With a growing market for large hatchbacks, car makers need to set themselves apart from the rest of the class. SEAT’s Altea looks great, but is it just a pretty face?
Practicality normally means boring, dull and beige. If something has been built to be practical, it most likely means it was designed with aesthetics and dynamics as afterthoughts. SEAT has launched an attack against dull practical cars with the rather handsome Altea. With 30 cubby holes in the cabin and 409 litres of boot space, plenty of headroom and five seats, it ticks the practicality box with gusto. The Altea satisfies any need you may have for space, style and safety (a five star EuroNCAP rating sees to that). Thanks to VW Golf underpinnings, the Altea has a well tuned chassis that includes a multi-link rear suspension setup. This provides great body control in all but the tightest corners and high comfort levels on the straight bits. It’s a hoot to drive, with more grip than you would expect from a car of this size and when it looks like things are getting too scary, the ESP and traction control jump in and rescue you from any ditches or hedges. The Altea handles better than most other cars in this class, but if you let yourself have a little too much fun, you are quickly reminded of this cars bulk with a little understeer.
Under the bonnet, the venerable 1.9 turbodiesel unit can be found. It produces 104bhp and 184lb ft of torque. Acceleration isn’t electric but mid-range punch is easily enough to keep up with motorway traffic. Fuel consumption is respectable for a car of this size, returning 52.3mpg on the combined cycle.
In Reference Sport trim, as tested here, you get treated to deep sided sports seats that hold you firm and give good support. The downside to this bucket arrangement means that seating in the back is best for two adults, rather than three. Headroom is generous thanks to the tall proportions of this sporting MPV.
The interior feels a little bargain basement in places with hard plastics, but that said it’s bolted together well and has looks to match the rest of the car’s sporting pretensions. The steering wheel is well sized and with those sports seats hugging your torso, you could be forgiven for forgetting that you’re in a mini MPV and not a hot hatch.
For what you pay, the Altea offers a generous package. If you are looking for a car with good looks, practicality and want to have fun once in a while, then not many MPVs offer the grin factor that Altea can.
RIVALS: Ford C-MAX Zetec 1.6 TDCi, Citroën Xsara Picaso Desire 1.6 HDi, Nissan Qashqai Acenta 1.5 dCi
- Engine: 1896cc, 4 cylinder turbodiesel
- Gearbox: 5-speed manual
- Max Power: 104bhp at 4,000rpm
- Max Torque: 184lb ft at 1,900rpm
- Max Towing Weight: 1,400kg
- Combined Consumption: 52.3mpg
- CO2 Emissions (taxband): 146g/km (C)
- 0-62mph: 12.3secs
- Max speed: 114mph
- Insurance group: 5
Fine handling, fun to drive, lots of interior space
Restricted vision, rear seats better suited to two people