In nattering with Seat UK’s lovely Juliet Carrington, the company’s Head of PR, expressing my wish to drive an alternative to hunkered-down, petrol-turbo, sporty hatchbacks, she reminded me of a car that I was convinced had ceased production. As you can see here, my perception was incorrect. Thank the stars! Alhambra lives; better than ever and in refreshing seven-seater automated guise.
The ’secret’ with the MPV lies in its car-like footprint, allied to markedly improved cabin space. For Seat, the badge-engineered opportunity arose off the back of Ford’s first liaison with VW Group (both manufacturers are signed up currently to a deeper relationship). A joint-effort production facility, based at Palmela, Portugal, resulted in the stellar first-generation Galaxy, Sharan and Alhambra models that provided a benchmark for the MPV scene.
The Alhambra was a stand-out model. Plusher, air-conditioned and seven-seated as standard, it helped to improve Seat’s much-needed reputation and succeeded with a healthy share of overall sales. Although Ford pulled out of the deal to develop its own Mondeo-based versions of Galaxy and S-Max, VW and Seat persevered with their new version of the people-mover.
Even in inescapably ‘UN White’, it presents a handsome image. As the penultimate version of a four-engine/transmission line-up (1.4TSi 147bhp petrol-manual; 2.0TDi 147/174bhp diesel manual/DSG in S, SE, SEL and Xcellence trim levels), it makes good use of its 147bhp turbo-diesel motor and effortless automated-manual DSG gearbox. The SEL trim factors-in leather upholstery in a traditionally well-equipped package list-priced at £36,250 (prior to discounting).
Slide the rearmost pair of proper chairs into the floor and the boot capacity increases from 267 to 658-litres but fold the middle row and the resultant space is a cavernous 2,297-litres, another benefit of MPV packaging. The multi-adjustable driving position (front seats are electrically operated) is also exceptionally supportive and the driver is welcomed by a traditionally laid-out analogue dashboard, complete with central touch-screen and a felt-lined storage top-box. It is a very comforting place to be and despite the high equipment level, the layout is logical and familiar. Remote control opening/closing for the side-sliding and hatchback doors is a practical touch, supported by an abundance of storage slots and deep pockets.
The EU6 diesel engine delivers enough punch for a 123mph top speed, the 6-speed automated-manual gearbox allowing the 0-60mph dash to be completed in a whisker below 10.0s, while emitting 140g/km CO2 and an excellent 53.3mpg on the Official Combined cycle. Its mid-range pull is excellent. A 2.9m wheelbase gifts the Alhambra a leggy, loping ride quality, accompanied by well-chosen damping for comfort that also controls body roll competently, while enabling very pleasant and stable driving dynamics.
Personally, I have been delighted by the Seat Alhambra’s driving experience, the car’s outstanding flexibility and its comforting and unforced demeanour.