► Seat Alhambra MPV tested
► Range starts from £25,960
► Style Advanced model driven
Ah, the Seat Alhambra – still resolutely a boxy MPV despite many of its rivals going all crossover these days. The Renault Grand Scenic and Peugeot 5008 in particular may have forgotten their purest people carrier roots, but the Alhambra still stubbornly troops the colour.
If you’re here, you obviously consider the Alhambra to be still worth a look for you and your family, so let’s get down to business. The Alhambra is the Seat sister car of the VW Sharan, yet manages to have a £2200-cheaper starting price (£25,690 compared to the Sharan’s £27,900). Our Alhambra was a well-specced Style Advanced model with a 2.0-litre diesel priced at £34,315.
Ah, the perennial TDI…
Yes, on paper the 181bhp diesel in our test car is about as surprising as a tepid bowl of porridge, but it’s surprisingly torquey and very flexible. There’s absolutely no need to rev it out, with all of the poke quickly disappearing after 3500rpm. Instead you ride the generous torque wave.
It’s also pretty quiet; granted you are about four miles from the engine bay but soundproofing inside the enormous cabin is exceptional.
Other engines are available, but not all are available to all trims. Basic S and middling SE can be specced with a 1.4-litre TSI with 148bhp, all versions have a 148bhp Ecomotive diesel with either a six-speed manual or six-speed DSG at their disposal, while the punchier diesel we have here (also available with the DSG) is reserved for Style Advanced or range-topping Xcellence versions.
The higher-powered diesel is around £1400 more expensive than its 148bhp sibling, but claimed economy gains are negligible.
Steers like a van, though… right?
It’s big, square and you sit very high, which does sound quite van-like. The seating position is good, with plenty of adjustment available. Plus, the dashboard may be massive but everything is within easy reach.
The high centre of gravity makes for generous body roll, but the ride itself is pliant even on the 18-inch alloys on our Style Advanced test car. As we mentioned before, the engine is hushed and road noise isn’t too intrusive either – not van-like at all.
As for the controls, everything feels just right, making the driving experience plain sailing. The steering has just enough weight, as does the early-engaging clutch pedal and brakes – perfect for those who might use an Alhambra for work purposes, or those long family trips.
Speaking of families, let’s talk practicality
Ah yes, the elephant in the room. No one buys an Alhambra if they’re not prepared to thoroughly use all of it regularly.
You access the back seats via a pair of electrically-assisted sliding doors, via a pull from the outer door handle, or from buttons on the key fob. To a bloke with the mental age of four that’s great, but it’s missing some dry ice pluming from it like the USS Enterprise on a foreign planet.
The middle row comes with three seats that all individually slide forwards and back, recline backward or fold flat, and the front seat backs have slightly flimsy picnic trays attached to them. Our test car had one of the optional integrated child booster seats in the middle row, too. It replaces the headrest with looping bolsters, while the squab itself can be raised via a handle for little’uns to sit in without you lugging around and clipping in a hefty booster seat.
We’re willing to bet that parents carrying small kids won’t be able to access the rearmost seats with one hand, mind. The middle row is rather heavy, meaning you’ll have to make quite the effort to pull the seat forward. Still, the aperture for accessing the rear seats is wide enough even for adults and the actual space on offer is good enough for adults when you’ve slid the middle row seats forward.
What about if I’m carrying stuff instead of people?
You could easily move house with this thing. With all seven seats up, remaining space is small at just 269 litres while in five-seat mode, there’s 658 litres at your disposal.
Whack all of the seats flat and the Alhambra’s boxy dimensions open up a total of 2297 litres, making the big Seat roomier with all of the seats down than a Ford Galaxy or Citroen Grand C4 Picasso.
More buyers are flocking to SUVs instead but we’re happy the Alhambra still exists. There’s little else on the market that offers this amount of space and flexibility.
It’s about as fashionable as a velvet shell-suit these days but the Alhambra is still an easy to drive, comfy, quiet MPV with a punchy diesel and all the equipment the average family could realistically want. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Check out our Seat reviews