New SEAT Tarraco 2019 review
We drive the new SEAT Tarraco in the UK to see whether SEAT's first seven-seat SUV can match the Skoda Kodiaq
The SEAT Tarraco follows a well-trodden path: it’s a large, MQB-based SUV that seats seven in comfort. That’s no bad thing, as it offers virtually everything that the best cars in this class do, from practicality to technology. This 2.0-litre petrol isn’t the pick of the range, however, as the economy isn’t great.
One third of all cars sold by SEAT are SUVs. That’s not a surprising statistic in the current automotive climate, but it does give you an idea of how well the brand’s Ateca and Arona models are doing, and why it has now launched this, the even bigger Tarraco.
This model is the largest in the brand’s line-up, serving as a range flagship as well as an option for families who don’t want an MPV but still need seven seats. It’s a dilemma more buyers than ever are clearly facing.
Practicality is a really important factor here, so it’s reassuring to see that the Tarraco has 700 litres of boot space with the third row folded down, which puts it among the most accommodating cars in its class for luggage.
That’s true for passengers too, as in the rear there’s more than enough space for tall adults to sit comfortably. The third row is a bit more cramped – it’s only for kids – and previous Alhambra owners might be disappointed with the small fold-up seats. That comes with the SUV territory, though – the space in the very back of the SEAT is no worse than in rivals such as the Skoda Kodiaq or Peugeot 5008.
Up front, the Tarraco features an elegant, if a little dull, dashboard design. Our Xcellence test car also came with part-Alcantara seats and a digital instrument cluster, which gave it a modern look. There are a few hard plastics around, and the materials aren’t as good as the ones in a 5008, but it’s well made and owners won’t feel short-changed when they sit inside.
There’s a central storage cubby with fold-out cupholders, although we’re not sure these are the best solution as they feel a bit flimsy. At least there’s plenty of storage with them folded away, and there’s a place for your phone when it’s plugged into the infotainment system too.
SEAT’s navigation system is among the best in class, with easy-to-understand menus and a snappy touchscreen interface. The Tarraco’s screen is sharp and high-resolution, although we found it a little slow to boot up when setting off. It comes with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity, which is crucial for many modern buyers.
The seats are comfy, and the driving position is pretty high, so visibility is decent given the size of the car. On rough roads with lots of small imperfections the SEAT rides very well and soaks up the lumps and bumps, but once the dampers run out of travel – for example over a speed hump – a harsher side to the ride is revealed. It’s comfier than a 5008, though, and also better to drive.
The steering is precise and well weighted, which adds confidence in corners. Body control is good for a big SUV, and the powertrain works well. This model uses a 2.0-litre petrol engine with 187bhp, which is plenty even in a car that weighs over 1,700kg – and the maximum 320Nm of torque means you don’t have to push hard to access the performance.
That keeps the engine muted, which is its best feature – noise from under the bonnet is kept well away from the cabin. The dual-clutch DSG automatic gearbox is a good companion for it too, shifting smoothly in auto and swiftly when required in manual mode.
Even though the world is shifting away from diesel, it’d be foolish to ignore these models in the Tarraco range. Around 30mpg is about what you can expect from the 2.0-litre petrol, but a diesel motor of the same size and power output is available and is likely to deliver far better economy. What’s more, it’s very nearly as quiet from behind the wheel, and punchier at low revs.
If most of these points of praise for the Tarraco sound familiar, it’s because the car shares much with similar models from Skoda and Volkswagen. That’s no bad thing, and the Tarraco is certainly among the best cars in its class as a result of this shared technology.
But the decision to buy one will pretty much come down to two things: your preference (or not) for the way it looks, or the amount of discount your dealer is prepared to offer.