Car Test   R0234
May 2002
  Seat Alhambra
Printer Friendly Page Featured model: 1.9TDI SE
The seven-seater Alhambra has been that most self-effacing member of the Ford/VW/Seat trio, even though it’s shared virtually all its partners' attributes. However, its revamp in 2000 included revisions both inside and out, the provision of a six-speed gearbox on all models and lowered suspension, to emphasize Seat’s more extrovert sporting pretensions nowadays.
   We eschewed the blandishments of the 2.8 V6 power unit, opting instead for more popular and practical turbo-diesel power, courtesy of VW’s 1.9/115bhp PD engine. It’s a familiar motor, of course, but how well it performs in the Alhambra, in association with the sweetly-shifting six-speed ‘box. No vibes to complain of, just bags of eager pulling power from 1800rpm, plus a willingness to rev to the red line that results in lively overall performance.
   On the other hand, the long-striding top gear gives wonderfully relaxed motorway cruising- not to mention heart-warming fuel economy.
   There’s a car-like feel to the Alhambra SE in terms of steering accuracy and its willingness to be hustled into bends with controlled roll.
   The downside is that it’s achieved at the expense of ride comfort (the sportier suspension is lowered by 2.5cm), most noticeably on pock-marked tarmac. Fortunately, main road motoring is a good deal smoother.
   The quality and finish throughout the cabin are impressive and reflect VW’s guiding hand. A tilt-and-telescope wheel and a height-adjustable, hip-hugging sports seat (with variable lumbar thrust) give the driver a commanding view that makes the big Seat easier to manage than it might appear.
   Climate-control buttons apart, the controls are convenient and the electrically heated windscreen is a boon on misty mornings. Our only grouse is about the thick screen pillars and adjacent unwiped glass. We’re not crazy about the SE’s gloomy, dark-tinted rear privacy glass, either.
   You can do all sorts of tricks with the seats. The front ones swivel to face rearwards and the others recline, remove (they’re heavy and tiresome to relocate, though) or slide to and fro to share out legroom.
   Passengers in the rearmost pair of seats may be shortchanged on headroom, but otherwise they aren’t hard done by; heating, lighting and hi-fi speakers are all laid on for them.
   The extremes of the Alhambra’s versatility result in either a comfortable seven-seater with no luggage room or a two-seater with a shedload of cargo space beyond the high-lifting tailgate. Best regard it as a five-seater with luggage space for all.
  considering size, price and rivals
Overtaking Ability
Fuel Economy
Safety Euro NCAP
Security, theft of
theft from
  • Plenty of storage spaces
  • rear side windows work electrically
  • speakers and roof lights for all
  • easy to brush out floors (no sills)
  • generous rear footwell heater
  • seats lack backrest position memory
  • heater controls far too low
  • lugging the 19kg seats in and out
  • some warning lights out of sight
  • trip computer screen illegible by day
The Alhambra is one of the best family minibuses in the business. It’s also one of the MPV market's best kept secrets. We wonder why. It’s identical to its Ford and VW cousins in space, versatility and comfort (apart from the ride), it’s impeccably finished, and boasts a fine set of engines. What’s more, its warranty terms are similar, its depreciation is slower…oh, and it's significantly cheaper. Why pay more?

engine 1896cc, 4-cylinder, turbo-diesel; 115bhp at 4000rpm, 229 lb ft at 1900rpm; belt-driven single overhead camshaft, 8 valves   transmission 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive; 33.7mph/1000rpm in 5th, 28.0 in 4th
suspension front: MacPherson coil spring/damper struts, anti-roll bar. Rear: semi-trailing arms, coil springs, telescopic dampers and anti-roll bar   steering hydraulic power assistance; 3.3 turns lock to lock; 11.4m diameter turning circle between kerbs (18.3m for one turn of the wheel)
brakes ventilated discs front, solid discs rear, with standard anti-lock control (ABS)   wheels/tyres 7in alloys with 215/55R16H tyres (Michelin Pilot HX on test car); full size (steel) spare

size and type large 5-door (mid-priced) MPV - 7 seats   trim levels S, SE, Sport
engines petrol: 4 cylinder/1.8 litre/150bhp, 4/2.0/115, V6/2.8/204; diesel: 4/1.9/115   drive front-wheel drive, 6-speed manual; (5-speed stepped automatic with manual override control optional on 1.8 20v and 1.9TDI SE)

HOW THE ALHAMBRA 1.9TDI SE COMPARES engine (cyl/cc/bhp) revs at 70mph (rpm) 30-70 through gears (sec) 30-70mph in 4th/5th gears (sec) fuel (mpg/CO2) brakes from 50mph (kg/m) maximum legroom - front (cm) typical leg/kneeroom - rear (cm) steering turns/circle (m) overall length (cm)
Seat Alhambra 1.9TDI SE 4/1896/115 2075 13.1 15.9/21.6ª 41/176 15/25 105 105/85R 3.3/11.4 463
Honda Stream 1.7SE 4/1668/123 3795 10.8 19.3/25.4 34/183 14/26 108 104/74R 2.8/11.5 457
Kia Sedona 2.5 V6 6/2497/162 3010 11.5 23.7/35.0 25/265 22/26 109 103/77 3.6/12.9 489
Mitsubishi S' Wagon 2.4GDi 4/2351/147 3000 11.7 19.1/28.6 31/222 14/25 107 102/80R 3.3/11.5 460
Peugeot 806 2.0 GLX 4/1998/123 3210 13.4 23.4/35.1 30/221 25/27 102 97/78 3.0/11.8 445
Toyota Previa 2.4 (auto) 4/2362/154 2830 11.8 n/a 25/259 12/26 109 108/88R 3.7/11.5 475
  R mid row fully back
NB: all seven-seaters; all rivals petrol powered  ª 6th 33.6

Plenty of seat/wheel settings and six-dial instrument pack clear, but speedo fussy. Thick front pillars, but vision good when head restraints removed. Excellent gearchange and other major controls/stalks fine.
Lowered suspension on SE means sportier and more assured cornering at the expense of ride comfort. Pretty wieldy for a big'un. Smooth, responsive steering gives car-like feel. Trim turning circle - easy parking.
Ride is firm and thumpy on rutted roads, but supple enough elsewhere. All seats slide and recline and provide plenty of room, though rearmost headroom tight. No sunroof but climate control and rear heater standard.

Affable VW 1.9TDI engine impresses with its eager get-up-and-go from 1800rpm; smooth, willing revver, too. Best, though, is its long-legged gearing that gives effortless cruising and handsome fuel economy (qv).
  acceleration in seconds through gears 4th gear 5th gear 6th gear
  20-40mph 3.7 10.7 18.4 n/a
  30-50mph 5.1 7.2 11.6 20.8
  40-60mph 6.5 7.3 9.5 14.3
  50-70mph 8.0 8.7 10.0 12.8
  30-70mph 13.1 15.9 21.6 33.6
  max speed in each gear* (# same in 6th gear  * using 4250rpm for best acceleration)
     gear      1st*      2nd*      3rd*      4th*      5th
     speed (mph)      23      41      65      94      113#

All this space and pace - and over 40mpg, too (50 if you're gentle) - a winning combination. Trip computer provides reliable mpg info. Big tank ensures a superb touring range between fills. Group 12 insurance.
    AA test results (mpg)  
    worst (hard/urban) 31  
    best (gentle/rural) 50  
    overall mpg 41  
    realistic tank capacity 65litres  
    realistic tank range 585miles  
    official figures (mpg)
    urban 33.2
    extra urban 52.3
    combined 43.5
    CO2 emissions 176g/km
    car tax band D

ABS brakes rather "sudden" and lack brake assist, but perform well. No roof airbags, but front/side 'bags provided and all seats have three-point belts. Isofix standard, four integrated child seats available.
  Similar VW Sharan tested 1999
  from 50mph (with standard ABS)
front impact     38%
side impact     83%
overall     62%
overall safety rating    
pedestrian rating    
pedal load     stopping distance
unhurried 8kg     33m
sudden 15kg     25m best stop
+4kg ie 19kg     26m ABS on
fade resistance/consistency    
Euro NCAP = European New Car Assessment Programme: independent crash safety tests evaluating protection for occupants and pedestrians in an offset frontal collision, side impacts and pedestrian strike conditions
click here for more NCAP details/test results etc.

A true seven (adult) seater, but direct agile ones to the back. Minimal boot space, seven up, but all back seats tumble or remove (watch your back!), so cargo space hugely variable. Lots of storage spaces.
  in centimetres (5-door MPV)
  length 463
  width - including mirrors 212
    - mirrors folded 185
  height (inc roof bars) 176
  load sill height (inside/outside) 0/59
  turns lock-to-lock 3.3
  turning circle (metres) 11.4
  easy to park/garage?
  front - legroom 88-105
    - headroom 95-103§
  middle - legroom 105m
    - kneeroom 85m
    - headroom 94
    - hiproom 147
  rear - typical legroom 88m
    - typical kneeroom 64m
    - headroom 89
    - hiproom 115
  load area(7:5 seats in use)
  load space
(litres/cu ft)
  load length (7seats/5/2) 37/112/211
  load length to facia 289
  load width 112
  load height (to blind/top of aperture) 56 101
§ with no sunroof  m middle row fully rearwards

Features not already listed include automatic door relocking after 30sec, disengaging interior door handles, lockable glovebox, locking wheelnuts and roller-blind load cover. No seatback release locks.
central locking  
remote control  
remote window closing  
alarm (perimeter + interior)   
static self-locking   
two-stage unlocking   
attack-resistant glass   
AA load area security rating
=standard    =option    =not available
NCSR - "theft of"
NCSR - "theft from"
NCSR = New Car Security Ratings: a 1 to 5 star system which rates anti-theft protection, both of the car itself and the theft of valuables from within the car
Visit for more details
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