SEAT Alhambra: first drive

  • Seven seats and masses of room for new people carrier
  • 138bhp diesel engine offers claimed 51.3mpg and 146g/km
  • On sale from November with prices starting at £21,000

Go shopping for a seven-seat people-carrier and the default choice is the Ford Galaxy, followed by the Renault Grand Scenic and the Volkswagen Sharan.

While these are the obvious recommendations, the SEAT Alhambra has quietly gone about its business. The current model was launched in the UK way back in 1996 and refreshed in 2000: next to the major competition it's starting to show signs of age.

This new version - a re-dressed Volkswagen Sharan - brings it toe to toe with the major competition, offering both quality and value for money.

Like the outgoing Alhambra, there is ample space for seven adults to sit comfortably, even in the two rear seats. SEAT's EasyFold system is exactly that and seats can be moved, or put down quickly and easily. It's incredibly spacious: putting seven in the car normally means you lose boot space but the Alhambra still has plenty of room for a couple of suitcases.

Despite being longer - it's 220mm longer and 90mm wider, it's actually lighter than the current model. The chassis has also been stiffened making it safer than the predecessor. 

It's got plenty of kit: all models get alloy wheels, three-zone climate, CD/MP3 player with aux-in, Bluetooth and a multi-function steering wheel.

The 2.0 TDI with 140bhp is set to be the most popular engine. It offers a decent amount of pulling power and good performance, even if it might not be the most exciting drive ever - this is an Alhambra after all.  

On the move road noise and wind noise are almost non-existent with a little engine noise coming through to the cabin. The ride is smooth with little body roll, even around tight corners, while the steering is nicely weighted.

Unfortunately the only real let down is the manual gearbox that feels a little notchy  - although a smooth changing six-speed DSG automatic is available.

Improvements have also been made on the green front too with the 138bhp diesel engine emitting 146g/km of CO2 meaning potential customers will now pay £125 per year on road tax - a saving of  £30 over the previous model.

 

Also consider:

Ford Galaxy

The biggest competition in the market. Great to drive with excellent practicality, but it will cost you more to buy than the Spanish manufacturers alternative.

 

Renault Grand Scenic

Residuals are poor but build quality has been improved. It is a decent-value car, but it remains to be seen whether that improvement in build quality will translate into solid reliability. 

 

Volkswagen Sharan

You'll pay a bit more but you'll get better residuals. It's the safe choice really.