By Mike Torpey on 2016-01-24 - Driving Force news editor and responsible for organising our daily output. He was staff motoring editor of the Liverpool Echo for 20 years.
SEAT Alhambra 2.0
TDI SE Ecomotive
TO experience that relaxed feel of driving an executive saloon when you're actually behind the wheel of a full-blown people shifter is a rare treat.
That's the case though with the new generation of smooth seven-seater the SEAT Alhambra.
A stalwart of the Spanish company's line-up, the latest Alhambra fits in with the brand's ritzy image better than ever before.
Lower slung with a streamlined profile, it is still a big brute yet the poise and balance it delivers - even with a full squad aboard - is testimony to the job SEAT's engineers have completed.
That's not all. The versatile MPV is up to 15 per cent more fuel efficient thanks to a fresh engine range that includes the tested model's 150ps 2.0 TDI diesel.
The upshot is a vehicle that can officially return an average 55.4 miles per gallon, a figure we went very close to matching over a week of mixed urban and motorway driving.
The Alhambra, named after the spectacular Moorish palace in Granada, has long been regarded as the best value full-size people carrier in the business, and still has a considerably lower starting price than the Ford Galaxy and Volkswagen Sharan.
To reach the top of the pile an MPV must have seats that are so easy to flip, flop or remove altogether that your great-gran can complete the job with one hand behind her back.
The rearmost pair of the seven must be large enough to comfortably accommodate adults rather than just kids over a long distance.
There must also be a treasure chest of hidey holes, cubbies and cup holders for assorted oddments, proper head, shoulder and leg room for passengers not to feel claustrophobic and the safety measures needed to protect a prize cargo.
And of course the vehicle needs to be enjoyable to drive and frugal to run - the Alhambra ticks the box on every count.
Include sliding rear doors to make entry and exit simpler and safer on busy roads and in tight spaces, plus the latest infotainment kit and you have the full package.
Make no mistake, the SEAT is a big car. But its bright, airy interior coupled with the smooth, precise way it drives makes the Alhambra feel like a smaller vehicle.
Only when you come to park do you realise just how large it is. The benefit though is a wealth of cabin space and the potential for a vast carrying area.
Access to the third row is easy, all the passenger seats can be folded flat with one hand and the two outer middle seats also have cushions which can be raised at the tug of a lever.
Should you need a removals van, then the conversion from seven-seater to load-lugger is such that all bar the driver's seat can be folded flat inside a minute.
The Alhambra also comes with a new generation of the company's Easy Connect info systems via hi-res touchscreen displays and faster processors.
SEAT Alhambra 2.0 TDI SE Ecomotive
Mechanical: 150ps, 1,968cc 4cyl diesel engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox
Max Speed: 126mph
0-62mph: 10.2 seconds
Combined MPG: 55.4
Insurance Group: 18
C02 emissions: 132g/km
Bik rating: 24%
Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles
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