The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 3.2
The SEAT Altea has been around a long time but it’s never caught on. It’s still worth a look though, as it’s solidly built, well equipped, good to drive and different.
Reasons to buy
- Good to drive
- Good value
- Well equipped
At a glance
- How good does it look? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- What's the interior like? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How practical is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- What's it like to drive? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How powerful is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How much will it cost me? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How reliable is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How safe is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How much equipment do I get? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- Why buy? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
How good does it look?
The SEAT Altea has a similar front face to the SEAT Leon hatchback. However the Altea’s raised roofline doesn’t work quite so well as the proportions aren’t quite as cohesive. The car does have character though and is certainly not bland.
What's the interior like?
SEAT is owned by Volkswagen and the Altea’s dash features similar switchgear to that found in an array of VW vehicles. The interior is not particularly stylish. However it feels well constructed, with all controls well laid out and very easy to use. The instrumentation is also extremely clear. Getting comfortable is easy thanks to a decent range of seat adjustment. The steering wheel also adjusts for reach and rake, making it easy to find the perfect driving position.
How practical is it?
The whole point of the Altea is that it’s a practical load and people carrier. It isn’t a an MPV in the traditional sense, more a small estate with additional versatility. So while the seats fold flat and can slide back and forth, they don’t tip forward or remove. However, even with the arrangement as it is, there’s a 1,320-litre load bay with the seats down, but just 409 litres with it up. If you need even more room, it might be worth taking a closer look at the Altea XL, which can accommodate 532 or 1,604 litres, depending on whether the seats are up or down.
What's it like to drive?
For a car with such a tall body, the Altea handles surprisingly well. There is very little body sway and the steering delivers good feel, even if it isn’t especially sharp. The Ford S-Max provides a more fun and engaging drive. The Altea has a firm ride, especially on rough roads. Things are improved by loading up the car, but one-up on a bumpy road, the ride can be quite uncomfortable.
How powerful is it?
Three petrol and three diesel engines are available. The entry-level 84bhp 1.4-litre petrol unit gives a 105mph top speed and delivers 0-62mph in 15 seconds. Also offered are 103bhp 1.2 TSI and 123bhp 1.4 TSI turbocharged petrol units. Both drive well, but lack the efficiency of the diesel engines. The 89bhp 1.9TDi is impressive, but the 1.6-litre diesel is quicker, cleaner, much more economical and a lot smoother. It’ll deliver 114mph and 0-62mph in 12.2 seconds. Even better is the 138bhp 2.0 TDi, which can manage 125mph and 0-62mph in 9.8 seconds.
How much will it cost me?
SEAT sells the Altea with a mixture of old engines and new. The first group includes a 1.4-litre petrol, a 1.9-litre TDi diesel and a 2.0-litre TDi diesel. These older engines are less economical than the newer 1.2-litre TSI and 1.4-litre TSI petrol and 1.6-litre TDI. The 1.6TDI is the most efficient of all, with 62.8mpg average fuel economy and CO2 emissions of just 119g/km. Best of the petrol units is the 1.2 TSI, averaging 49.6mpg with CO2 emissions of 132g/km. Least economical is the 1.4 TSI with its 44.1mpg, but the 2.0 TDI emits the most CO2, at 159g/km.
How reliable is it?
With SEAT a part of the Volkswagen Group, a decent level of reliability and solid build quality are to be expected. However with Altea having been around since 2004, a few fault patterns have emerged. Owners have complained of faults with the anti-lock braking system, the cruise control and engines.
How safe is it?
Despite its age, the Altea still carries a five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating, proving that it has a very strong structure. It also comes with a decent level of standard safety equipment. Front and front side airbags for those are fitted along with front and rear curtain airbags. The rear seats have Isofix child seat mountings traction-control, while anti-lock brakes, electronic stability programme and emergency brake assist are also fitted.
How much equipment do I get?
All models are well-equipped. Base models carry S badges while the range topper is the SE – in the middle is the S Emocion. Even the S gets electrically adjustable and heated mirrors, air-con, electric front windows and a six-speaker CD-stereo. S Emocion adds front fog lights, alloy wheels and multi-function steering wheel. Top-spec SE provides privacy glass, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, upgraded cabin lighting, extra speakers and height adjustment for the passenger seat.
The SEAT Altea does not feel as fresh as more modern rivals. But it provides good practicality, decent equipment and reassuring safety. It drives well and there’s a good range of engines to choose from.