Seat Altea 2.0 TDi 170 Sport

Recently revised, Spanish car scores on style and performance

Every SEAT that leaves the factory in Barcelona is packed with Spanish flair – and the Altea MPV is no exception. With a powerful engine, sporty detailing and an involving driving experience, the recently revised model is now more appealing than ever.

However, the changes to the exterior are hard to spot. Look closely and you’ll notice the tweaked front end, but otherwise the sporty, well proportioned shape stays the same. The Altea’s kerbside appeal is further enhanced by stylish 17-inch alloys and swooping character lines in the flank, while a final design flourish is added by the clever SEAT badge that doubles as the boot release.

Inside, the racy theme continues. Up front is a pair of supportive bucket seats, while the driver gets a chunky three-spoke steering wheel and cowled dials. The facelift brings improved plastics and classy-looking new controls for the air-con and the stereo. None of the changes impacts on the Altea’s practicality, though – and that means occupants in the back get plenty of leg and headroom. But the small windows and dark upholstery are quite gloomy. With the back seats in place the boot is the smallest, at 409 litres, although the rear bench slides, allowing you to increase luggage capacity.

The SEAT’s flexibility is dented slightly by the fact it uses a traditional 60/40 split rear seat – the Scenic and C4 feature three individual chairs. But there’s plenty of storage space in the cabin. Specify the £320 ceiling-mounted DVD screen, and matters are improved further by the inclusion of aircraft-style overhead lockers.

At the test track, the Altea was the clear star of our quartet, thanks to its muscular 168bhp 2.0-litre diesel. It raced from 0-60mph in 9.9 seconds – a full 2.5 seconds faster than the Citroen and Renault.

Even more impressive was its in-gear punch – the 350Nm torque output translates into strong overtaking pace.

The SEAT covered 30-50mph in third gear in only 3.3 seconds. It’s just a pity that the gruff TDI soundtrack takes the edge off this excellent display.

On the road, the SEAT is as sporty as it looks. There’s lots of grip and the stiff suspension controls body movement well in corners. The downside is a firm ride that leaves the Altea trailing its rivals for comfort. Thick A-pillars also impair forward vision, occasionally making the car difficult to place on the road.

But the SEAT’s most arresting feature is its bargain price. At £18,540, it’s £255 less than the Citroen, and yet comes with more space and kit. For buyers wanting family car practicality mixed with hot hatch pace and fun, the Spanish car makes a lot of sense.


Chart position: 2WHY: Recent refresh breathes new life into the Altea. Is it enough to beat French trio?

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