The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 3.5
The SEAT Altea XL combines sporty good looks with real-world practicality. The addition of the 1.2 TSI and Ecomotive models make it cheap to run, too.
Reasons to buy
- Sporty styling
- Spacious interior
- Low running costs
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?
SEAT Altea XL is designed to be the sporty-looking alternative to a family estate. The front end boasts a new design grille with a chrome surround and larger headlights. But the main differences between the XL and standard Altea are focused at the rear, with its split tail lights and standard roof rails.
What's the interior like?
On the inside, the Altea XL gets a new design of steering wheel, centre console and instrument dials, for what
SEAT claims to be a ’sportier-looking cockpit’ and a ‘far higher quality look’ than before. Everything feels very sturdy and well laid out, but the overall look is a little plain and lacking in individuality.
How practical is it?
The XL boats an extra 123 litres of interior space (up from 409 to 532 litres) and is 18.7cm longer than the standard Altea. Seat claims it offers more front headroom than any other car in its class. The rear seats can be split and folded or slid forward and back to give more legroom or increased boot space depending on requirements, but they don’t fold into the floor. It features plenty of storage space, including big door bins, a large glovebox and cupholders. It’s tall, so visibility is good but the windscreen pillars are a blind spot nightmare.
What's it like to drive?
The Altea XL is one of the best in its class to drive: it corners well, the steering is responsive and the driving position is second to none. Road and wind noise are minimal and it seems to cope well with a variety of driving conditions – from the windy roads of our test route outside Barcelona to the congested streets of South London. It always feels comfortable and incredibly easy to live with. Despite its height, the lack of lean in bends is a welcome trait – particularly for back seat passengers.
How powerful is it?
Power is provided by a choice of two petrol and three diesel engines. Petrol buyers can choose between a 103bhp 1.2-litre TSI or 123bhp 1.4-litre TSI engine, both come with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard. Despite its size the entry-level four-cylinder, turbocharged 1.2-litre engine is powerful; capable of accelerating from 0-62mph in 11.6 seconds (11.3 for the standard Altea) and has a top speed of 114mph. Diesel options include an 89bhp 1.9-litre TDI, 103bhp 1.6-litre TDI Ecomotive version and a powerful 138bhp 2-litre TDI.
How much will it cost me?
The 1.2-litre TSI – as used by Audi, Volkswagen and Skoda – offers a good balance of power and efficiency. Compared to the outgoing 1.6-litre unit it replaces, CO2 emissions have dropped from 178g/km to 132g/km while fuel economy is up from 39mpg to 49.6mpg. The 1.6-litre Ecomotive version is capable of returning 62.8mpg and emitting just 119g/km – the same as the non-XL Altea Ecomotive – thanks to its standard soot-trapping diesel particulate filter (DPF), start and stop technology, brake energy recuperation and gearshift indicator, which helps the driver select the most efficient gear for every situation.
How reliable is it?
All Altea XL models come with a three year or 60,000 mile warranty and two years’ SEAT Assistance breakdown package. The Reliability Index places SEAT in the middle of its manufacturer ratings. There have been no notable reports of problems with the Altea or Altea XL and the range of engines and gearboxes are widely used, which should help minimise risk of problems.
How safe is it?
The SEAT Altea scored a five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash test programme for adult occupant protection when it was first tested in 2004. Entry-level models come with six airbags, anti-lock brakes (ABS), traction control and electronic stability programme (ESP) fitted as standard.
How much equipment do I get?
As you would expect from a Seat, the Altea XL comes well-equipped. There are three trim levels: S, SE and Sport. Entry level models come fitted with body coloured bumpers, door handles and wing mirrors, air-con, ESP, hill hold assist and a six-speaker stereo system with MP3 connectivity. SE models add 16-inch alloy wheels, dual zone climate control, front fog lights with cornering function, all-round electric windows and steering wheel-mounted audio controls. Range-topping Sport upgrades the wheels to 17-inch ‘Aroa’ alloys and adds dark green tinted windows, cruise control and a three-spoke steering wheel.
The Seat Altea XL is well priced: the entry-level version matches the Ford C-Max, Mazda 5 and Citroen C4 Picasso versions, and is more than £4,000 cheaper than the lowest-priced Volkswagen Touran. The Altea XL offers plenty of space for five adults and their luggage, a sporty design, a range of efficient yet powerful engines and plenty of equipment. And though it does lack the flexibility of its rivals, it’s one of the best in its class to drive.