Seat Altea Freetrack 4 2.0 TDI

November 2007

picture of car from the front

Plastic body surrounds highlight SUV credentials

Ratings

Overall Rating 8Overall rating

Value for money Rating 7Value for money

Space and Practicality Rating 6Costs

Space and Practicality Rating 9Space and practicality

Controls and display Rating 8Controls and display

Comfort Rating 7Comfort

Security Rating 8Car security

Safety Rating 8Car safety


Likes

  • Punchy 2.0-litre diesel unit
  • Chunky looks are an attractive feature
  • Cabin is practical and comfortable
  • High specification is impressive

Gripes

  • Engine can be a little noisy when extended
  • No automatic option
  • A-pillars can obscure forward visibility
  • No lower-priced trim levels

Seat are on a wave of success after a succession of new models has boosted the profile and sales of the Spanish firm. On the crest of this wave comes the Freetrack 4, the company's first vehicle to enter the SUV/4x4 market. Rather than a full-on 4x4, the Freetrack aims to meet the needs of buyers looking for something that can handle tougher terrain but is happiest on road.

As its name implies, the Altea Freetrack is based on the existing Altea model. More specifically however it is the Altea XL that the Freetrack is most closely related to, which already benefits from an additional 194mm in length over the regular Altea. The Freetrack is 17mm longer still, thanks to substantial bumpers front and rear which toughen up the exterior as well as providing extra body protection. The grey plastic continues around the wheelarches and along the sills, while the additional 40mm of ground clearance completes the styling changes.

On the inside, the Freetrack shares the stylish and practical exterior of the Altea. This dynamism is repeated inside, with a low set driving position, deep windscreen and high-mounted, steeply angled dashboard. These features combine to create a great feeling of space within the cabin, while also conveying a strong sense of security thanks to the high waistline.

The Freetrack's mechanical layout is broadly similar to existing Altea models, with the crucial difference being the addition of the four-wheel drive system. The Haldex-type system is automatic, running in front-wheel drive configuration for much of the time and in normal driving, and only switching into four-wheel drive when the extra tractive effort is required. This helps to reduce fuel consumption by powering all four wheels only when necessary.

The Freetrack is positioned at the higher end of the Altea range, as it comes with a choice of only two high output engines and a single, high-specification trim. This puts it in contention with more traditional SUVs as well as more obvious crossover vehicles which tend to be all-purpose family vehicles.

Our verdict on the Seat Altea Freetrack 4 2.0 TDI

The Freetrack successfully delivers the off-road capability that most normal drivers could ever wish for, as well as the rugged exterior looks that are key to the appeal of the SUV crossover. It does all this without sacrificing its on-road ability however, and the practical Altea shape means the Freetrack displays an impressive blend of abilities.

Costs
Costs rating 6

With a good price tag to start with, the Freetrack should offer respectable running costs. Insurance groups are reasonable and fuel economy is good for both petrol and diesel engines.

Space and practicality
Space and Practicality Rating 9

The successful side of the Freetrack's shape is in terms of space, with loads of room for passengers while providing yet more boot space. With the sliding seats allowing greater flexibility, the Freetrack should satisfy the most demanding of customers.

picture of car from the rear

A large rear end means good boot space

Controls and display
Controls and Display Rating 8

The stylish instruments are clear and set deep in the dash, while the unusual design puts all the controls close to the driver. This gives the Freetrack an unusual layout, but one that gives the driver a strong feeling of security and control.

Comfort
Comfort Rating 7

Supportive seats offer good comfort levels in the Freetrack, though elsewhere the emphasis seems to be slightly biased towards sportiness rather than comfort. Although not excessively loud or firm, the noise levels and the ride quality are respectively greater and firmer than some of its rivals.

Car security
Security Rating 8

Fitted as standard are remote central locking with deadlocks, immobiliser and alarm, with Stylance models getting locking wheel nuts for the alloy wheels.

Car safety
Safety Rating 8

Twin front, side and curtain airbags are fitted as standard, as are anti-lock brakes. Twin rear Isofix mounting points are also included, with a deactivation switch for the front passenger airbag.

Driver appeal
Driver Appeal Rating 7

From behind the wheel the Freetrack 4 feels a little taller than a standard Freetrack, though not as high as more conventional SUVs. Although it therefore does not afford the traditional high driving position, the Freetrack is an engaging car to drive. The 2.0-litre diesel unit responds rapidly once above 1,500rpm, and although a fraction noisy at times, it is as quick as many petrol units. The Freetrack also sacrifices none of the Freetrack's agility, responding well to steering inputs and remaining relatively flat during cornering.

picture of car interior

Controls are conveniently close to hand

Family car appeal
Family Appeal Rating 9

What with the car's MPV-like raised seating, numerous cabin storage areas and capacious boot, the Freetrack makes a strong case as a family car. Although the seating arrangement is more fixed, it can still change its layout to suit combinations of luggage and load. The standard-fit rear entertainment screen is also a useful feature.

First car appeal
First car Rating 5

The Freetrack is easy to drive and park, while the good view out will help the inexperienced. It also disguises its size well, and is unlikely to intimidate.

Quality and image
Quality and Image Rating 7

Thanks to its VW Group parentage the Freetrack delivers an impressive level of quality. The standard of materials used is good and the build quality is also very good, giving a reassuring feel of expense. The Freetrack builds on the Seat brand image of sportiness with an additional tougher streak, which should make it more appealing still to certain sections of the buying public.

Accessibility
Accessibility Rating

Thanks to the tall bodyshape and big doors, getting into the Freetrack is a cinch. The seats are at a perfect height too, adding to the ease of entry. Access to the boot is just as simple, with the load floor also at a good height.

Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)

The standard fit 8-speaker radio/CD also benefits from MP3 compatability, and delivers respectable sound quality. The Freetrack also gets a 7-inch rear screen with RCA connectors to allow DVD players or games consoles to be connected, which is a useful standard feature.

picture of car in detail

A built-in screen will keep kids entertained

Colours and trim

Inside, the cabin is mostly black, which does give it a darker feel, although this is mostly counteracted with the large glass area. The trim itself is of a good quality, with reassuring firmness to the plastics and cloth.

Parking

In general the Freetrack does not prove difficult to park. The car's steering is light at low speeds and its mirrors offer a good rear view. The view through the rear window is also good, while the almost vertical tailgate makes it easy to judge distances.

Spare wheel

Space saver spare wheel fitted beneath the boot floor.

 

Range information

Two engine options: 2.0-litre petrol (197bhp) and 2.0-litre diesel (168bhp), both mated to a six-speed manual gearbox as standard. One trim level only.

 

Alternative cars

Mitsubishi Outlander High rise SUV is useful on and off road

Nissan Qashqai Impressive all-rounder is a genuine crossover

Skoda Octavia Scout Useful extra ruggedness in a practical estate package

Subaru Forester Full-time four-wheel drive without on-road compromise



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November 2007