A strong contender, but not the new class leader
- Best-in-class connectivity functions
- Fine handling for a large SUV
- Usefully large boot in five-seat mode
- Doesn’t feel much different from a Kodiaq
- Rearmost seats are tight for adults
Sitting at the top of the Spanish brand’s range is the seven-seater SEAT Tarraco SUV, a newcomer that should tick a multitude of boxes for family car buyers.
After all, SEAT is VW Group’s sporty marque and crossovers are becoming big business, a market set to grow by a further 40% by 2025, according to the company.
Not only is the Tarraco up against the spacious Peugeot 5008 and the distinctive-looking Hyundai Santa Fe, it also has two close cousins to contend with in the forms of the Skoda Kodiaq and Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace.
Make no mistake, they are very closely aligned – all three sharing the Volkswagen Group's same MQB-A long-wheelbase underpinnings and much of their mechanical components.
What exactly makes the 2019 SEAT Tarraco sporty?
That’s is the $64,000 question – or, more accurately, the £28,320 question, as that’s the minimum you’ll need to pay to get a Tarraco on your driveway. PCP finance costs will be revealed nearer February 2019 when it’s set to arrive in SEAT showrooms.
According to Andrew Shepherd from the brand’s Technical Center, the Tarraco’s been set-up to feel more engaging to drive than the Skoda or VW versions, with steering and suspension settings tuned to SEAT’s zestier ethos.
There’s something in this, because the Tarraco’s steering turns into corners sharply, with a decent amount of communication about what the front wheels are up to – although its weighting’s on the light side, even in Sport mode.
Similarly, bodyroll is kept tidily in check, in part because the suspension's 20mm lower than the Kodiaq’s, hunkering it down a bit.
It’s best to think of the Tarraco as being a sportier SUV, rather than a sporty car that happens to have seven seats.
An important caveat here is that so far we’ve only driven Tarracos equipped with different drive modes and adaptive suspension. How well it performs on pock-marked British highways with standard suspension remains to be seen, especially as alloy wheels of up to 20-inch in diameter can be specified. Could be a recipe for jiggliness.
Does the 2019 SEAT Tarraco deliver sporty performance?
So far we’ve driven two versions of the Tarraco: both with 190hp, seven-speed DSG twin-clutch automatic gearboxes and 4Drive four-wheel drive. One’s a TSI petrol, the other a TDI diesel.
You’d imagine that even in such a relative large car, that degree of gusto would bless both versions of the Tarraco with punchy pace – after all, SEAT claims both will complete the 0-62mph sprint in 8.0 seconds flat, yet somehow both conspire to not feel especially quick.
It’s more pronounced in the petrol version, an engine that has to be worked hard to extract the most from it. Left to its own devices the transmission will momentarily consider its next move before flicking down a couple of gears even after the merest caress of the accelerator, delivering a surge of additional speed even if you only wanted a gentle rise in alacrity.
That makes the TDI the more obvious choice of this pair, primarily courtesy of its low-down pulling power: 400Nm from 1,750rpm compared with 3,20Nm at 1,500 to 4,200rpm for the TSI.
Not only does it make getaways from standing starts as well as overtaking manoeuvres feel more assured, it also helps overcome the effects of the transmission’s hesitancy quicker.
Those who want a truly sporty Tarraco may well opt to wait until 2019 when both a 210hp plug-in hybrid and the gussied-up FR version arrive, the latter expected to have the same 240hp twin-turbo diesel as the upcoming Skoda Kodiaq vRS.
A Cupra Tarraco? Let’s see how well that sub-brand’s launch goes before we delve into that niche…
Is there a feeling of sportiness from the 2019 SEAT Tarraco’s interior?
No. Despite the usual Volkswagen Group switchgear commonality, the new-look SEAT dashboard with a floating touchscreen is different from, rather than better than, its cousins.
In fact, calling it floating is misleading – it’s not freestanding like that of the Peugeot 5008, rather it’s chamfered away behind to create an optical illusion. Somehow it looks a retrograde step from the integrated look of the smaller Arona and Ateca models. Still, in-built Alexa and Shazam are available if such technologies are boat-floaters for you.
Elsewhere, whether it’s deemed to be sporty is rather subjective, but fillets of wood-look trim and tweedy seat upholstery don’t comply with many people’s notions of automotive athleticism.
Nor is the Tarraco a true seven-seater: think upon it more as a five-plus-two as – like its rivals – the rearmost seats are sized and shaped for kids rather than adults. If you want a more accommodating SEAT with seven seats, then the Alhambra is still on sale.
The Parkers Verdict
There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the SEAT Tarraco at all, but it’s hard not to be disappointed that as a newcomer in a popular SUV market segment, it doesn’t offer anything above and beyond its rivals to make it the new default choice – instead it’s an alternative to the Tiguan Allspace and Kodiaq.
Putting that in some perspective, we (just) rated the Peugeot 5008 ahead of the Skoda in a recent twin test, plus the Hyundai Santa Fe is Parkers’ reigning Seven-Seater of the Year. The SEAT’s a contender, but it’s not the best-in-class.