SEAT Altea MPV (2004-2015)
"The SEAT Altea is a great-looking people carrier that’s good to drive, well priced and generously equipped."
- Handsome looks
- Practical interior
- Inexpensive to buy and run
- Slightly firm ride
- Excessive wind noise
- Interior quality not as good as VW
Based on its sister car, the Volkswagen Golf Plus, the SEAT Altea is still one of the smartest-looking small people carriers available in the UK. It’s efficient, fun to drive and comes with a choice of two effective diesel engines that offer an appealing balance of performance and economy, so it’s cheap to run, too.
You get a practical boot and a spacious interior, but rival people carriers such as the Ford C-MAX offer superior practicality and more room for passengers. In fact, even the larger SEAT Altea XL doesn't get seven seats, meaning it loses out to rivals like the Ford Grand C-MAX and Renault Grand Scenic. Like the Golf Plus, though, the Altea boasts solid build quality, good standard equipment and affordable prices, making for cost-effective and fun family transport.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Both of the diesel engines offered in the Altea are fuel-efficient. For the lowest running costs, we’d recommend the 1.6-litre TDI Ecomotive model, which returns an impressive 62.8mpg and has CO2 emissions of 119g/km, for road tax of £30 a year. However, even the 2.0-litre TDI still manages a respectable 57mpg and emits 129g/km of CO2, while being much faster and quieter on the motorway.
Engines, drive & performance
The Altea comes with a choice of 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre TDI diesel engines these days – the petrols that were offered previously have been discontinued. Both diesels offer a combination of impressively low running costs and eager performance, which suits the Altea well.
There’s very little body lean through corners, even though the suspension is relatively soft, while the brakes are responsive and the steering is accurate. The Altea isn’t as much fun to drive as a Ford C-MAX or as comfortable as a VW Golf Plus, but it feels solid, calm and safe any speed. It just doesn't offer anything to set itself apart from rivals – but given its age, that may well be rectified when the next-generation car appears.
Interior & comfort
It’s a shame that the 1.2 and 1.4-litre petrol engines that used to be offered in the Altea have been withdrawn, because they were much quieter than the diesel engines that are the only option now. They clatter about at low speeds, although this does stop as you soon as you pick up the pace. You can also hear the wind buffeting around the front doors on the motorway, but it's not hugely annoying. Overall, the Altea is comfortable and rides well.
Practicality & boot space
There are plenty of neat and practical touches to distinguish the Altea, including additional storage under the boot floor and a parcel shelf with a built-in storage area. However, while 409 litres of boot space sounds pretty good, it's beaten by rivals such as the Ford C-MAX, which offers an impressive 550 litres in comparison.
But the Altea’s real downfall in this area is that you can't remove the back seats to maximise storage capacity. They are mounted on runners, though – so you can either increase legroom for rear passengers or give yourself some more space in the boot. They also split 60:40 and fold down flat without needing to remove the headrests.
The larger SEAT Altea XL has an extra 123 litres of boot space, to give a total capacity of 1,604 litres with the back seats folded down.
Reliability & safety
Although SEAT has long been part of the VW Group (which also owns star performer Skoda), the brand continues to do very badly in customer satisfaction surveys. In the Driver Power 2013 poll, SEAT dropped a further three places following its steep decline in the 2012 survey, going from 14th to 24th. Now ranked 27th, SEAT has a lot of work to do to get on terms with its rivals – only MINI, Suzuki, Fiat, Peugeot and Smart were rated lower.
The Altea itself just about scraped into the survey's top 150 cars, coming 121st, but that could be down to model's age. However, build quality is good, and should withstand the rough and tumble of family life. It also scored the full five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash tests, doing particularly well for adult and child occupant protection and reasonably well for pedestrian protection. You get six airbags, traction control, anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control and electronic braking assistance as standard on all models.
Price, value for money & options
When you line up the Altea against its main rivals, the SEAT looks like pretty good value. Starting prices are low and even the top-of-the-range models are more affordable than equivalent cars from Volkswagen or Ford.
If you choose the entry-level S Copa model, you get alloy wheels, air-conditioning, a CD stereo, electric front windows and electric mirrors as standard. The SE Copa trim adds rear parking sensors plus automatic headlights and windscreen wipers, as well as tinted rear windows and touchscreen sat nav.
Insurance groups are fairly low, while resale values on the used-car market are reasonably good thanks to that generous standard equipment and the fact it isn't all that expensive to buy in the first place.