Flower power for

SEAT Alhambra

SEAT Alhambra, front action
SEAT Alhambra, side static
SEAT Alhambra, rear action
SEAT Alhambra, boot
SEAT Alhambra, door open
SEAT Alhambra, interior

IN a corner of northwest England which will forever be God's allotment there is an exclusive group known as the Wheat Lane Sunflower Club.

Its members have a singular purpose, to grow a prize sunflower each year which will be judged at summer party.

There are several categories: biggest, smallest, prettiest and 'most French'. I have no idea either about that one.

Here are a few tips regarding the cultivation of sunflowers. Do not nip to Billy Bong's legal high shop and grab a packet of any old seeds. Prison food is not what it was.

It is also worth remembering that the sunflower, unless you are a vegitatonist hoping for eternal fulfillment via a handful of nuts, is a pointless plant. It's only real use is to stand it between the Flowerpot Men and call it Weed.

Judgement day includes attempts to drink your own body weight in wine, games like bat the rat, croquet and with the evening wearing on, naked twister and strip swingball.

This year a couple of sad departures have diminished our number and as there are only 12 houses and a pub the event is under threat, although from where I sit we clearly had the winner.

So in fear of losing out on a knees up members decided to have an away fixture at some proms-style music in a park.

For which we would need transport. Which is my department. Take a bow the SEAT Alhambra. Specifically the two-litre TDI Ecomotive in SE spec with a five-speed manual gearbox although I think I would want an auto, adding to the £28,675 price. The addition of a navigation also bumps the cost up by £995.

You get a good level of kit in the basic spec with touches like a refrigerated glove box and passenger's seat which folds into a table. A touch screen gives access to entertainment and Bluetooth. SE adds fogs with cornering function, puddle lights and tinted glass. There is also a host of storage options and rear sunblinds. Safety equipment includes all the usual stuff plus a tiredness recognition system

This was the first time in a long time I had used a seven-seater in anger. Well you can't just go around taking families hostage for the sake of a road test and I am certainly not going to hire some grandparents for the purposes of sliding doors and leg room appraisal.

So we were, without discomfort, a driver, co-pilot, wife, daughter, mate's wife and some free-range pensioners.

On the luggage front there was a four-foot picnic table, seven folding chairs, two wicker hampers, a backpack, assorted rugs and a cool box full of wine. Which I think better demonstrates the space behind the third row of seats than some numbers off the spec sheet.

Performance from the 147bhp diesel is sprightly for such a big bus. A little over 10 seconds stokes it to 62mph and the computer was telling me the average fuel consumption was 45mpg. Tax is in band E which is middling.

This is a refined place to be and while it is a bit of a beast to hump around town, motorway work was noise free except for the clucking from the rear seats. Do not throw it around the moorland, that's a pointless misuse although generally roll is well controlled. Well it is, after all, basically a VW.

I am firmly of the opinion that there is only one reason to own a seven-seat MPV: practicality. It is not a casual purchase, something for the weekend, although the Alhambra has just landed a tow car award.

So while you may be tempted by its sister ship, the Sharan, I would forego the electric sliding doors and flashy interior for a significant cost saving and a buy an Alhambra which has plenty of kit and does exactly what you want it to do, flower.

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