REVIEW DATE: 16 Jul 2009
June Neary tries out the Alhambra, SEAT's usefully revised contender in the People Carrier sector
It would be like buying a sledgehammer to crack a walnut for my husband and me to invest in a six or seven-seater people carrier. However, when you have to ferry three couples home from a charity ball as I did recently, there's nothing better. It's not just the number of seats, it's the comfort that the MPV provides when all of your passengers are adults (and especially when half are wreathed in flounces and frills). The SEAT Alhambra is one of the lesser-known contenders in the sector, but it lacks nothing that its rivals offer - and pound for pound you get more for your money. More about that later. The latest model has a 140bhp TDI diesel borrowed from the Volkswagen Golf.
I tend to see the new breed of MPVs as 'executive' people movers. They come into their own when you have a group of adults to transport from A to B - tennis players at Wimbledon, business executives to a conference, your teenage kids plus friends to a disco. Smaller kids love it too, of course. They're sitting high up in their own seat, so there's no squabbling about who's to sit in the middle or moaning about being squashed. The little touches please as well - there are for example, enough cup holders for a gallon of cola. Then there are the picnic tables built into the rear seat backs - just fold them down and enjoy your lunch even if it's raining. The downside is that, fully laden, there's little room left over for luggage and in this respect the Alhambra is no better or worse than most affordable MPVs. In terms of driver comfort, I had no complaints and visibility is excellent all round. But when you've deposited our children at school and hit the supermarket car park, the Alhambra and its ilk can be a little more awkward than the average family car. With a bit of practice, of course, the size becomes less of a problem and, to be fair, it's only about the same length as a standard estate. Stowing shopping between the seats is manageable (but I do prefer a roomy boot).
Like the Ford Galaxy and the Volkswagen Sharan, which the Alhambra closely resembles, it is a surprisingly good driver's car. We borrowed the 1.9 TDI with the 115bhp engine with the tiptronic automatic gearbox and enjoyed a smooth, comfortable drive. The Alhambra is remarkably car-like and when my husband took the wheel he was really quite impressed. He has in the past spurned the 'van with windows' approach to ferrying people around, but if we had a larger family than our complement of one, he wouldn't discount the MPV route.
It would take me a bit of time to adjust to running an MPV as my daily runaround, but should we have a son who ends up getting chosen for the school football team, I'd soon be in great demand ferrying him and his team-mates around. And they wouldn't be too cramped and stiff to play when they got there! If the Alhambra suits your lifestyle, you would certainly enjoy excellent value for money.
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|Seat Alhambra 2.0 TDI CR SE Lux  5dr DSG diesel estate|
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|Seat Alhambra 2.0 TDI CR Ecomotive S 5dr diesel estate|
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