SEAT Alhambra MPV

£24,885 - £35,770

The Seat Alhambra is a large people carrier, or MPV, with sliding rear doors and seven seats. As buyers flock to SUVs, spacious, practical cars like the Alhambra and its rivals the Ford GalaxyVauxhall Zafira Tourer and Volkswagen Sharan appear to have been forgotten. However, for some families, they’re a more practical and versatile solution. They’re not that bad to drive, either.

The Alhambra is closely related to the VW Sharan – the point being that you’re getting the VW's virtues of good build quality, a comfortable ride, pleasant handling and a versatile interior for a little less money. However, VW dealers can be generous with their discounts and finance deposit contributions, so don’t rule out the Sharan purely on its list price.

There are cheaper rivals, such as the Vauxhall Zafira, but the Alhambra is the better all-rounder thanks to its blend of comfort, good fuel economy and composed handling.

There's a choice of petrol and diesel engines, although all manage around 50mpg. The one petrol is a 1.4-litre producing 148bhp, which is also what the least powerful 2.0-litre diesel develops. The more powerful diesel produces 181bhp, which is easily enough to haul a fully loaded Alhambra around. Annual road tax costs from £110 (for the 148bhp diesel) to £180 (for the 1.4-litre petrol with a DSG automatic gearbox).

It's a large car, but the Alhambra actually feels quite surefooted and is fun to drive. The steering is accurate and, thanks in part to its firm suspension, the car doesn’t lean too much in corners. It's still comfortable, though. Naturally, visibility from the raised seating position and through the big windows is excellent.The Alhambra's twin sliding rear doors are a real boon for families trying to squeeze into the car in tight parking spaces. Inside, the seats are easy to move around, take out and re-install as needed. It's solidly built, too – easily up to anything a boisterous family can throw at it.

There are four trim levels: S, SE, Style Advanced and SE Lux. The more powerful diesel engine is only available with the two higher-spec trims. All versions have seven full-size individual seats, alloy wheels, three-zone climate control, a 6.5-inch touchscreen, front and rear parking sensors and plenty of storage places.

The Alhambra is built in the same factory as the VW Sharan, where production standards are very high. All of its major components and engines are well proven, too. In addition, the Alhambra was awarded the full five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests.