with cornering function, while SE cars get all-round electric windows, cruise control, a leather multi-function steering wheel and dual-zone climate control.
The Altea offers great handling, accurate steering and a good driving position. The ride is on the firm side, but Sport trim - which came fitted with 17-inch alloys to the detriment of ride comfort - is no longer available. There's a choice of three petrol engines and two diesels. The entry-level 84bhp 1.4-litre is underpowered and dated, so it's best to opt for either the 1.2 or 1.4 TSI as they're punchy and good value. The 1.2-litre petrol is turbocharged and produces 103bhp, while the larger unit is also supercharged and produces 123bhp. The diesel options are a 103bhp 1.6-litre or a 138bhp 2.0-litre. The former is the pick of the range, as it's smooth, clean and great value. It can go from 0-62mph in 12.2 seconds and has a top speed of 114mpg. All versions come with a six-seed manual gearbox as standard, but a DSG automatic 'box is available as an option.
The Altea received a five-star crash test rating for adult occupant protection, four stars for child occupant and three for pedestrian protection, when it was first tested in 2004. ESP, ABS and traction control are all fitted as standard, plus there's six airbags and Isofix. There have been no reports of any major issues with the Altea and, since it shares many of its components with other cars in the VW Group, risk of problems should be minimal.
The Altea has 409 litres of boot space, which is slightly more than the VW Golf Plus on which it's based but a massive 141 litres less than the Ford C-MAX. The rear seats split, fold and slide to provide more legroom or boot space as required, but they don't fold flat and they can't be removed. There's extra storage beneath the boot floor and plenty of cubby holes scattered throughout the cabin, including a big glovebox and large door bins. The longer Altea XL has an extra 123 litres of luggage space, which means it can swallow a mammoth 1,604 litres with the seats folded.
The most efficient Altea is the 1.6 TDI E-Ecomotive, which is said to return 62.8mpg and has emissions of 119g/km. It achieves this thanks to the addition of a stop-start system, brake energy recuperation and a gearshift indicator, which tells the driver which gear is most economical for every situation. The more powerful diesel returns 58.0mpg and emits 129g/km. Even larger petrol return 44.0mpg, which means that all versions are cheap to tax. There's also a range of fixed-cost servicing deals, which should help keep costs down.