Seat Alhambra TSI
Saturday 04 December 2010
Top speed 122 mph 0-60mph 10.7 seconds
Consumption 39.2 mpg
CO2 emissions 167g/km
Best for Magnificent seating for seven
Also worth considering? Ford Galaxy, Ford S-Max, Volkswagen Sharan
Volkswagen isn't just VW. It's Volkswagen, Audi, Bentley and more than half a dozen other automotive brands as well. What's the point of bringing them all together under one roof? It's all to do with something called platform-sharing; produce as many outwardly different models as possible that are as similar as possible under the skin, and you can reap enormous economies of scale.
In such a system, it stands to reason that the value brands – in this context that's Skoda and Seat – will give you access to all that shared technology at the best price. But while Skoda quickly found its niche under VW ownership, Seat initially found it harder to develop its own clear identity – perhaps because the Spanish company didn't really have much of a design tradition of its own to draw upon for inspiration, as it had previously produced models licensed from Fiat.
More recently, though, Seat has started to hit its stride. The current Golf-sized Leon and smaller Ibiza are stylish numbers that look good enough to fit right in on the streets of the company's achingly cool home city, Barcelona, and now there is another strong addition to Seat's range, the second-generation Alhambra people carrier. This is a close sister to the new VW Sharan, which means that Seat has had less scope to do its own distinctive thing as far as its looks are concerned, but there are few other causes for complaint.
The Alhambra's best feature is its very roomy seven-person cabin, and in particular the third row of seats, which, unusually, is comfortable and easily accessible for adults, rather than being a mere token affair. Big sliding rear side doors will be a boon for families as well.
There are three engine options; smooth 2.0-litre diesels with a choice of 140 or 170 horsepower, and an interesting 1.4-litre petrol, badged TSI, which uses a turbocharger and a mechanically driven supercharger – a set-up known as "twincharging" – to produce 150 horsepower. Don't worry about whether such a small engine is up to the job; it is.
Overall, the Alhambra is easily good enough to mix it with Ford's S-Max and Galaxy, which have so far been considered the top MPVs in this size bracket; drivers are perhaps slightly better served by the Fords, passengers get a better deal in the Seat. Which leaves just one other question; Sharan or Alhambra? Keener pricing and a richer equipment list just give the Seat the edge.
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