Andy Palmer tells us more about the car Aston will race in Le Mans’ new top class
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Tarraco. Two Rs, one C. What’s it all about? It’s Seat’s new seven-seater. Yet another VW Group crossover? Indeed. This one’s almost identical in size and accommodation and technical bits to the Skoda Kodiaq and the VW Tiguan Allspace. So why did they bother?
Because it turns out it adds to the total sales. Seat’s customers are on average relatively young and probably wouldn’t buy a Skoda. As Ferdinand Piech, the man who started all this VW Group brand stuff, used to say: “With more fishing rods I catch more fish.” OK so why would I bother? It’s a handsome thing, and has a slightly more cheerfully decorated interior than the others. Seat also claims it’s more sporty to drive. Seven seats? I thought that was the Alhambra’s job in the Seat range? Though I do realise MPVs are old hat. Thanks for mentioning another car name: it’ll raise search-engine profile. The Alhambra is a full seven-seat MPV with adult space in all seats, and big sliding doors. The Tarraco’s sixth and seventh seats are rather smaller. Anyone beyond five feet is going to be bashing their head in that third row. But the middle-row do slide forward to create a little more third-row legroom. The middle seats, slid back, are great for long-journey comfort and stretching space. With all seats up the boot is a teensy 230 litres. But you can fold the rest away. Set it up for six, five, four, three, two and one-seat layouts (the front passenger seatback will flop forward) and you open up progressively more vast cargo room. Neatly, the boot roller blind for the five-seat layout stores under the floor. And everyone wants a crossover not an MPV… So it seems. For people who want only the visual language of SUVs, the Tarraco comes with 150bhp petrol or diesel engines with front-drive and a manual ‘box. For actual SUV-ular activities, a four-wheel-drive DSG transmission is available on the 150 diesel. That’s the standard driveline for the two 190bhp engines, a petrol and a diesel. And the rest of the mechanics? Normal enough suspension, with no adaptive dampers. How does it gel? We tried the 150bhp diesel manual FWD, then the full-kit 190 petrol. Travelling with most seats empty, the diesel has just-about-tolerable poke. It’s also pretty quiet except moving smartly away from low speed. It steers with accuracy, and is easy to thread smoothly through bends and junctions. There’s little engagement in corners, and yet the ride endlessly jiggly and a little thumpy. Not harsh, but unsettled. Looks like someone told the engineers ‘make it superficially sporty’ and the engineers didn’t push back and ask why that was sensible in a family seven-seater that takes most of ten seconds to get to 62mph. Then the 190bhp petrol. Thanks to the 4WD system it scuttles away from wet roundabouts with more determination, but isn’t subjectively rapid in its overtaking acceleration. The test sprint is 8.0 seconds, with the help of quick DSG shifts. It’s a slightly droney sounding engine installation too. All of that said, it’s a much pleasanter drive than the Kia Sorrento or Nissan X-Trail, the cars Seat calls rivals. Now it’s you trying to tickle the SEO by mentioning other cars… Correct. And the Hyundai Santa Fe. And strangely, the Tarraco’s face looks not unlike the Hyundai’s. It’s a new direction for Seat, we’re told: this new six-sided grille is something we’re going to be seeing on future Seats. And it’s quite stylish. What else do you like? The look and feel of the cabin. There are some interesting cloth trims, generally decent plastics where your fingers meet them, and a straightforward but quick-witted multimedia system. It’s well equipped too. All versions have full LED headlamps and both cockpit screens, and can do phone mirroring. It’s 17-inch wheels on the base SE, and they rise by an inch with each succeeding trim level. If you want in-built not phone-based nav, go up to the SE Tech. Xcellence adds smarter cosmetics, and active cruise, parking camera, keyless start and the like. And the prices? Base stickers seem reasonable: £28,335 for the petrol 150bhp. You add £1,000 for the SE bit, and another £1,100 for Xcellence. Swapping to diesel adds £1,500, and the step from petrol 150 FWD to 190 AWD DSG is £4,400. This, Skoda or VW? Actually, I like the look and trim of this, but the more pliant suspension of the Skoda.