SEAT Alhambra 2.0 TDI SE Ecomotive review

Nip and tuck aims to keep seven-seat Alhambra in contention

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

The visual changes to the Alhambra are so subtle, they’ll make next to no difference to 
owners of the outgoing version. The extra on-paper efficiency is naturally welcome, as are 
the minor tweaks to the cabin. So this remains a strong and competent all-round people 
carrier which is practical and decent to drive – although the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso still has much more of a cutting-edge feel.

Sometimes change is just for change’s sake. If you’ve already got a winning formula, why mess with it? And SEAT seems to think that way, if the ‘facelifted’ Alhambra is anything to go by.

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This is the first time we’ve driven the revised people carrier in the UK, but with tough competition from the new Ford Galaxy and Auto Express’s reigning MPV of the Year, the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso, is SEAT’s approach enough?

Updates to the boxy, five-year-old design are few and far between. Park the new car side-by-side with the old one and you might pick out the reprofiled lights, tweaked grille and fresher alloy wheel designs, but we wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t. 

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Normally we’d say a massive seven-seat people carrier can’t be desirable, but the bold Picasso and smart Galaxy prove otherwise. Still, the Alhambra has always looked good and this minor facelift has only served to enhance this.

Inside it’s a similar story, but that’s more forgivable. The only changes are a new steering wheel and an updated touchscreen with a higher resolution. Still, the unfussy, logical dash design and typically impeccable VW Group fit and finish make this an easy car to live with, even though it lacks some of the tech found in more recent products.

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It’s better built than the Galaxy overall, but the futuristic Citroen has much more of a wow factor. SE spec has all the kit most people will need, including cruise control, a part-electric driver’s seat and four-zone climate control. You'll have to pay an extra £955 for satnav, but you'll also get a rear-view camera, DAB radio and Apple CarPlay.

The huge space and clever seating layout remain unchanged, which is good news. The middle row of individual chairs slides, folds and tilts to allow easy access to the third row, while there’s even the option of a handy booster seat built into the outer two. Passengers have acres of leg and headroom, and adults can even squeeze in the rearmost chairs once they’re folded out of the boot. 

The most necessary change is under the bonnet, where you’ll find a new Euro 6 2.0 TDI diesel which claims 55mpg fuel economy and 132g/km CO2 emissions. Although that’s better than before, it’s way behind the 2.0-litre diesel in the Picasso, which promises 102g/km and 67.3mpg. 

We managed 43mpg in the Alhambra on test – reasonable considering it weighs nearly two tonnes. The 148bhp TDI is perfectly punchy and smooth in everyday situations, but if you often travel fully loaded, we’d consider the extra torque of the 178bhp version.

What impresses most about the SEAT, despite its age and size, is how car-like it feels to drive. It’s more agile than the Galaxy and even gives Ford’s new S-MAX a run for its money. Unsurprisingly, there’s lots of body roll, but the steering is direct, there’s decent grip and a general feeling of composure.

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