The large people carrier genre has changed dramatically over the last decade, as families shun spacious full-size MPVs in favour of 4×4-style ‘crossovers’ and smaller seven-seaters. However, those after the greatest passenger space are still best served with a traditional people carrier, thanks to their easier access than most off-roaders offer and much more usable rearmost seats than compact MPVs.
Several brands do still offer full-size MPVs, however, and buyers can choose from the large Ford Galaxy and sharp-handling S-Max, Citroen Grand C4 Picasso, the Volkswagen Sharan and the closely related Seat Alhambra.
The Seat Alhambra is an unapologetic large seven-seater people carrier. It doesn’t make any claims to have off-roader styling or sports car handling, but what it does do is offer the maximum possible space and practicality for the money.
With seven adult-size seats, sliding rear doors and a usefully large boot – even when all seats are in place – the Alhambra is one of the most practical vehicles a family could own. Especially when you consider the numerous storage cubbies, folding plane-style tables on the back of the front seats and the middle seats which fold up nearly vertically to aid access to the two rearmost seats.
Despite its van-like silhouette and sensible family car credentials, the Alhambra performs very well on the road. The steering has plenty of weight, giving you confidence in how much grip the car has around bends – aided by little body roll around bends – while the slick gear change, easy-to-balance clutch and well-weighted pedals all come together to make the Alhambra extremely easy to drive.
The ride is mostly very smooth, with only the largest bumps being noticeable in the cabin and overall volume levels are low too. The engine pulls strongly from low revs and even though it isn’t the quietest unit, it feels more than capable of pulling along the Alhambra’s significant weight with enthusiasm. It also feels smoother than most diesel engines from behind the wheel.
At speed little engine or road noise enters the cabin, while wind noise is also mostly unnoticeable. Visibility is reasonably good for a people carrier, though it is hard to place the front of the car when parking in tight spaces.
The Alhambra has a bright and spacious interior. Though the driving position is quite upright compared with smaller cars, it should prove comfortable for most drivers, while the dashboard feels built to a high standard. All the materials seem suitably tough for a car likely to face a daily onslaught at the hands of numerous children, with particularly clear and easy-to-read dials for the driver.
?The sat nav system fitted to our car, however, feels very out of date, with a small screen and touchscreen controls that are particularly difficult to use on the move. As a £905 option (including a digital radio and rear-view camera), we’d recommend a portable sat nav for a much lower price. With large windows all around, even those in the rearmost seats shouldn’t feel hemmed in, with plenty of light making its way into the cabin.
Practicality is the Alhambra’s strongest suit. Space for front seat passengers is more than adequate, while those in the middle seats have a nearly flat floor and three individual seats on offer – plus plenty of leg and head room. The shape of the seats is comfortable too, while access to the third row of seats couldn’t be easier. Sliding rear doors mean that getting in and out is a doddle, even in the tightest of parking spaces and middle row seats which slide and flip forwards – including the seat base – mean that you can practically walk into the car to get to the back seats.
The boot is usefully sized too, with plenty of depth and a boot cover keeping it covered, even with the third row of seats in use. Flip the rear row of seats down, however, and even the largest of loads shouldn’t faze the Alhambra too much.
The Alhambra is an extremely good family car and makes a very appealing prospect to those who need plenty of space, without breaking the bank on an expensive, oversized SUV. While its styling may not appeal to those after an off-roader-style ‘crossover’ or an easy-to-park compact model, the Alhambra is a much more sensible purchase than most so-called 4x4s, because of the sheer amount of car it offers for the money.
With a smooth ride along with an enjoyable drive, the Alhambra should satisfy parents who want something comfortable for passengers but satisfying to drive, though it can’t compete with the sporty Ford S-Max for driver engagement. The Ford Galaxy is also a strong competitor and worth checking out before signing on the dotted line, as is the closely related VW Sharan.
Don't want to buy new? You can browse for a used Seat Alhambra in our classifieds here.
Seat Alhambra 2.0 TDI 140 SE
List price: £27,510
Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder diesel
Top speed: 120mph
0-62mph: 10.9 seconds
Fuel economy: 40.9mpg (urban), 57.6mpg (extra-urban) 50.4mpg (combined)
Emissions: 146g/km CO2
Euro NCAP rating: Five stars
February 23, 2015