SEAT Alhambra MPV
Price £25,345 - £33,475
- Great to drive
- Superb practicality
- Quite pricey
- Limited legroom in third row
- Limited engine line-up
At a glance
"With seven seats, a spacious and flexible interior, decent handling and a reasonable price tag, the SEAT Alhambra is easily one of the best MPVs money can buy."
The SEAT Alhambra is an MPV and a rival to cars like the Ford Galaxy and Vauxhall Zafira Tourer. It's based on the Volkswagen Sharan – in fact it's mechanically identical to it. It features a more stylish design and a slightly more basic interior, and Alhambra models are cheaper than the equivalent Sharans. So you get all the benefits of the Volkswagen – the practical interior, the flexible seven-seats, the excellent engines, the great handling and the top-class reliability – but you get them at a bargain price.
There are cheaper MPVs on the market, the Vauxhall Zafira costs less, for example, but none of the cars with a lower price come close to matching the Alhambra on practicality, comfort, handling and fuel economy. It's a truly brilliant all-rounder, which is why we named it Best MPV in the 2014 CarBuyer awards.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Cheap to run considering the size of the car
The Alhambra has a very limited engine line-up that consists of a 2.0-litre diesel engine with either 138bhp or 175bhp. The lower powered version will do 49.6mpg and 149g/km CO2 in standard spec, but you can also get an Ecomotive version that comes with stop-start and other fuel efficiency technologies that improves the figures to 50.4mpg and 146g/km CO2 – which isn’t quite class leading but isn’t far off. The 175bhp engine will do 47.9mpg and emit 152g/km CO2 (unless you opt for the DSG automatic gearbox, which reduces efficiency slightly). Either way, the Alhambra is very efficient for a large MPV.
Interior & comfort
Fairly comfortable, despite a relatively firm ride
The Alhambra handles well, and part of the reason for that is that it has quite a firm suspension set-up. In a lot of cars, firmer suspension means a more uncomfortable ride, but this isn’t an issue on the Alhambra - it's comfortable and does a good job of soaking up bumps in the road. Interior quality isn’t quite as high as you find in the Volkswagen Sharan, but that's not necessarily a bad thing, as the more simplistic design and tougher materials are probably better suited to family life. There's plenty of space inside for passengers to get comfy, too, although large adults would be well advised to avoid the third row of seats.
Practicality & boot space
The Alhambra is one of the most practical cars money can buy
All MPVs are practical, so it takes a special car to stand out in this class and the Alhambra does just that. It's one of the widest MPVs available and that helps to give it one of the most spacious interiors. The seating layout is very flexible, too – the third and second rows of seats can be folded flat, as can the front passenger seat in higher spec models, which alloys the Alhambra to carry objects as long as 2.95m. Boot space with all the seats in place is 267 litres, but you can expand that to 1,167 litres by folding down the rear seats and increase it to a truly cavernous 2,297 litres by folding down the middle row. You’d have to buy a van to get more space than that. You can also select electric power for the boot and sliding doors as an optional extra, which makes access incredibly easy.
Reliability & safety
Safety is first rate but SEAT customers haven’t been impressed with the brand in recent years
SEAT is part of the Volkswagen Group and the Alhambra is based on the Sharan, so it's built from tried and tested parts and engines and should prove to be reliable. But SEAT hasn’t performed very well in customer satisfaction surveys recently. It came 27th out of 32 manufacturers in the 2013 Driver Power survey – a particularly disappointing result given that sister brand Skoda came second. Still, the Alhambra comes with a three-year/60,000-mile warranty and there hasn’t been any major reliability issues reported with it. And it's very safe. It scored the maximum five-star safety rating the Euro NCAP crash tests. All cars come with a full complement of airbags – including a driver's knee airbag – as well as electronic stability control, ABS, traction control and ISOFIX points for securing child seats. The front passenger airbag can also be disabled to allow the fitting of a rear-facing child seat in the front.
Engines, drive & performance
The Alhambra has a surprisingly enjoyable and sporty drive for an MPV
You don’t expect MPVs to be particularly good to drive, but the Alhambra is actually great fun. The firm suspension means the car handles really well, and can tackle corners at speed without leaning. It's also got plenty of grip and really accurate steering, which make it a really enjoyable car to drive on a winding country road. It's not quite as good in this respect as the Ford S-MAX, but it runs it a close second. There are only two engines to choose from: a 138bhp 2.0-litre diesel and a 168bhp version. The former is slower but offers better economy, so which one you choose will largely depend on how important saving pennies at the pump is to you.
Price, value for money & options
It’s not the cheapest MPV but it still offers great value for money
There are three specification levels to the Alhambra: entry-level S, mid-range SE and top-of-the-range SE Lux. Even the entry-level models come with 16-inch alloy wheels, all-round electric windows, air-con, Bluetooth connectivity and hill-hold assist as standard. SE cars get 17-inch alloys, cruise control and three-zone climate control. While SE Lux models get front and rear parking sensors, an electrically powered boot and sliding rear doors, panoramic glass sunroof, and SEAT's media system, which includes sat-nav. It's priced competitively compared to rivals and resale values are strong.
What the others say
"The Alhambra is just as practical and good to drive as its VW Sharan counterpart, but is likely to be even better value for money. It's one of the best MPVs around."
"The Alhambra's qualities are underlined by decent value for money and generous equipment levels."
"The Alhambra – like its predecessor – really can carry seven in comfort. Throw in an incredibly quick and easy system for folding the seats and you have a functional and practical people carrier. It comes with plenty of kit as standard and along with decent fuel economy and low CO2 emissions it offers good value for money. It has some tough competition in the battle of seven-seaters, including the near-identical Volkswagen Sharan, as well as the Ford Galaxy."
"Access is easy, thanks to the electric sliding doors, which can be opened and closed with a push of a button. Plus the large windows and panoramic sunroof makefor a light and airy interior."