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SEAT Altea XL Car Review | October 26, 2006

Driven October 2006

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If you're easily confused, then you should skip this drive. Seat has been playing around with its model line-up, but even after two days with the new Altea XL, I'm still struggling to figure out what it's all about and, more importantly, what it means for the Seat range.

This, as you've already gathered, is the new Altea XL, a car based on the Altea compact MPV, only this time with a bigger boot.

But doesn't the Toledo already do the same thing, albeit with an uglier protrusion at the back? And then there's the Leon, only this time with a slightly smaller boot. Seat claims that the XL is the family car of the range, so where does that leave the Altea?

The one thing that is clear is that the XL does have a bigger boot. The car is 187mm longer than the normal Altea, most of which has been targeted at the rear. So you now get 532 litres of loadspace with all the seats in place (up from 409 in the Altea), or 1,604 litres with the seats folded.

The rear bench also slides, as it does in the Altea, but there's 20mm more movement to the rear, which gives more legroom. Slide that rear bench fully forward and you get 635 litres, which, Seat reckons, is the largest in the class.

The flipside is that you'll chop your children's legs off by doing this.

One aspect that should be applauded is the styling. Whereas the Toledo looks like it's developed elephantitis, the XL's shape seems unaffected by growth.

From B-pillar forward, it's the same as the Altea, but the tail gets distinctive lights and roof rails are standard. The cabin is also identical to the Altea, so quality and layout are fine.

Where there is a slight variety for the moment is in the engine line-up. You can only get a 1.6-litre petrol, 1.9-litre TDI and two-litre 140 TDI. Others will join in, such as a new 1.8-litre turbo petrol, but the 1.9-litre oil burner will be the most popular in the UK.

This is a fairly old engine now, but once you're on the move it's refined and you can't argue with the claimed 52.6mpg. It isn't that quick, though, 0-62mph passing in 12.6 seconds, and you'll need to be peddling hard to get that sort of figure. Treat it more as a relaxed Sunday drive and you'll get on better.

In isolation, the Altea XL is fine. But look at the rest of the range and this just smacks of creating a new car on the cheap - no clever features, just cynical marketing.

Piers Ward

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