First DriveSeat’s Alhambra now comes with a little more visual clout in FR-Line trim. We’ve tested the most powerful 181bhp variant
First DriveTop-spec Alhambra is a fine car, but it’s only worth paying for if you need the extra power
What is it?
An eco-fied version of the distinctly vintage Seat Alhambra, a car that was introduced as long ago as 1996.
The Ecomotive gets the usual CO2-trimming revisions, including low rolling resistance tyres, taller gearbox ratios, revised engine management and 100kg of weight saving.
What’s it like?
Unarguably sensible, but distinctly underwhelming to drive. The eco-boosting revisions are mostly to blame for the poor dynamic performance, with the firmer suspension and reduced soundproofing making for loud, bouncy progress on the motorway.
The retuned engine also feels disappointingly lethargic off-boost, with usable power only really starting from about 1500rpm onwards.
It struggles to pull its taller gearing, too – with overtaking acceleration and even motorway gradients requiring a trip down the ratios.
In some ways the Alhambra is hiding its age remarkably well. The cabin is functional and well designed, with mid-1990s Volkswagen switchgear still doing a decent job.
More modern competitors do some things better, but Seat has kept the Alhambra in contention with some keen pricing.
Despite its seven seats, the Alhambra is best regarded as a ‘5+2’ as access to the rearmost row is very awkward, legroom back there is tight compared to more modern rivals - and using the third row wipes out luggage space.
Should I buy one?
If you need the space and you want to cut your fuel and road tax bills then it’s worth consideration.
We managed 42mpg under gentle use, some way off the official 47.1mpg combined economy figure, but long-term savings will easily justify the £400 supplement being asked over the 2.0 TDI Reference.
That said, if you’re looking to combine transportation with any measure of excitement, look elsewhere.