SEAT Alhambra review 2012

20 Aug 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on SEAT Alhambra review 2012

SEAT Alhambra

review

The MPV, perfected

SEAT (and VW) finally got a new large MPV in 2010 and it was worth waiting for

For –  Great all-rounder with SEAT price and Audi quality

Against –  could be a bit more sporty

It took the Volkswagen Group until 1995 to launch a competitor to the Renault Espace introduced in 1984 which was claimed then to be the first MPV. Some say that it was Volkswagen that invented the MPV with the 1950 Type 2 or Combi as it is known.

The SEAT Alhambra is a blatant example of badge engineering which is said to have been invented by Charles Nash in1926 when he re-branded his Ajax car as a Nash Light Six. Production stopped for two days and Nash badges, hub caps and radiator grilles were substituted. Kits were sent to dealers to convert stock cars.

It was probably General Motors in the 1950s which perfected the concept as it had been absorbing many failing brands and because of the high cost of developing new models needed to spin several different brands off the same basic vehicle.

The British manufacturers jumped on the band wagon and we had the same car from Austin, Morris, MG, Riley and Wolseley or Hillman, Humber, Singer, and Sunbeam

Badge engineering – doomed joint venture with Ford

Volkswagen’s first example of badge engineering was probably the Audi 50 which, with little change became the Polo. The Passat/Audi 80 followed and in the early-nineties Volkswagen finally recognised the potential for a Renault Espace competitor and teamed up with Ford, built a factory in Portugal and created the Galaxy/Sharan, the latter’s name causing great consternation at VW UK whose executives tried hard to persuade Wolfsburg to change the name.

The Volkswagen-Ford marriage was destined for divorce simply because then engineering and quality standards of the two companies were so different. Volkswagen dealers were upset when Ford rivals got the Galaxy in 1994 and the Sharan was not available until 1995. This was simply because then VW Group chairman, Ferdinand Piëch would not sign off the product because of quality issues.

Ford bosses were happy to allow their customers to finish the product development and put up with the warranty problems.

At this time SEAT sold mainly small cars and while their brief was to be VW’s Alfa Romeo, the powers-that-be decided that a SEAT MPV could be created cheaply that would give manufacturer and dealers extra profits; the Alhambra was actually known internally as the ‘cash cow’.

The Alhambra might not have been sporty but it did show SEAT dealers that they could happily sell £20,000 SEATs and make lots of money.

Volkswagen divorced from Ford in 2005 leaving it to launch a new, unique Galaxy in 2006, made in Genk, Belgium.

Once again Volkswagen and now SEAT dealers had to wait; a new version was not launched until 2010 but fortunately was worth waiting for with its fold-flat seats and sliding side doors with the option of electric operation.

This is a rare example of Volkswagen badge engineering which seems only to happen with SEAT; the Cordoba/Polo Estate, the Exeo/A4 and the Alhambra/Sharan.

Couldn’t it be a bit more sporty?

It would be nice if the SEAT version could be made more sporty than sister Sharan to fulfil Piëch’s original vision but both are excellent vehicles and as good if not better than any rival.

There is one petrol engine, the excellent 1.4 litre 150 PS which pulls remarkably strongly and sweetly but will sell in very small numbers. There are three 2-litre diesels of 115, 140 and 170 PS but the lowest powered version is not worth considering particularly if the car is driven fully loaded when the 115 ps will struggle, all for a saving of just £700. The 140 gives more than adequate performance and the 170 goes like stink.

The Alhambra has peerless fit, finish and perceived quality but unlike the 1996 version, has a considerable options list as well as the already generous specification. There are cornering fog lights, a wonderful folding tool bar which drops out of site in a few seconds, heated windscreen, and multi-function camera including lane assist, road sign recognition and park assist.

© Robert Couldwell #8211; April 2012

For publication on WintonsWorld

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