4 February 2004

This is the first official glimpse of Seat’s answer to the Ford Focus C-Max: the Altea. It’s due to hit UK showrooms in July with prices starting at around £13,000.

Seat has decided to call its midi-MPV five-seater a Multi Sports Vehicle, and the looks have been toned down slightly from the MPV-cum-hatchback concept pictured here, and presented at last year’s Frankfurt Motor Show.

Gone are the hidden rear door handles – and hence the coupé look – and pronounced spoiler, while 16in alloy wheels replace the concept’s 19in items. Deeper windows and a raised tail give a more conventional, less sporty style, but it’s still handsome for an MPV, as you can see from our gallery pictures.

Walter de’Silva’s strong design cues, such as the prominent grille, sleek headlamps and deep swage line along the flanks, will feature in all future Seat models.

Other features carried over from the concept include the deep air dam with honeycomb grille and innovative vertically parking wipers, which hide in pockets in the A-pillars. Conventional seats aside, the cabin remains largely unchanged, retaining the distinctive three-dial binnacle and substantial centre console.

Like the new Skoda Octavia, the Altea shares the PQ35 platform from the latest VW Golf. That means multi-link rear suspension in place of the Leon’s beam axle and electro-mechanical steering, both of which should aid Seat in its quest to make the Altea sporty as well as practical.

The engine range will be headed by the Volkswagen group’s new 148bhp 2.0 FSI petrol and 138bhp 2.0 16-valve turbodiesel, both with standard six-speed manual transmission. The top-spec petrol will also be available with a six-speed Tiptronic automatic and the 138bhp diesel will be offered with the superb six-speed DSG dual-clutch sequential transmission first seen in the Audi TT.

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From launch, they will be joined by a 104bhp 1.9 TDi and 101bhp 1.6 petrol, though a hot 200bhp Cupra version – sharing the new Golf GTi’s turbocharged 2.0 FSI engine – is expected to follow in around 12 months’ time. Also under consideration, but as yet unconfirmed, is a more rugged-looking four-wheel-drive crossover version.

Production of the Altea is due to begin at Seat’s Martorell factory in Barcelona, Spain, in the spring, after the car’s official launch at the Geneva Motor Show in March.

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