Our esteemed editor was keen for me to test the SEAT Alhambra to see if it remains relevant in this SUV-obsessed world. Sales figures would seem to suggest that functional and flexible MPVs have had their day, with cars like the Alhambra swept aside by cars with unpronounceable names and increasingly derivative styling. The fact is: the Alhambra should have been put out to pasture years ago. The Spanish version of the Volkswagen Sharan debuted at the start of the decade, and aside from some subtle changes, the Alhambra you can buy today is fundamentally the same as you would have bought in 2010. So what did I think of this ageing and unfashionable MPV?
Well, after five months and 6,000 miles of facing the full force of family life, I’m prepared to say that not only is the Alhambra still relevant, it’s also highly credible, refreshingly honest and wonderfully fit-for-purpose. As I write this farewell report, it has been gone a few weeks, and while I don’t miss the car as such, I do miss some of its features. I may have mentioned the electric sliding doors rather a lot over the past five months, but that’s because I think they’re the Alhambra’s best feature. I love the fact that you can open them via the keyfob or a button on the dashboard, and I like the way it makes entering and exiting the car so much easier in a tight parking space. That said, the front seat passenger and driver are still left with the awkwardness of squeezing through the gap between the next car along.
I’m also a huge fan of the space and comfort in the third row of seats. How often do you read a review of a seven-seat SUV and discover that the back row is ‘best reserved for small children’, or words along those lines? Not so in the Alhambra, as there’s enough room for two adults back there, along with lighting, ventilation and storage for oddments. It’s not even that tricky to get to the back, proving that there are no ‘cheap seats’ in this seven-seater. Sure, boot space is a little compromised with all seven seats in use, but the capacity is equal to a small supermini, and we managed to squeeze in a bag of footballs, six players’ kit bags and a first aid kit. And when the third-row seats aren’t in use, there’s 658 litres of space to play with. Put it this way: we never ran out of space and I don’t think we ever would.
But as I hinted at in my penultimate report, it’s not perfect, so not everybody should ditch their seven-seat SUV in favour of this practical workhorse. Time moves fast in the motoring world, which means the Alhambra doesn’t feature the latest active and passive safety systems – something that is sure to deter parents who are perusing new cars in a SEAT showroom. Less critical, but still important to family buyers, are gripes such as the small infotainment screen, the absence of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and the single USB port tucked away in the central storage bin. SEAT Alhambra prices start from £31,865, so it’s not a cheap car. In fairness, it disguises its ageing architecture quite well, but there’s no getting away from the fact that its days are numbered in the SEAT line-up.
Which brings me on to its replacement. Parked outside is the Alhambra’s chief in-house rival: the seven-seat SEAT Tarraco SUV. It doesn’t have sliding doors, so it’s having to play catch-up, but it’ll be interesting to see if SEAT’s seven-seat SUV represents a big step up from its seven-seat MPV. It has a tough act to follow. The Alhambra might not be sexy, characterful or stylish, but few cars offer such a compelling blend of flexibility and space. I’ll miss it.
Date arrived 14th January 2019
Fuel economy 39.2-41.5mpg (WLTP combined) 36.6mpg (on test)
I’ll miss the brilliantly practical electric sliding doors.
The AdBlue filler cap is located below the boot floor.