SEAT Altea Freetrack review (2007-2009)
The Altea Freetrack 4 off-road MPV makes sense.
Driving With its car-derived suspension, the Altea Freetrack 4 is very much at home on the tarmac. Although the ride height has been increased, there’s little body roll in bends and there’s a sporty edge to the handling, thanks to responsive steering and a firm ride. However, it’s comfortable enough on the motorway, despite some road noise at higher speeds. Two engines are available and both offer decent pace. The 168bhp 2.0-litre TDI diesel is torquey but a bit rattly. The free-revving 2.0-litre 197bhp petrol turbo is smooth, and offers a rapid 0-60mph time of 7.5 seconds. It’s the same unit as seen in the Golf GTI, and offers strong in-gear performance. Off-road, it’s surprisingly capable. The electronically controlled four-wheel-drive system normally drives just the front wheels, but can send up to 50 per cent of power to the rear axle. On a rock-strewn course, the terrain proved no problem for the SEAT.
Marketplace Based on the Altea XL compact MPV, the Freetrack 4 has plastic cladding on the wheelarches that flows into the chunky bumpers. There are also aluminium underbody protectors front and rear, plus an extra 40mm of ground clearance. SEAT describes the five-seater as three cars in one – with off-road capability, the space of a family hatch plus the handling and performance of a hot hatch. There’s just one trim line, with a choice of 2.0-litre petrol or diesel engines, and both are equipped to a high level. Standard features include climate control, parking sensors, cruise control and a novel rear entertainment screen that folds down from the roof. While it’s not a true rival to more rugged compact SUVs such as the Land Rover Freelander, the intriguing seat is a tempting alternative – and is much more convincing than Renault’s disappointing Scenic Conquest. The Nissan Qashqai is another road-going model with off-road convictions.
Owning Being based on a compact MPV, the SEAT boasts a roomy interior. High-backed seats and a good driving position ensure the driver will be comfortable, while the commodious rear seat sits passengers high and gives them plenty of legroom. The boot is also very large, and proves practical and well-shaped, too. It doesn’t quite have the user-friendliness of people carriers such as the Citroen C4 Picasso, though – and high-line list prices mean it faces stiff competition from the MPV sector. But as an alternative to an off-roader, it looks better value, though it isn’t significantly more economical than them – the petrol averages 30mpg, with the diesel cracking 40mpg – no better than more off-road-focused rivals. SEAT is, however, limiting numbers in the UK, which should aid residuals.