SEAT Altea XL 2.0 TDI Stylance

MPV combines SEAT’s new family look with plenty of practical space

  • Keen price and standard equipment, boot capacity, performance
  • Ungainly rear, unrefined engine

Much like Citroen, SEAT has undergone a design revolution. The Altea was the car that kicked off its new look with an arching swage line in 2004. That was soon followed by the Toledo, Leon and, most recently, the Altea XL.

From the front, it can be tricky to tell the models apart – the Altea, Toledo and Altea XL all look very similar, and it’s quite confusing to work out what each one is supposed to be for.

SEAT claims its newcomer is a rival for family estate cars such as the Peugeot 307 SW, but there’s no disguising the fact that it’s an MPV.

Either way, we can’t help thinking the XL appears ungainly at the rear, due to its large overhang, and it can’t match the athletic design of the standard variant. It’s virtually identical in length to the C4 Picasso but, with a wheelbase 150mm shorter, the SEAT looks a little bloated.

The Spanish manufacturer says the XL was developed as a result of customers wanting more luggage space, yet it seems as if the designers simply fashioned a larger rear end. It raises questions, too, about the point of SEAT’s slightly smaller Toledo family car, which also seats five.

In any case, it’s clear that, despite its distinctive shape, the XL is not as stylish as the Citroen, nor as sporty as the Ford. There’s better news inside, though, where there’s a neat cabin and a decent driving position, while the chunky three-spoke steering wheel has a sporty feel.

But visibility is hampered by the thick A-pillars – an issue the XL has in common with the C-MAX.

It’s spacious inside, and there’s plenty of storage, including two central cup-holders, deep door pockets and a large central storage bin. Rear space is satisfactory, too, as the XL has more legroom than either rival. But it’s a squeeze with three in the back, due to the narrow middle seat. In common with the competition, the Altea XL has aircraft-style trays for rear passengers, and these felt the most robust and hard-wearing on test.

The cavernous 532-litre boot is impressive and, while the load space isn’t as wide as that of the Citroen or Ford, it is longer. Surprisingly, the rear bench splits 60/40 rather than folding, and, although the seats slide back and forth, the area isn’t as flexible as it should be.

Things look up on the move as, with firm suspension and dampers, the SEAT corners well. It’s the lightest car here and feels fairly agile, even if it doesn’t have the C-MAX’s poise. Body roll is kept in check, and the direct steering inspires confidence on twisty roads – it’s more driver-focused than many people carriers.

The 2.0-litre TDI is a well proven unit – so much so that it’s starting to show its age. It’s not as refined as the other engines here, while the vibration and noise don’t make for a particularly relaxing driving experience. That’s not to say performance isn’t strong. At the test track, the XL was the quickest, covering 0-60mph in 9.7 seconds, marginally ahead of the C-MAX. It also posted the quickest in-gear times, due to an initial surge of acceleration which tails off higher up.

Arguably the strongest selling point of the SEAT, however, is its price. At £16,895, the Altea XL undercuts both rivals by at least £1,300 – and comes fairly well equipped, with climate control, cruise control and MP3 connectivity as standard. Even better news is that a TomTom GO 710 sat-nav is available as a no-cost option, which makes specifying the £1,595 built-in system pointless.

Details

Price: £16,895Model tested: SEAT Altea XL 2.0 TDI StylanceChart position: 3WHY: As with the standard Altea, the supersized XL is only a five-seater, but it does feature a notably larger boot.

Economy

Despite having the most powerful motor, the SEAT was more efficient than the Ford, and a lighter kerbweight helped the XL return 36.2mpg. But its 55-litre tank holds five litres less than the C4’s, and range is 62 miles shorter at 438 miles.

Residuals

Even taking its extra practicality into account, this SEAT is not predicted to perform as well on the second-hand market as the standard Altea. A residual figure of 41.5 per cent means that, in three years, the XL will have a value of £7,011.

Servicing

SEAT was voted 27th in our Driver Power dealer survey – two places lower than Ford. But it rated highly for value, and so it proves here: the first three services will set you back £600. The Altea XL comes with an extra year’s recovery, too.

Tax

The Spanish MPV is the best choice for company car drivers. Although it emits the most CO2 (157g/km) and sits in the 21 per cent tax bracket, its lesser screen price compensates. Lower-band drivers pay £781 – £44 less than the Ford.

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