SEAT Alhambra MPV (2010-2020)
“The SEAT Alhambra is a huge MPV with plenty of room for seven seats. It’s also good value and surprisingly fun to drive”
- Sliding rear doors
- Spacious interior
- Well equipped
- Not the most efficient MPV
- Less stylish than some rivals
- Expensive higher-spec models
The seven-seat MPV was a sales success in the nineties and noughties but its popularity has waned since then and far fewer of them are now being launched as manufacturers focus on fashionable SUVs instead. In the last few years of production, the SEAT Alhambra still counted the Ford Galaxy and Citroen Grand C4 SpaceTourer as its direct rivals, while increasingly facing the challenge from large seven-seat SUVs like the Skoda Kodiaq and Peugeot 5008 - including in-house competition from the SEAT Tarraco.
The Alhambra is closely related to the Volkswagen Sharan but was always a more cost-effective choice than the VW. All trim levels were well equipped and it’s practical, good to drive and has a simple engine range. There’s a 1.4-litre petrol with 148bhp that’s only available with a manual gearbox, plus a 2.0-litre diesel engine that produces 148bhp and can be had with a choice of manual or dual-clutch automatic gearboxes. A 175bhp version of the 2.0-litre engine tops the range, but it’s only available with an automatic gearbox on the Xcellence trim level.
Later models came in three trim levels: SE, SEL and Xcellence. The SE and SEL models can be had with the petrol or less powerful diesel engines, while Xcellence can be fitted with either of the two diesels. All trims can be had with a DSG automatic gearbox, as long as you pick a diesel engine.
Picking the petrol means putting up with economy of up to 36.2mpg and 159g/km CO2 emissions, so higher-mileage drivers are likely to favour a diesel Alhambra. The most economical option is the less powerful diesel with a manual gearbox, which manages up to 44.1mpg on average, while even the more powerful diesel with DSG gets 40mpg. However, it’s worth remembering that this is the most expensive Alhambra to buy, being available only on the top trim.
Considering it’s larger than some SUVs, the Alhambra is impressive to drive on a challenging road. With suspension tuned purely for road driving, there’s hardly any lean in corners and precise steering, but it’s not so stiff that every bump is felt by passengers. Despite having seven seats, there’s nothing minibus-like about the way it drives.
Inside, there’s a logical and clear dashboard but it's starting to show its age, missing some features found in the latest SEAT models. There's plentiful head and legroom in the first two rows and enough space in the third row for adults – albeit not in quite as much comfort. Even when using all seven seats, there’s still a 267-litre boot, which is about the luggage space you get in a Ford Fiesta.
The Alhambra comes in three trim levels, with the entry-level SE getting a 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system with sat nav, plus Bluetooth, parking sensors and three-zone climate control. SE also features privacy glass, chrome exterior trim, folding door mirrors, cruise control, automatic wipers and headlights, aircraft-style fold-down tables and a 230-volt socket.
SEL adds luxuries such as powered sliding rear doors, DAB radio, heated front seats and a rear-view camera, while Xcellence includes a panoramic sunroof and keyless entry and go. Of course, choosing a trim from higher up the range will easily see the price rise sharply and the most powerful diesel is only available in the top trim.
Safety shouldn’t be a concern, even with seven occupants, thanks to a four-star Euro NCAP rating awarded in late 2019. It’s worth noting that the car scored five stars when it was new but the test has got more stringent since then.