The new Alhambra and Sharan are the most blatant example of badge engineering in the entire VW Group. They’re effectively the same car, but branded differently.
They’re built at the same plant in Palmela, Portugal, and the visual differences between the two are tiny. The Alhambra doesn’t offer much in the way of visual drama – ironic for a car that takes its name from a stunning Moorish palace in Spain which is a UNESCO world heritage site!
As with its VW cousin, the SEAT’s proportions are well balanced and modern, but the only significant changes are in the detailing. At the front, a different grille with a bold ‘S’ badge distinguishes it from the Sharan, while you get Alhambra lettering across the tailgate at the back. In addition, SE models gain classy chrome window surrounds and tinted rear glass, which give the SEAT an executive look.
This upmarket feel continues inside, where the cabin is identical to the VW’s. It features the same high-quality materials and smart switchgear, plus the solid and attractive dash of its sister car.
The steering wheel has similar multifunction controls, but its design is slightly more attractive than the Sharan’s.
Of course, these similarities mean the SEAT suffers from the same imposing A-pillars and blind spots we noticed in the VW. Further back, only different seat fabrics separate the Alhambra from the Sharan, so the interior is functional, adaptable and spacious. And once again, it’s only in terms of third row legroom that it falls short of the Galaxy.
Cabin stowage is decent – you get deep bins in both front and rear doors, while key options cost less than they do in the Sharan. However, buyers can specify the VW with Adaptive Chassis Control (£760) – the variable dampers aren’t available at all on the SEAT.
The Sharan in our test wasn’t fitted with this clever piece of equipment, so there was nothing to separate it from the Alhambra on the road. More’s the pity, as neither model can match the Galaxy’s finely tuned ride and handling balance. The SEAT doesn’t provide the same agility, steering feedback and suspension composure as the Ford, although it’s safe, refined and very assured, with plenty of grip. And at motorway speeds, the isolation of wind and road noise is impressive.
The 2.0 TDI diesel delivers punchy performance and, unsurprisingly, at the test track there was little to split it from the identically powered VW. Our noise readings highlighted that the unit is a little louder than the Ford’s powerplant at low revs, though.
Like its sister car, the SEAT is very efficient for its size. Standard stop-start technology means emissions of 146g/km and decent 43.5mpg fuel returns.
This, and the fact it’s the cheapest car on test, ensure that the new Alhambra is a force to be reckoned with in the MPV sector.
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