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 a sister car, the Volkswagen Golf Plus, and is one of the smartest looking people carriers currently available in the UK. It's efficient, too, thanks to the introduction of two punchy Ecomotive diesel engines, which help to keep running costs low. As it has been around since 2004, it doesn't offer the flexibility of some of its newer rivals. The Ford C-MAX, for example, offers superior practicality and more room for passengers. However, like the Golf Plus, build quality is excellent, and it comes with high equipment levels and affordable prices. You can get a larger SEAT Altea XL, which has an extra 123 litres of boot space and roof rails as standard. The XL doesn't get seven seats, though, meaning it falls behind rivals such as the Renault Grand Scenic and the Ford Grand C-MAX. Alongside S and SE specifications, new Copa versions have recently been introduced. These are called the S Copa and SE Copa, and SEAT claims these versions add up to £1,500 worth of equipment.
Our choice: Altea 1.6 TDI Ecomotive SE
Engines, performance and drive
The greenest engine on offer with the SEAT Altea is the 1.6 TDI Ecomotive, which achieves a combined fuel consumption of 62.8mpg and emits just 119g/km of CO2. This engine also comes available with an automatic 7-speed DSG, which can change gear immensely fast. Those after a bit more power should opt for the 2.0 TDI, which still manages a respectable 57.6mpg. Alongside the diesels, there's a 104bhp 1.2 TSI petrol, which manages 50.0mpg and emits 132g/km of CO2. Overall, there's very little body roll through the corners, the brakes are responsive, and the steering is accurate. The Altea isn't as fun to drive as the Ford C-MAX, or as comfortable as the Volkswagen Golf Plus that it's based on. However, it's safe to drive in any environment, at any speed. Due to its age, the Altea doesn't have a great deal about it that makes it stand out from the pack, but hopefully this will be rectified by the time the next generation inevitably appears.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
Those looking to do their bit for the environment should opt for the 1.6-litre TDI Ecomotive, which achieves a combined fuel consumption of 62.8mpg, emitting just 119g/km of CO2. It achieves these great figures thanks to a stop-start system, brake energy recuperation and a gearshift indicator, which informs the driver which gear is the most economical for every situation. There's also the option of an automatic gearbox, which can be had in the 1.6-litre TDI model. This comes available with a seven-speed DSG, which has a very fast shift. Those wanting performance should choose the 2.0 TDI, which offers more power but still manages a respectable 57.6mpg - and emits 129g/km of CO2. The petrol isn't very economical, managing just 50mpg and emitting 132g/km of CO2. However, there's a range of fixed-cost servicing deals, which should help keep costs down.
Interior, design and technology
The SEAT Altea is a sportier, more stylish version of the Volkswagen Golf Plus, and comes complete with SEAT's trademark face and swooping lines. It comes in four specifications - S, SE, S Copa and SE Copa. All versions come with front electric windows, heated door mirrors, air-con and MP3 connectivity, and SE versions get all-round electric windows, cruise control, a leather multi-function steering wheel and dual-zone climate control. Meanwhile, the all-new S Copa specification adds 16 inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth with hands-free phone connectivity, steering-wheel-mounted controls, two additional speakers, front fog lights with a cornering function, passenger seat height adjustment and cruise control. The SE Copa model adds to the more luxurious SE spec with rear parking sensors, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, automatic windscreen wipers as well as SEAT's 'Media System 2.2' featuring sat-nav, DAB digital radio, Bluetooth and music streaming, all through a five-inch colour touchscreen display. Inside the cabin things do get a little bit dull - everything looks plain and feels plasticky.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
The SEAT Altea has a bigger boot than the Volkswagen Golf Plus, at 409 litres, but it fails to beat rivals such as the Ford C-MAX, which gets a 550-litre boot. However, the rear seats have the ability to split, fold and slide to provide more legroom or boot space as required. One thing to remember, though, is that the rear seats don't tumble and they cannot be removed completely like they can in other MPVs. Still, 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. If you opt for the larger SEAT Altea XL, you'll get 123 litres of extra luggage space, with overall space extended to 1,604 litres with the seats folded. The driver's seat is height-adjustable too, and the steering wheel moves as well for added comfort.
Reliability and Safety
In the 2013 Driver Power satisfaction survey, SEAT ranked 27th, meaning it's got a lot to do to match rivals such as Volkswagen and Skoda. The Altea did manage to feature in the top 150 cars at 121st place, which still isn't great, but it could just be down to old age. Having said that, build quality is good, and the SEAT Altea did score the full five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety test. 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, the risk of problems should be minimal. It comes with six airbags, traction control, anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control and electronic brake assist fitted as standard on all models.