From £27,370
Short on flair but otherwise the ideal MPV. Almost faultlessly practical

What is it?

Just for a moment, ignore the fact that this is a VW Sharan clone. The new Seat Alhambra is a very welcome replacement to the likeable but antique current model, and it comes to the UK market with three engine options – a 2.0 turbodiesel in 138 and 168bhp tune, and the entry-level 148bhp 1.4 twincharged petrol motor that we’re testing here. All are available with DSG autos, but our car comes with a six-speed manual.

See the first drive pics of the Seat Alhambra 1.4 TSI

What’s it like?

Step inside and you get a driving position that feels closer to hatchback than van and dynamics that live up to that impression, too. It drives exactly like a big hatchback, or to be precise it drives like a 4.85-metre long VW Golf.

Which is no bad thing. The steering is accurate and well weighted, if a little short on sensation; body roll is restrained and even driven with gusto it feels composed.

The 1.4 TSI and manual ’box proves to be a sweet powertrain, too. It won’t sell in big numbers, but given its lower list price, more pliant ride quality and excellent engine refinement it could make the better option over the diesel if the primary task is a short daily school run.

Thanks to the supercharger and turbocharger there’s a pleasingly linear power delivery, though a touch more torque would help given the car’s weight. If you plan on covering many miles, or making regular trips while fully loaded then the stronger diesel is the best choice, but don’t overlook the merits of the easy-revving TSI otherwise.

The cabin in the seven-seater is suitably utilitarian. The middle row’s three seats slide independently and all but the driver’s seat can be folded flat. With just over 700 litres of space available with five seats up and almost 2300 litres with just two seats in place, the Alhambra clearly doesn’t want for space. Even the rear two seats will fit sub-6ft adults in comfort, with access aided by the broad sliding rear doors.

The only real criticisms come as a result of some intrusive wind-flutter, the fact that you can drive off with the sliding doors open without any audible warnings, and a shortage of any real flair – something that many buyers might expect more of from Seat.

Should I buy one?

If you’re not worried about driver reward so much as whether the car is good value, safe and lives up to the lifestyle expectations, yes.

VW nor Seat has published official UK prices yet, but expect the Alhambra to undercut the Sharan, which makes it something of a no brainer, given the blatant similarity.

Residuals are in VW’s favour, but there’s not much in it and the Alhambra’s the kind of car you keep until depreciation matters less than whether you can get the ice cream stains out of the upholstery and pass another MOT. It doesn’t have the sparkle of an S-Max or Galaxy, but Ford should start worrying.

Seat Alhambra 1.4 TSI SE 7 seat

Price: £21,500 (est); Top speed: 122mph; 0-62mph: 10.7sec; Economy: 39.2mpg; CO2: 167g/km; Engine, type, cc: 4cyl, 1390cc, twin-charged petrol; Power: 148bhp at 5800rpm; Torque: 177lb ft at 1500-4000rpm; Gearbox: 6spd manualSee all the latest Seat reviews, news and video

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artill 16 September 2010

Re: Seat Alhambra 1.4 TSI

nettingham wrote:
What matters (with no passengers or six) is the torque and power; 150PS from the 1.4 here versus 115PS from the 2.0 petrol unit in the outgoing Alhambra. Not to mention the huge chunk taken out of the carbon footprint.

I accept what you say. however a normally aspirated 2.0 in a fully loaded 7 seater sounds awful too.

nettingham 16 September 2010

Re: Seat Alhambra 1.4 TSI

artill wrote:
I know i have an old fashioned outlook, but even with the turbo and supercharger, a 1.4 in a 7 seater sounds slightly implausable.

This is the biggest 'customer perception' challenge facing manufacturers and dealer networks at the moment. People are used to talking about engine size as the primary indicator of performance, which is understandable, but this is becoming almost redundant.

What matters (with no passengers or six) is the torque and power; 150PS from the 1.4 here versus 115PS from the 2.0 petrol unit in the outgoing Alhambra. Not to mention the huge chunk taken out of the carbon footprint.

rodenal 16 September 2010

Re: Seat Alhambra 1.4 TSI

I've driven the old alhambra with the 150bhp 1.8T and it's nothing to write home about in terms of performance. It's just about adequate but no more than that - the only thing i can see for the 1.4 over that engine is economy.....if you're driving in the perfect gear at the perfect speed