The Seat Altea may be getting on a bit now, unveiled in 2003 and able to trace its roots right back to the Salsa concept car from the 2000 Geneva show, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less relevant
This is the first chance we've had to drive Seat's stretched Altea, the XL, in the UK. For those who haven't worked it out yet, this is essentially an Altea with an extended wheelbase, a bigger boot and a newly-styled rear-end. The idea is that families with more need for storage space than a sixth or seventh seat might choose the XL over a bigger MPV for its combination of a more car-like profile and an MPV-rivalling load space.
What's it like?
Adding 187mm to the Altea hasn't affected the handling and body control as much as you might expect. The ride is firm and telegraphs any breaks in the road surface up to your backside a little more severely than you might like, but it's not unpleasant to drive along British B-roads providing you're not expecting any real sporting ability.
The 1.9-litre diesel engine puts an end to that possibility. It produces an intrusive racket at almost every point in the rev range, and that's not helped on motorways by a manual gearbox that would require a sixth gear to effectively calm the engine's din.
Should I buy one?
Seat's family estate/hatchback/MPV certainly makes better sense now it's grown a bit. At only £405 more than the equivalent Altea, the XL offers masses more space and practicality than its platform-donor. If you going to buy one though, make sure you choose your engine wisely, and don't do it until you've driven Ford's S-Max and Citroen's new C4 Picasso. Both should give both you, and Seat, considerable cause for a rethink.