"Seven-seat practicality and a solid line-up of Volkswagen-sourced engines make the Alhambra a good all-rounder for large families."
In simple terms, the SEAT Alhambra is a VW Sharan with a back to basics interior and unique styling. It offers all the virtues of the more expensive VW for less money. That means you get an incredibly practical seven- seat MPV with a good range of engines and impressive on-road dynamics. It's still not the cheapest MPV on the market – some older rivals, such as the Vauxhall Zafira, cost less. But none of these cars can match the Alhambra's comfort, practicality or fuel economy - and that's why we named it Best MPV in our 2013 Car of the Year awards.
If you’re looking for a sporty MPV, the Alhambra is a good choice. In fact, only a Ford S-MAX feels as much at home on twisting back roads. That's partly down to the well weighted steering and stiff suspension, which provide the big SEAT with plenty of grip through corners. The engine offering the best mix of performance and efficiency is the 138bhp 2.0-litre diesel. It takes the MPV from 0-62mph in 10.9 seconds, although those looking for a bit more speed should go for the 168bhp diesel.
While many modern diesel engines are still quite noisy, the Alhambra's are incredibly quiet and smooth, allowing you to reap the benefits of their increased fuel economy without having to put up with a din in the cabin. The SEAT's ride is slightly stiffer than some other MPVs, but it's actually very comfortable and will soak up lumps and bumps in the road easily. Plus, while the steering is quite heavy, it's a matter of preference as to whether that's a good thing or not.
With a range of well proven Volkswagen Group engines under the bonnet, buyers should encounter few reliability issues with the Alhambra. And SEAT backs this up with a three-year/60,000-mile manufacturer warranty on the car. It's safe too, with a driver's knee airbag included on the list of standard equipment – that's a first for the brand in the UK. The Alhambra was recently put through Euro NCAP's comprehensive crash test programme, and achieved the maximum five-star rating.
The seven-seater is one of the widest MPVs on sale and that gives it one of the most spacious cabins. Its second and third rows of seats fold flat, while even the front passenger seat folds in higher-spec models to allow the SEAT to carry loads up to 2.95m long. With the rearmost seats down there's 1,167 litres of space; fold the second row and you get 2,297 litres. The third row seats are only really suitable for carrying children, but electric power for the sliding doors can be added as an option, to make access even easier.
Value for money
The Alhambra comes in S, SE and SE Lux specs, but even the entry-level car won’t disappoint, with 16-inch alloy wheels, air-con, Bluetooth and hill-hold assist as standard – on top of basics like all-round electric windows and central locking. Splash out on an SE Lux and leather upholstery, sat-nav and heated seats are thrown in, although this comes at a price.
All the Alhambra's diesels feature stop-start, so they’re extremely efficient and cheap to run. Opt for the 138bhp 2.0-litre diesel, with the E Ecomotive badge, and you get 50.4mpg economy and 146g/km CO2 emissions, plus £125-a-year Road Tax. Even the 168bhp diesel impresses, with 48.7mpg and 152g/km. The 1.4 TSI petrol car is the most expensive version to run, but costs less to buy in the first place.