The verdict: Seat Altea 2.0

A clever hi-tech gearbox and two clutches keep this chunky Seat's diesel powerplant in the sweet rev zone. David Wilkins likes what he feels...


Specifications

Model: Seat Altea 2.0 TDI DSG

Price: £17,695

Engine: 2.0-litre diesel

Performance: 0-62 mph in 9.8 seconds, 47.1 mpg

CO2: 160 g/km

Worth considering: Citroë* C4 Picasso, Vauxhall Zafira, Volkswagen Golf Plus

Direct-shift gearbox, or, in the original German, Direkt schaltgetriebe; that's what DSG stands for. Actually, it stands for a lot more than that. In fact, DSG stands for nothing less than the combined advantages of manual and automatic transmissions with few, if any, drawbacks.

The DSG gearbox uses two clutches and a lot of electronic cleverness to deliver lightning-quick gear-changes, which can be executed by the driver or the transmission itself.

The DSG system made its first appearance on the Verdict test about three years ago in the last-generation Audi TT. Paired with Audi/VW's 3.2-litre petrol V6, it performed very well. I've remembered that car and its gearbox fondly ever since, but at the back of my mind I've often wondered whether this particular engine/gearbox combination flattered the DSG set-up.

Since we tested the TT, Volkswagen has spread DSG around its various car operations in a very democratic fashion, so that the advantages of the technology can now be enjoyed in such humble vehicles as the Skoda Octavia diesel or VW Caddy van. While these applications have attracted favourable coverage, this hasn't quite matched the warm praise lavished on that installation in the TT.

This week's test car, Seat's Altea, paired DSG with Volkswagen's 2.0-litre TDI diesel engine, a combination that confirmed my original favourable assessment of the technology, rather than feeding my later doubts. Volkswagen's TDI units deliver a lot of shove, but this tends to be concentrated in a fairly narrow rev band. The DSG transmission works around this characteristic very well, keeping the engine in its sweet zone; the speed of the gear-changes can be read from the rev counter needle which jumps, rather than sweeps across the dial as the 'box does its work.

With the TDI/DSG combination and VW under-pinnings – this is Seat's equivalent of the Golf Plus semi-MPV – the Altea generally performs well. Whether it, rather than some other product from the vast Volkswagen empire is the car for you, depends on what you think of Seat's unusual styling. VW has used its huge resources to revitalise most of the brands in its stable; Bentley, Bugatti and Skoda in particular have benefited enormously.

In the case of Seat it seems to have been less successful – perhaps because the Spanish operation, unlike the others, doesn't have a rich design history that can be drawn upon and reinterpreted for modern tastes. But if Seat's chunky organic forms appeal, you can't go too far wrong with this Altea.

Mark Mackenzie, 32, IT consultant, Weybridge

usual car: Volkswagen Corrado VR6 2.9



Although missing the flappy paddles on the Audi A3 DSG car I'd driven two weeks earlier, this more conventional automatic with sport mode and manual override is flawless and nearly as much fun. I like the concealed wipers, which could help to reduce smearing. I like the storage; the parcel shelf has a cubby ideal for carrying eggs or milk. The rear seats are a bit small even for my wife, who's 5ft 2in tall. It was fun to drive and the engine has enough torque to cope on fast roads and in town. It's not a driver's car, but it turns in sharply and there's little body roll. I'd consider it if I was looking for a big hatch with sporty looks rather than an all-out people-carrier.

Rob Drake, 27, Commercial accountant, Guildford

usual car: Golf GTI (diesel)



It's not the prettiest car in the world. The interior shows signs of styling, with a sculptured dial display, but the main centre console is a large, unsightly slab of plastic. It's clear that this car is not designed for me, but if you have a family and a lot of luggage to carry I'm sure it would be ideal; I'd suggest putting it in a line-up with the Golf Plus and Focus C-Max. The real test here is the DSG gearbox and diesel engine combination. I'm not a fan of automatics and this semi-automatic box of tricks didn't change my mind. On a petrol engine, with paddles, it could be fun, but here you change gear by nudging the stick, making for uncomfortable snappy changes in lower gears.

Michael Turner, 34, Nurse, Shoreham-by-Sea

Usual car: Ford Mondeo



This car seems fairly typical of its class. I like the styling; it's held on to what the original concept drawings might have looked like, although the grey interior is bland. The good visibility is enhanced by the wipers being housed in the front pillars, but this may contribute to the excessive wind noise at speed. As a driving experience, the Altea is quite impressive. It handles well for a tall car, and the diesel engine, together with the DSG, made for a unique driving feel. Gear changes at speed were barely noticeable, very smooth and didn't interrupt the power delivery. Nice to see this sort of technology being provided without a high price premium.

If you would like to take part, email motoring@ indepen dent.co.uk or write to: The Verdict, Features Department, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, giving your address, phone number and details of the car, if any, you drive. For most cars, participants must be over 26 and have a clean licence.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent