SEAT Altea

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SEAT Altea Car Review | May 1, 2004

Driven May 2004

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The Seat Altea. Yippee. If you think I'm being sarcastic, you couldn'tbe more wrong. OK, a car that's mid-way between a regular hatchback and a Scenic-sized MPV might not light everyone's fire, but it could be just what some people are looking for.

Perhaps you think that a midi-MPV dressed up to look like something cooler is like a 50-year-old man wearing Speedo trunks. Undignified. But surely, there's no greater dignity than procreation, ensuring the survival of the species and adding another weave to the fabric of civilisation by providing another family unit. Hmm, I might be getting a bit sarcy here. But anyway, the Altea can carry off that pair of metaphorical Speedos.

This car can corner. There's a tautness to the suspension that keeps things lively. It's not all sloppy and wallowy, and prone to breaking into dull understeer as soon as you see a chevron on the horizon. Being front-wheel drive, a less agile nose will make itself felt eventually, but there's still a sizeable window for some fun. Meanwhile, at the back, any mid-bend lifts of the throttle fail to unsettle the tail to any dangerous degree.

Don't worry, your sensitive family, those noble contributors to a better society, won't be complaining about the ride quality, either. Just because the Altea has agility doesn't mean it's also hard and unforgiving. The car is based on the new Golf platform after all, which seems to have refinement built into it.

Engine choices are 1.6- and two-litre FSI petrol or 1.9- and two-litre TDI diesel. Transmission choices are five-speed manual, a six-speed Tiptronic auto option for the 2.0 FSI and intriguingly, a six-speed DSG (Direct Shift Gearbox) with the two-litre TDI variant.DSG, as you may or may not know, is the twin-clutch, sequential-shifting gearbox as found in the Audi TT V6. And it's bloody good.

That combination of torquey diesel engine and a transmission that can just be left in D or used to more sporty effect is possibly the Altea range's best. On the one hand, some will like the ease of use and the economy, whereas others can get something more interesting from it. And I'm really not being sarcastic now.

Hey, it even looks pretty good. All the Altea's proportions work well together to make the car look less cumbersome than other midi-MPVs. It looks more like a conventional hatch, but a very contemporary one. It has distinctive curves on the side and an easily recognisable nose.

For a car of this size, the interior feels spacious (plenty of room for mum, dad, a few little one's and luggage) and the quality of materials used within is good. Not up to premium standards, admittedly, but Seat has paid attention to shape and texture, so they seem cheerful and modern. Standard equipment includes aircon and there's the option of satnav too.

With the back seats down, there's even sufficient space for the odd bit of furniture or lifestyle accesory, in true MPV, erm, style; plus there's a handy high-ish roof. And, of course, we all love that elevated driving position, don't we?

Maybe you'll never get to live the celebrity life, never own that Aston, but I say take heart. Embrace the now. There's nothing wrong with normal, especially when you can drive around in a Seat Altea. Prepare to say yippee. Really.

Colin Ryan

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