SEAT Alhambra SE Lux 2.0 TDI CR DSG
Sector: MPV Price: £32,590 Fuel: 47.9mpg CO2: 154g/km
The MPV sector may be one where practicality comes first, but in some cases there’s a pleasingly intelligent method to the car’s execution which makes it a little more appealing.
This is certainly true of the Alhambra. The old model, which was with us for nearly 14 years, was well past its sell-by date and a rational-only purchase as the sector became led by the sleek S-Max and more modern rivals. But the new one is an altogether cleverer, and more distinctive, car.
Not that it’s distinctively a SEAT from the get-go. The latest Alhambra is as much a thinly-veiled Volkswagen Sharan as its predecessor, but VAG has at least got a good base here. It’s massive, but chiselled enough not to look cumbersome, and the result is a smart, understated people-mover.
Whether it’s put to use carrying families or, in the case of this range-topping trim, executives about, the toys on offer are plentiful but in all cases very useful. Twin sliding rear doors make it easy to alight from the third row even in tight parking spaces, or to get child seats in and out without banging door edges on neighbouring cars. These, and the tailgate, can be opened and closed electrically from the keyfob.
The two rear seat rows fold flat, but aren’t removable, and the retractable load cover can be fitted behind the third row if needed. But there’s nowhere to store it when it’s removed, which is frustrating. Even with all seven seats filled, there’s still plenty of head and shoulder room and the large windows stop it feeling claustrophobic.
Big MPVs like this are best fitted with a diesel engine and, at 168bhp, the 2.0 TDI CR is a familiar and capable powerplant for the hefty Alhambra. Incredibly quiet and with smooth, progressive power delivery it adds to the SE Lux’s plush cruising ability and returns just under 40mpg.
In fact, with identical depreciation and more equipment than the Sharan, plus the advantage of a more palatable name, the Alhambra provides a very worthy reason to consider defecting from the car on which it is based.
The Alhambra is above all a very capable carrier of people and loads, and its versatile boot and passenger area mean it covers these duties well. But it also manages to be a respectable drive, comfortable, fuel-efficient and with evidence that someone’s really thought about how it should all work. A classy way to travel.