Used car tests

Used SEAT Alhambra (Mk2, 2010-2020) review - How practical is it?

Class-leading practicality and acres of space make the Alhambra a family favourite

As you would expect of a full sized MPV, the Alhambra's greatest strength is its practicality. The car measures 2,081mm wide, which helps make the cabin feel light and airy. There are seven seats, and you can fold the second and third rows completely flat. As an option, you can choose a front passenger seat that can be folded flat too, allowing the SEAT to carry loads up to 2.95m long.

Dimensions and cabin design

As well as being relatively long at 4,854mm the Alhambra measures 2,081mm wide, so it might make it a bit tricky to drive through width restrictions. That compares to 4,656mm x 1,884mm for the Vauxhall Zafira Tourer, or 4,820mm x 2,154mm for the Ford Galaxy.

As in most of its seven-seat MPV rivals, the third row is only really suitable for carrying children, but the second row offers acres of space for three adults with lots of leg- and headroom. There are three individual seats in the row that slide back and forward and recline independently.

More good news comes with the availability of electrically powered rear sliding doors (along with the tailgate), which makes access incredibly easy – even to the third row. It’s worth looking for this on a potential used buy.

The sliding doors are also incredibly helpful in confined car parks if you’re trying to load children into the middle seats. Another useful option is the ability to add two built-in booster cushions to the outer seats, which also come with an optional headrest that adds wings on either side of a child's head, like a child car seat, to boost protection. Isofix child seat mounts are standard on all three middle seats.

Boot space

With all seven seats in place, the boot is a little on the small side, at just 267 litres, although that makes it still deep enough to hold five full supermarket carrier bags. With the rearmost seats folded there's 1,167 litres of space on offer, increasing to 2,297 litres with the second row folded as well. However, like many MPV rivals, the third row is only really suitable for carrying children, or adults on short trips. The good news is the boot and rear sliding doors can be electrified as an option, which makes access incredibly easy.

Equipment and technology 

If there’s any car that fits the MPV design template perfectly, it’s the Alhambra. Apart from the van-based MPVs, the Alhambra's shape is as van-like as they come, and the car’s overall shape is identical to that of the Volkswagen Sharan, with which it shares a lot of mechanical components and electronic tech.

However, the devil is in the detail, and while the SEAT won’t win any beauty contests, the crisp lines and sharp details add interest to the Alhambra’s shape. Up front, the straight-edged grille and headlights are a familiar SEAT design, and they’re joined by a large lower grille in the bumper that’s flanked by a pair of foglight housings.

The slab sides are pretty plain, and unfortunately there’s no hiding the runners for the sliding doors towards the back of the bodywork, but the large glass area is nicely proportioned with the body, while silver roof rails add style, too. At the rear, the huge tail-lights are split across the upright tailgate, while the vast rear glass area gives a good view out of the back.

Climb aboard, and the large dashboard features the same logical layout and simple controls as you’ll find across the SEAT range. In fact, it’s identical to the VW Sharan, and build quality is on a par with its main rivals. There’s a bit too much black plastic in the cabin, the optional 6.5-inch touchscreen can be tricky to navigate and it looks pretty ordinary when compared to the distinctive Citroen Grand C4 SpaceTourer, but everything works well and feels solid.

Leather trim is fitted as standard on SE L and Xcellence models, and you can also specify two-tone finish seats which add a bit of colour to proceedings. It also means the cabin is hard-wearing, plus extensive use of black plastic trim should withstand the rigours of family life.

All Alhambra grades come with a 6.5-inch colour touchscreen, controlling an audio system that features a DAB radio, MP3-compatible CD player with USB, Bluetooth, voice recognition and eight speakers. You also get steering wheel controls for audio.

Optional equipment included a sat-nav system with rearview camera, which came with an upgrade to DAB digital radio – all were standard on the SE L and Xcellence models.

Safety

The Alhambra earned a five-star Euro NCAP rating, but this was back in 2010 and since then a more stringent test regime was introduced. However, that doesn’t mean the SEAT can be considered unsafe by any means, because back in 2010 the car recorded an excellent 96 per cent rating for Adult Occupant safety, and 80 per cent for Child Occupants.

When the SEAT Alhambra was re-tested by Euro NCAP in 2019, the rating dropped to four stars. Adult Occupant safety was revised to 89 per cent, with Child Occupant dropping two per cent. Pedestrian Safety actually increased to 59 per cent, but the Alhambra’s lack of modern driver-assistance systems saw the Safety Assist rating fall to 62 per cent.

It features the usual raft of safety kit, including seven airbags, driver-operated electric child locks on the sliding doors and three Isofix child seat mounts on the middle row. Safety options included a pair of integrated child seats, while specifying the multifunction camera (about £550) added lane assist and traffic sign recognition.

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