It'll come as a surprise to no-one that the Barcelona motor show, which opens tomorrow, features Spanish manufacturer Seat centre stage. Press day yesterday (7 June) saw the unveiling of the Altea Freetrack, Seat's new jacked-up, four-wheel-drive people-carrier. Seat is bringing forward the UK launch of its new 4x4 to mid-August, a few weeks ahead of the original plan, due to an earlier-than-expected delivery of right-hand-drive models. Just two high-spec models will come to the UK, one powered by the Golf GTi's 197bhp 2.0-litre TFSI engine, and the other by a 167bhp 2.0 –litre TDI. Both will be equipped with part-time four-wheel drive using a Haldex electro-hydraulic diff and matched to jacked-up suspension that's 40mm higher. A cheaper, entry-level 140bhp 2.0-litre TDI, with two-wheel drive only, won't be coming to the UK. Despite the imminent launch, Seat is still only talking guide prices of "around the £20k mark".Seat is being realistic about the capabilities of the pumped-up Altea. "We're not making any claims that the Freetrack will go over mountains," a spokesperson told us, "just that it can better tackle rough ground than a conventional car."
Freetrack to spearhead UK growth
Just a few hundred Freetracks will make it to the UK in 2007. In a full year the figure is likely to be a more substantial 2000 or so cars, according to Seat UK boss Peter Wyhinney; that's about another third on top of existing Altea/Altea XL sales. The Freetrack will help Seat sell more cars to fleets, a major target of Wyhinney's as he strives to boost Seat's sales towards 40,000 cars a year. Last year Seat sold 32,000 cars and this year it will head towards 36,000. Seat's boosted fleet sales will also be brought about through the introduction of a new Passat-sized saloon and estate, to replace the "misunderstood" Toledo. Based on the Bolero concept announced earlier this month, we'll see a concept version of this new Mondeo rival at September's Frankfurt show.The Bolero concept will reveal a new styling direction for the Seat brand, masterminded by Luc Donkewolke, former Lamborghini design boss, now Seat's design chief. Close in spirit to today's Walter de'Silva-inspired look, a key difference is a rising, sportier feature line, which will replace the drooping line on today's models. Seat's small grille will keep its size and proportions, although details will be improved.
Other Barcelona show highlights
Also revealed at the Barcelona show yesterday was the Vauxhall Corsa SRi and the facelifted Kia Picanto. The SRi, a warm hatch version of Vauxhall's hot-selling VXR, will be powered by a lighter- blown turbo version of the VXR's 1.6-litre engine, which makes 150bhp. It will also feature the VXR's chunky bodykit. Barcelona is also host to the Peugeot 207 SW, Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet, Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera, Lexus LF-A, Fiat Grande Punto Abarth, Ford Iosis-X concept, and Acura ASC concept. The show runs until June 17.