The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 4.0
When you’ve got a whole bunch of people and stuff to carry about, there’s no substitute for size. That’s why the Seat Alhambra is one of the finest MPVs money can buy. As well as providing massive space, this family car is also well made, cleverly packaged, affordable to buy and run, and surprisingly good fun to drive.
Reasons to buy
- Unrivalled space and versatility
- Enjoyable and comfortable to drive
- Decent kit and affordable prices
At a glance
Running costs for a SEAT Alhambra
The Alhambra is significantly bigger and heavier than a lot of seven-seat MPVs, so it’s never going to be the cleanest option, but even so, it doesn’t do too bad a job. Most versions will give you an official fuel return of around 40mpg, which is only a little way behind its rivals, cars such as the Citroen Grand C4 Spacetourer, Ford S-Max and Volkswagen Touran. Purchase prices are competitive, too, especially when you consider how much metal and equipment you’re getting for your money. Decent resale values also help put a limit on your long-term running costs.
Reliability of a SEAT Alhambra
Seat has a decent reputation for reliability, as proved in the 2019 JD Power Vehicle Dependability Study, in which the company placed slap bang in the middle of the manufacturer list, right on the cusp of the industry average. Seat offers fixed-price servicing to keep the cost of maintenance reasonable, and the standard warranty is three years, which is fairly par-for-the-course.
Safety for a SEAT Alhambra
We always like it when the safety kit you get in a car is the same no matter whether you have the most basic version or the range-topping version, and the Alhambra is one of those. Stability control, tyre pressure monitoring, tiredness recognition and multi-collision braking (which locks on the anchors after a shunt to prevent further collisions) are all provided, along with no less than seven airbags including a driver’s knee ‘bag and curtain ‘bags that cover all three rows of seats. Autonomous emergency braking is also present and correct, as is blind spot detection and lane assist.
How comfortable is the SEAT Alhambra
At the tricky business of actually carrying people in your seven-seater, the Alhambra really impresses. The whole cabin is absolutely enormous, and with three separate chairs in the middle row – that incidentally slide, recline and fold individually – three adults can sit in total comfort. Getting in and out is a piece of cake, too, especially in tight parking spaces, thanks to sliding rear doors. To get to the two seats in the back, you tumble the outer ones out of the way, and importantly, the space you’ve got to scramble through is bigger than it is in most MPVs. The same goes for the space that surrounds the third-row seats. There’s way more than most MPVs give you, easily enough for adults.
Even with all seven seats in place, there’s a decent boot, and the loadbay is enormous in five-seat mode. And when you need all the available space for bags rather than buddies, you simply fold all the rear seats flat into the floor, and you get a gargantuan, van-like load area.
Life’s pretty sweet at the wheel of the Alhambra, too. You get a cracking view out in all directions – which helps you manage the car’s cumbersome size during low-speed manoeuvres – and all versions have the added security of front- and rear-parking sensors. Everything on the dashboard is logically located and really easy to use, and there’s a feeling of substance and solidity because most of the materials look and feel very nice indeed. Some of the plastics are a little hard in places, but it all looks like it’ll last a lifetime.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about the Alhambra is how enjoyable it is to drive. This isn’t a car that lollops its way through bends clumsily like you might expect. There’s loads of grip, the steering is nice and weighty and the body control is actually pretty good. True enough, you never forget that this is one big, heavy car, but for something like this, it actually feels really crisp and responsive. Most importantly for an MPV, this sharpness doesn’t come at the expense of a supple ride. Whatever the state of the surface beneath you, the Alhambra manages to stay comfortable and civilised at all times. It’s not perfect: the clutch pedal has a very abrupt action and the brakes are a wee bit grabby, and that can make the Alhambra a little bit tricky to drive smoothly in traffic, but you should get used to that.
Features of the SEAT Alhambra
The SE trim forms the entry point into Alhambra ownership, and it comes with four powered windows, climate control, cruise control, automatic lights and wipers, all-round parking sensors and a touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth, Apple Carplay and Android Auto.
The SE L is properly plush with power operation for the rear doors and tailgate, leather seats that are heated and electrically adjustable up front and an upgraded infotainment system that includes a DAB radio. The Xcellence gives you a panoramic glass roof, keyless go, a rear-view camera and sports suspension.
Power for a SEAT Alhambra
There isn’t much choice when it comes to engines in the Alhambra, but that does make life easy. Most buyers will go for the 150-horsepower 2.0-litre diesel, and for good reason. It’s no rocket ship, but importantly, it has enough low-down muscle to easily cope with the weight of a fully loaded Alhambra.
Go for the one petrol engine on offer, a turbocharged 1.4 with the same power output, and it initially feels almost as perky. Load the car up with people and stuff, and it starts to struggle more with hauling the mass around.
One more engine is available, a 2.0-litre diesel with 177 horsepower, but we haven’t yet tried it. All but the petrol are available with a six-speed twin-clutch transmission, which is smooth but occasionally slightly hesitant in the way it operates. All the engines we’ve tried are fairly quiet and smooth, and wind- and road-noise are fairly well suppressed as well.