Visibility can be an issue due to its large A-pillars
Dynamics are impressive and it's surprisingly good fun to drive
The Altea XL benefits from VW Group's 1.6 TDI engine
The interior is well appointed and a good driving position is easy to find
The stop-start system helps drop emissions below 119g/km
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
What is it?
Seat’s five-seat mini MPV has undergone an eco makeover. Both the standard Altea and larger Altea XL models have been given the firm’s Ecomotive badge, which brings with it VW Group’s 1.6-litre common-rail, direct-injection TDI engine, a stop-start system and energy recuperation technology.
These changes have given both models CO2 emissions of 119g/km, which qualifies the Altea for £35 road tax. Common eco features on similarly badge cars including lowered ride height, low resistance tyres and modified aerodynamics have all been left off the Altea.
Seat says the CO2 savings these offer would not make the car’s overall output low enough to drop it into a lower tax bracket and were therefore not worth applying at this stage. Think of it as an Ecomotive light.
What’s it like?
Impressive. The Altea has always been a competent performer, with decent dynamic ability, but it makes even more sense with the Ecomotive badge attached to the back of it. The 1.6 TDI engine certainly allows it to mix with the class best.
The engine is smooth and refined both in town and on the motorway, while there’s enough torque to ensure swift progress through the gears. Its 104bhp is capable of powering its 1405kg weight and its rare to find yourself in a position where you feel wanting more.
The dynamics are unusually sharp for the class, with its ride quality smooth and soft without ever becoming intrusive. Tyre noise can be an issue though, particularly on motorways.
The XL offers spacious interior, especially for those in the back. It lacks the seven-seat flexibility of some of its rivals (its platform won’t allow it), but its large boot space partly compensates for this.
The raised driving position offers a good view of the road and the steering wheel is both reach and rake adjustable. One problem, however, is its large A-pillars, which really impede visibility especially at junctions and going around sharper corners. Rear visibility is also a flaw.
Should I buy one?
Other more polluting Alteas were never likely to crop up on many buyers shopping lists, but with equipped the 1.6 TDI engine, mixing with the improved performance, fuel economy and tax savings, the Altea certainly now makes a stronger case for itself.
The XL model is worth investing the extra £500 over the standard Altea due to the increased space and no noticeable compromise in performance or economy. Its competitive pricing (tipped to be £16,500 for the standard model) makes the Altea a worthy competitor in its class.
What’s more, its more established (and expensive) mainstream rivals including the Volkswagen Touaran and Vauxhall Zafira can’t match its emissions figure. If economy and efficiency are your primary concerns, then the Ecomotive Altea could well be mini MPV for you.