The new Seat Alhambra MPV is once again twinned with Volkswagen's Sharan, but the familial links have been cut with Ford's Galaxy. Think of the new 2010 Alhambra as a cut-price VW; our Alhambra 2.0 TDI Ecomotive model costs around £800 less than the equivalent Sharan.
It's a pretty compelling reason to pick the Seat badge. We tested the Alhambra in Ecomotive spec, which brings CO2 down to 146g/km and promises 50mpg. Not bad claims for a whopping 1.7-tonne seven-seat MPV.
How the Seat Alhambra stacks up as an MPV
Test driving a people carrier is as much about unleashing your family on the car as driving the door handles off it. And the new 2010 Alhambra is a far more practical offering than its predecessor.
Key to its newfound practicality is the switch to sliding rear doors. Access to the middle row is a cinch, and you can even clamber into the third row easily enough thanks to a clever hinging mechanism. The whole second-row outside pew tilts and slides forwards in one movement (once you've worked out which lever does what).
Just watch out for those automated rear doors and tailgate. We've seen faults on brand new press cars from other brands with electric boots, and we'd worry in the long run about motorised failures...
How much space is in the third row of the Alhambra?
There's decent head- and legroom in row three, so you can squeeze in adults in both rear rows. You get an air vent and cubby each, and the view out is good enough for Jemima and Cedric not to throw their toys out of the pram.
And the second row?
Each individual seat slides back and forth, and there's only the smallest of transmission tunnels to pilfer room for feet. The fold-up table tops on the backs of the front seat are asymmetric - beware the left table will foul adult passenger knees, as it's lower set than the right-hand table.
The Alhambra is a big car, so boot space is enormous when the car is configured as a five-seater; it's still reasonable when set up as a seven-seater. Both rearmost rows of seats fold flat without having to be removed, but as a consequence they tumble and stow high up - nibbling potential bootspace.
Seat Alhambra: the inside story
Our model came with an extraordinary ruched beige '70s quilted interior, which was like stepping back to Margaret Thatcher's first reign. But the rest of the interior appointments are much better. It feels sturdily built and well up to the demands of family life.
There are plenty of big-car features: an electric parking brake, heated front windscreen (a leftover from the Ford relationship?) and tyre pressure monitors.
The driving department
It might be an MPV, but some parents are interested in dynamics too. A few niggles first: the A-pillar has those dastardly blindspots common on MPVs, and they present a small but irritating obstruction in your field of vision. If that doesn't catch you out, the piano black surround on the centre console's reflections may, even on short winter days catching sunshine and sending it back to your retina.
But the driving experience is throughly modern VW fayre. The Alhambra rides well, with a controlled, plump quality to the way it dispatches bumps and lumps. It's refined too, with our 2.0-litre TDI a distant reminder of motive force.
That's adequate shove, even in the long-legged tall gearing typical of such Ecomotive editions. At a 70mph motorway cruise, the engine's ticking over at 1900rpm but it'll quickly sling past slower traffic even when loaded up, thanks to a stout 236lb ft of torque bubbling away from 1750rpm.
The Alhambra feels like a big car - that windscreen is enormous and you can't see the front at all. The flipside is that you get a roomy, well specified MPV to deal with family duties.
It's considerably better to drive than the outgoing Alhambra, which traced its roots back to 1996. The boxy style won't win many plaudits, but Seat's new MPV finally bears comparison with the strongest full-sized people carriers on the market such as the Ford Galaxy, Chrysler Voyager and Renault Espace.
The new Alhambra is a reminder that - for Seat - life in the Volkswagen empire occasionally brings rich pickings.