Tuesday 02 August 2016
Seat has dedicated an entire trim grade to its new internet-connected technology. PA grabs a smartphone to see what the fuss is about.
Connect is at the heart of both name and nature here. As standard you get Seat’s Full Link technology, which allows both iPhones and Android devices to connect to the car in a way that far surpasses the capabilities of Bluetooth. Apple CarPlay and Android MirrorLink allow the use of internet-connected apps that shouldn’t distract a driver too much, like internet radio. You need the appropriate app for your phone, but it works well.
The Alhambra is about as simple a shape as cars get; a one-volume block that maximises interior space but allows no real room for style. The latest version is blessed with Seat’s pointy styling, which lifts it away from the utter misery of one or two other MPVs out there, but it’s not going to drive down any catwalks.
That said, there’s actually a robustness to its image. It’s built to do a specific job better than any other kind of car, and the right kind of buyer will see that – and respect it.
Two average-height men can sit comfortably enough in the third row of seats. That’s amazing. This is a genuine seven-seater, with three independently adjustable and movable middle seats for extra flexibility. With the rear seats folded you’re left with a huge boot, and there’s a sunken section to stop bags rolling around. Five people could travel with a fortnight’s worth of luggage without getting close to filling it. Parents will love it. Buggy? In it goes; no messing.
Sliding rear doors are priceless in car parks and make fitting a child seat (and a child) much easier than with hinged doors. Once you’ve had sliders you’ll wonder how you ever lived without.
Covered cupholders, broad door pockets and sturdy materials are cabin highlights, and no one’s going to ask for more space, but the driver can’t see much in the oddly stubby little door mirrors. Roof rails mean it’s easy to add options for extra storage or bike racks.
For something that could house the Death Star, the Alhambra actually shows a lot of composure on the road. It turns in cleanly without wobbling, and it pulls itself out again with enthusiasm courtesy of the latest 2.0-litre TDI diesel. A crisp manual gear shift is a bonus, but on top of surprising poise the big Seat also rides well, soaking up speed bumps and manhole covers with plushness. It’s a very relaxing but capable car.
Fuel economy isn’t so good. Unless you’re spending a lot of time cruising on dead flat, 40-50mph stretches with no traffic, you won’t get anywhere near the official average figure, and around town you might not get past 30mpg. The engine in the test car was still pretty new, but even with more mileage the improvement won’t be miraculous.
Knocking on the door of £30,000 before options makes the Connect look quite pricey. If you can get at least some of the kids to catch the bus you could buy a Ford Focus RS instead…
There seems to be some kind of seven-seater tax across the industry that always bumps the prices of big but simple cars like this right up, but clearly those buyers who need this many seats have got their hands tied. The Alhambra undercuts the closely-related Volkswagen Sharan, which is important, and low emissions mean cheap road tax.
Parents are the only target audience, here. Those mums and dads for whom a smaller five-seater MPV either isn’t big enough at the back or doesn’t have enough seats will be huge fans. The only issue is price, because it isn’t especially budget-friendly, but there’s no doubting its effectiveness at its job.
This car summed up in a single word: Cavernous
If this car was a…: footballer it would be the workhorse of the team; the engine in the middle of the park who just keeps on running and doing a damn fine job.
Seat Alhambra Connect, from £29,995
Engine: 2.0-litre turbodiesel producing 148bhp and 251lb/ft
Transmission: Six-speed manual driving the front wheels
Performance: Top speed 124mph, 0-62mph in 10.2 seconds
Economy: 55.4mpg combined
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