What is it?
Ah, poor old Seat. Forever chastised as the leech of VW Group, with its showrooms full of re-badged VWs and Audis. Used to be Fiats, though, so count your blessings. In a parallel universe the Alhambra could have been a Multipla. As it is, it’s a slightly cheaper VW Sharan, and that means it’s a very functional, very massive seven-seat MPV. Not even remotely sporting, despite Seat’s brand goals, but then the Ford S-Max has sporty MPVs wrapped up anyway.
The Alhambra’s defining characteristic is the eerie quiet at low speed, coupled to ride quality befitting a luxury limo. Added to its concert-hall-like space, this is the sort of car that, if it didn’t have the whopping big ‘S’ on the front, would make a perfect celebrity ferry. Its massive girth means it’s not the easiest thing to park for those without a Blue Badge, but that’s a price worth paying for so much usable space. And it has parking sensors, so get over it.
As you’d expect, the VW ergonomics scientists have done their calculations well, making sure that almost anyone can find a comfortable driving position. It even handles OK, for a massive cube, though it feels a lot more at ease when floating in a straight line. For that reason we’d go for a DSG gearbox – its computer brain is much better able to understand when to change up and down gears than it used to be, and it’s gotten smoother doing so.
On the inside
With the back two chairs more than big enough for fully formed adults, it’s one of the most capacious MPVs around. It has a dashboard more attractive than anything else Seat does, while retaining the plain old functionality typical of VW Group design. The solidity of the upper materials is approaching Audi standard, so a leather-clad SE Lux version has all the charisma of a proper luxury car. It’s two leagues ahead of the old Alhambra.
With the rear seats up there’s an enormous boot, and we like the cool (optional) transformer chairs that change into kiddie seats. Clever.
The price gulf between this and the Sharan isn’t as big as it could be – a few hundred quid model-for-model – so you’ll have to balance that against probable weaker residuals, which might affect monthly payments to the extent it’s actually no cheaper for private buyers. Otherwise, it’s as per the VW, so you’re using very familiar engines with alluring economy – all diesels hover around the 50mpg mark. The token 1.4 TSI petrol is actually decent on fuel, but if yours is a heavy burden of passengers and paraphernalia, you’ll miss the torque.
Equipment is lavish – all get three-zone climate, parking sensors and alloys. As it perhaps should be: the Alhambra isn’t quite as cheap as it was today, starting from over £25k. But even at this price, it’s worth it.