SEAT Altea | CARkeys

23 Feb 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on SEAT Altea | CARkeys

SEAT Altea

review

by Ross Finlay (22 June 2004)

A design quirk in the new Altea allows SEAT to suggest, tongue-in-cheek, that here’s a car which may thwart the best efforts of a traffic warden . Since the cross-over windscreen wipers, at rest, are effectively hidden in the A pillars, the traditional location for a parking ticket has gone. Don’t bet on the wardens failing to cotton on, though.

Previewed in several one-off concept cars, the Altea represents the well-trailed new face of SEAT, which now occupies its own specific niche within the Audi brand group, alongside Audi itself and no less a Big Brother than Lamborghini. The Barcelona-based company hopes we won’t lose sight of its more economy-minded models, but it wants to be considered a sporty make too – with some very brisk top-of-the-range cars and the British Touring Car Championship race programme to be taken into account – and it’s promoting the Altea as the first of a new line of Multi Sports Vehicles.

No, I couldn’t write a one-sentence definition of the Altea as an MSV, either. But it’s a very impressive piece of work, based on one of the new longer-wheelbase platforms which are transforming this general category of Volkswagen Group models.

From the prominent Seat badge on the front grille, and the projector headlamp array, several sweeping style lines lead the eye to the rear of the car with its chopped-off hatchback tail. The styling is dumpier there, but that doesn’t matter, because the great thing about the back half of the Altea is the amazing amount of passenger space in the rear cabin – headroom, legroom, kneeroom, foot room – the lot. It’s a brilliant packaging job.

There’s a fair amount of carrying capacity too, in a luggage space where the first-level floor can be removed to reveal a kind of basement underneath. No spare wheel, though, just a puncture repair kit. Hmm.

SEAT has provided plenty of stowage places all through the cabin, in everything from the lift-open two-level front centre armrest, the bottom area of the centre console and the pull-out drawers under the front seats, to cupholders, bottle and drinks can holders, and even straps to hold an umbrella in place instead of it being parked where it will more than likely fall over during fast cornering. According to model specification, there’s at least one 12-volt socket too.

Then there’s the style of the fascia. Walter de’Silva and his design team have come up with something quite out of the ordinary here, as if they took a fan, or a fanned-out deck of cards, as their inspiration.

The deep-cowled instruments ahead of the steering wheel are conventional, and although their light level adjusts automatically, the driver can over-ride that, while the gearlever is another of those handy console-mounted affairs. It’s easy to get into a comfortable position behind the wheel, in a front seat which offers plenty of support.

Switchable traction control, brake assist and electro-mechanical power steering are standard throughout the range. Front and rear suspension layouts are new to SEAT, and so are the names of the trim levels, starting with Reference, moving on via the mysterious Stylance and finishing with Sport.

Although not all the powertrain options will be available immediately from the July on-sale date, they’ll build up to quite a selection. There’s a 100bhp 1.6-litre petrol engine in the Reference at £12,850 and the Stylance at £13,900. A 103bhp TDi turbo diesel is available in both these models at a premium of £1150.

The major emphasis, though, is on the Sport, at prices from £16,000 to £17,600. Engine possibilities here are a 148bhp two-litre direct injection petrol FSI unit and a 138bhp two-litre TDi, both on sale in the first instance with six-speed manual gearboxes.

On the road, the TDi Sport is a real mover, with a 0-62mph time of 9.9 seconds, nifty handling and much stronger mid-range pull than any of the other engines in the range. Later, it will be available, at the top price of £17,600, with the twin-clutch six-speed DSG gearbox whose faster changes trim tenths off most of the measured acceleration figures. The DSG can run in fully automatic mode too.

For the two-litre TDi, the transmission option will be a six-speed Tiptronic.

The Altea has been through several show-car manifestations, and the fact that it was being keenly watched by industry professionals was confirmed by the decision of the Designers (Europe) organisation to nominate the Altea Prototipo, one stage away from production status, as its members’ choice of Best Concept Car 2003.

Now the real-life commercial competition is about to begin.

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