Seat Altea 2.0 TDI CR 140PS

Price: TBA
Top Speed: 124 mph
Acceleration: 0-100 km/h (62 mph): 9.7 seconds
Fuel consumption: 51.4 mpg
C02 emissions: 144 g/km

Seat has made a small but worthwhile update to its mid-size cars, the Altea and the Leon; all 2.0-litre diesel engines now use the common rail (CR) system pioneered by Fiat and Mercedes, and since almost universally adopted by other manufacturers.

For many years, the Volkswagen group, including Seat, persisted with its own Pumpe-Düse (PD, or pump-jet) technology, and its PD-fitted 1.9-litre diesel was installed in millions of cars. The 1.9 PD was one of the first really lively diesel engines, but it was a bit rough by modern standards and delivered its power over a fairly limited range of revs.

For a number of years, now, Seat has been phasing out the 1.9-litre PD in favour of a 2.0-litre CR engine but there has been one obscure wrinkle in the switch-over programme; as an interim step, some cars were given a 2.0 engine but in PD form; unsurprisingly, this 140 horsepower engine was better than the 1.9 PD but not as good as 2.0 CR. Now this anomaly has been corrected. All 2.0 diesels now use the common rail system and a new 140 horsepower CR engine directly replaces the PD unit.

If the power, and therefore the performance, offered by the new engine doesn't differ much from that provided by its predecessor, it is better in just about every other respect, including emissions, economy (improved by about 14% for manuals) and refinement. I tried it in the Altea semi-MPV, paired with the Volkswagen group's DSG transmission, in which it proved to be a predictably competent performer. The Altea, as you'd expect from any Golf-based Volkswagen group car, has no significant weaknesses, although personally I'm not too keen on its looks, so I'd probably go for the same drive-train in the much prettier but scarcely less practical Leon hatchback.