Fresh from the wheels up, and proving beyond doubt that practical full-size MPVs do not have to be lacklustre to look at, the new Alhambra once again places SEAT at the head of the people carrier class. The largest car SEAT has yet made at more than 4.8 metres stem to stern, the Alhambra also becomes the Spaniards’ most luxurious and technologically advanced offering with a raft of clever and important new features that showcase the firm’s formidable technical expertise.
Styled by SEAT design boss Luc Donckerwolke and his team in Martorell, today’s Alhambra shows how sporty, dynamic and engaging it’s possible to make a modern seven-seater with, in particular, SEAT’s trademark ‘Arrow Design’ nose adding a sense of purposeful style to proceedings. That svelte shape also contributes in no small part to the SEAT’s exceptional Cd figure of just 0.299, making it one of the most aerodynamic vehicles in its class. Further back, the car’s capacious new shell sports arguably the most obvious distinction between this and previous vehicle to wear the ‘Alhambra’ badge – two sliding rear doors which significantly improve practicality.
Inside, seven individual seats can accommodate seven adults in genuine comfort with even third row occupants benefiting from generous knee and headroom. Today’s Alhambra does away with the old-style individually removable seating concept in favour of a clever new fold-flat system that sees all five second- and third-row seats pivot into the car’s floor at the simple tug of a lever. Access to those third row seats, in particular, is now a cinch thanks to the debut of the easy entry slide and tilt second row seats.
You want space? Alhambra’s got space. Up to a massive 2,297 litres of it, to be precise. While even in five-seat form (with just the third row folded) there’s as much as 1,167 litres of load bay on offer. Needless to say, storage around the cabin is typically generous, too, as a profusion of cupholders, tray tables, cubbies and pockets easily swallows the detritus that goes along with family outings.
Beneath the graceful bonnet of the front-wheel drive Alhambra lie a variety of modern engine and transmission options. The counterpoint to one of two top notch EU V-compliant 2.0-litre common rail turbodiesels, of 138bhp or 168bhp denomination. Depending on trim level, all three are offered with either a precise six-speed manual or sporty yet flexible six-speed DSG (Direct Shift Gearbox). The result is a seven-seater capable of covering the 0-62 mph sprint in just 9.5 seconds (2.0 TDI CR 168bhp manual) and topping out at 130 mph (2.0 TDI CR 168bhp manual).
At launch, all Alhambras boast some of SEAT’s most important eco-minded Ecomotive technologies including Stop/Start and Brake Energy Recovery. Thus, all Alhambras are badged Ecomotive while the 2.0 TDI CR 138bhp manual grabs the honour of being badged E Ecomotive thanks to its range-best CO2 emissions of just 146 g/km. Economy, as you might expect of such a slippery and carefully engineered vehicle, is laudable, too, with as much as 50.4 mpg available on the combined cycle (2.0 TDI CR 138bhp manual).
Bristling with equipment, the new MPV is offered in SEAT’s simple trim designations: S, SE and SE Lux. But even the entry-level S versions are hardly what you’d call humbly specified. Standard across all Alhambras are such goodies as 3-zone climate control, parking sensors front and rear, sliding rear doors, electronic handbrake, Bluetooth hands-free phone connection, 16-inch alloys, Stop/Start and Brake Energy Recovery. Equipment gets even more lavish as you ascend the range, with SE Lux versions boasting a dazzling array of standard-fit kit. Brief highlights include power-operated sliding rear doors and tailgate, panoramic glass sunroof with opening front pane and electrically operated sun blind, black leather upholstery, 12-way electrically adjustable font seats, SEAT Media System including satnav with dynamic route guidance and rear view camera.
Technical innovations in the Alhambra are many and varied. Aside from the impressively convenient seats there are, depending on spec, such highlights as High Beam Assist which automatically switches between full and dipped beam taking into account both street lighting and oncoming traffic. Meanwhile, the forthcoming option of Park Assist (available on vehicles ordered from December 2010 onward) makes mincemeat of sliding the SEAT into (and out of) parking spots by both identifying suitable spaces and then automatically attending to the steering while the driver simply controls the accelerator, clutch and brake.
Available in showrooms nationwide from this week the new SEAT Alhambra is, then, both a practical and luxurious MPV and, with prices starting from £22,330 RRP, it maintains SEAT’s reputation for exceptional value.
Welcoming the UK arrival of the brand’s most technically advanced model to date, SEAT UK Product Manager James Buckell said: ‘I’m extremely proud of the new Alhambra as I believe it shows that family-sized seven seaters can be both good to look at and great to drive. ‘The technology that has gone into this new car, from the great range of engines to luxury features such as Park Assist, underline, too, how keen we are to put every ounce of value that we can into our new MPV.’