Seat reckons it has created a new class of car with the Altea, the MSV (multi-sports vehicle). But it’s hard not to lump it in with the Ford Focus C-Max, Renault Scénic, Citroën Picasso midi-MPV market, despite its inflated coupé styling.
It’s certainly attractive, the Walter de’Silva-penned lines mating muscle and elegance in a compact – if tall – shape. But is it multi-purpose, or sporty? Range-topping Sport spec means a quartet of bucket seats with waist-hugging side bolsters and deeply sculpted squabs. Unfortunately, this makes the central rear seat near useless. Perceived quality lags behind the Zetec-spec C-Max with some hard plastics, but it’s well put together.
There is some front wheelarch intrusion into the passenger footwell, but otherwise space is excellent for four large adults. While it won’t compete with the new Toyota Corolla Verso’s five fold-flat seats for ingenuity, the Altea does have plenty of storage cubbies and some clever touches, including a three-tiered boot and rear seats that pivot and fold flat in one simple move.
Sharing its MacPherson strut front/multi-link rear suspension with the new VW Golf, the Altea’s handling has it nipping at the heels of the class-leading C-Max. Body control is good, the steering light yet responsive and composure over undulating, bumpy roads is superb, with the same big-car ride as the Golf. Only A-pillars that obstruct your view of the corner ahead and a dead-feeling brake pedal detract.
The Sport is available with 148bhp 2.0 FSI or, as in this case, 138bhp 2.0 TDi engines. Though not dramatically quick off the mark, the diesel’s 236lb ft of torque makes for punchy in-gear performance.
At £16,700, the top-spec Altea is £540 cheaper than the Ford C-Max 2.0 TDCi Zetec and is generously equipped with 16in alloys, CD player, climate and cruise control, and electric mirrors. In August, you’ll also be able to get it with the excellent six-speed DSG dual-clutch ’box for just £900 extra, £360 less than it costs on a Golf.
A new class of car? Perhaps not, but the Altea is a convincing, spirited alternative to the Ford Focus C-Max – or indeed the Volkswagen Golf.