First Drive: SEAT Alhambra Ecomotive

27 Apr 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on First Drive: SEAT Alhambra Ecomotive

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First Drive | Farnborough, England | SEAT Alhambra TDI 140 Ecomotive |

It’s not long since we drove the new SEAT Alhambra for the first time in Barcelona – the memory of the tapas is still fresh – but when SEAT offered us the chance to get behind the wheel of a diesel Ecomotive version in the UK, it would have been rude to say no. We were promised a fish finger buffet too. Ole!

In the Metal

As one of Car Enthusiast’s educated readers, you’ll know very well what this car actually is underneath the SEAT badges and mildly primped front bumper. But why’s that a reason to complain? What sort of person would whinge about a cut price Volkswagen with absolutely no deterioration in interior or mechanical quality?

That means sliding rear doors (optionally electrical), soft-touch upper cabin surfaces, beautifully weighted and easy to decipher switchgear, comfy and adjustable driving position, easy to fold seats (seven of them) and a cavernous boot.

What you get for your Money

The particular car we’re driving here, with a name that requires 38 characters to type out properly, no less, costs exactly Ј26,505. A lot of money, for sure, but also lot of car. All Alhambras get three-zone climate control, 16-inch alloys, self-sealing tyres, front and rear parking sensors, stop-start, brake energy recovery and all kinds of airbag shenanigans as standard.

SE spec, as is our test car, adds tinted windows, roof rails, tray tables, cornering fog lamps, auto wipers and lights, cruise control and bigger wheels.

Driving it

The importance of trying a car on UK roads (aside from the fact we live in the UK) is that the UK’s roads, by and large, suck. Some cars glide effortlessly over the smooth tarmac of continental Europe then reveal themselves a juddering mess over the average potholed British B-road.

SEAT’s Alhambra remains smooth and unflustered, because the company has remembered that trying to make an inherently un-sporty car sporty is daft.

So, springs stay supple and the ride remains soft. Obviously it’s a big heavy box, so it does tend to roll about on its suspension during braking and cornering, and over speed humps, but it mostly stays wobble-free and steadfast.

The 138bhp diesel engine is very quiet at idle and off throttle, and though it can get a little coarse during harder acceleration, it’s got so much torque that you won’t need to boot it most of the time. The DSG twin-clutch gearbox is, as ever, quicker and smoother at changing gear than you or I could ever hope to be.

We didn’t drive it with a full haul of kids and luggage this time around, but this particular engine and gearbox combo are unlikely to struggle even in that scenario.

Worth Noting

So how come this car, a 138bhp TDI version with DSG, has an Ecomotive badge on the bonnet? Well, it’s because all Alhambras get start-stop engine tech and brake energy recovery. It’s also because SEAT knows a thing or two about marketing – the company is basically saying that every version is lower in saturated fat.

But there is still a proper eco version, called E Ecomotive – the extra E reserved for the car in each range with the lowest CO 2 emissions. The E Ecomotive Alhambra has this TDI engine but a manual gearbox, returning 50.4mpg and 146g/km of CO 2 . With DSG, that becomes 49.6mpg and 149g/km. Same VED band though, worth 125 quid.

Summary

We like the big SEAT Alhambra. It’s cheaper than the all but identical VW Sharan. but has all its quality, comfort and technology. It’s becoming more and more common place to say this, but here’s another car with fuel economy that puts it in the eco-bracket, but which demands no compromise for it.

Few people choose this sort of car for fun, but the Alhambra is more proof that people carriers are getting less depressing all the time.

Mark Nichol – 10 Nov 2010

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