Seven-seat MPV shoot-out

How will the all-new Volkswagen Sharan and SEAT Alhambra fare against the top deck Ford Galaxy in the battle of the seven-seat people carriers?

Seven-seat MPV shoot-out

The vintage buses in this picture must have carried millions of passengers before retiring to the Oxford Bus Museum. VW’s Sharan and SEAT’s Alhambra aren’t quite as old, and won’t have moved quite so many people around, but both models qualify for long service medals – as they have been on sale for 15 years.

Their long-awaited replacements have just arrived in the UK and, as before, they look virtually identical. The cars also share the latest range of VW Group engines, practical cabins and sliding rear doors – and they’re aiming to put both manufacturers back on top in the large MPV class. 

However, in their first test, they face an Auto Express favourite: the Ford Galaxy. The current car was launched in 2006, and it set new standards for comfort, space and handling. It takes on our newcomers fresh from a mid-life update. So, which MPV is just the ticket for practical transport.

Verdict

Big people carriers are a necessity rather than a choice for lots of motorists, but that doesn’t mean they have to be devoid of any appeal beyond their practicality. The cars in this test all prove that seven-seat MPVs can provide a lot more than just space. 

The SEAT Alhambra and VW Sharan are well built, functional and efficient. With sliding doors and flexible cabins, they offer practicality along with composed handling, impressive refinement and frugal economy. 

However, the Ford has more passenger space in the third row, better visibility and sharper styling. The added sparkle of the driving experience is the icing on the cake that secures it victory. 

Choosing between the Sharan and the Alhambra for second place is easy. They’re mechanically identical and the cabins are exactly the same, too. Externally, the small detailing differences don’t give either an advantage in the style stakes, so it all comes down to value for money. Predicted resale values are only 1.3 per cent different between the two, so the SEAT’s £1,100 lower list price relegates the VW to third place.

1. Ford Galaxy

Good to look at, great to be in and brilliant to drive – the Galaxy scores on all fronts. The interior is comfortable, roomy, adaptable and well thought out, plus well equipped. A polished chassis, smooth engine and executive 

car refinement all impress, too.

2. SEAT Alhambra

Sliding doors boost practicality and the seats move with smoothly oiled precision. The SEAT is cheaper than the identical 

Sharan, yet just as well put together, and its options are 

more competitively priced. An accomplished people carrier.

3. VW Sharan

The VW comes third on price – it’s more expensive than its identical stablemate. Blind spots caused by thick A-pillars spoil the driving experience and, as with the SEAT, the third row of seats isn’t as spacious as the Ford’s.

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