The first-generation Alhambra was a joint venture with the original VW Sharan and Ford Galaxy. By the time the second-generation Alhambra arrived in 2010 Ford had gone its own way and left Seat and VW to it. That hasn't bothered the Spanish firm one iota, however, as the Alhambra is one of the most accomplished people carriers on the market -- ably helped by its neat sliding door arrangement. Ideal for growing families the Seat offers space for seven, has an adaptable, solidly built interior and value for money pricing -- we tried the £27,880 2.0TDI 140 SE DSG for size.
You probably wouldn't call the Alhambra sexy -- at a push the Ford S-Max might take that title -- but then carting around a large family is rarely something to set pulses raising. That's not to say the Alhambra is ugly, but despite its relative newness to the market it's not the most exciting design in the sector. It plays it rather safe, though the detailing is typically neat and well thought through -- a legacy of its VW partner. The pair of sliding doors (electrically operated on some models) are the key design feature, offering unfettered ingress to the middle row and improved access to the rear Seats.
Key to any MPV's appeal is its ability to carry people, animals, luggage, rubbish, flat-pack and anything else needing transporting, sometimes in combination. The Alhambra's Easy Fold Seat system, which allows a multitude of configurations, helps enormously in this regard. With all Seats in place the load area is only 267-litres, though this grows to 1,167 with five occupants and in its most capacious mode the Alhambra will swallow 2,297-litres of load. VW's influence means everything about the cabin is beautifully finished and of course ergonomics are exemplary.
Performance & handling
It's no performance car, but that's probably a good thing if you'd rather not make the kids sick with the G-forces. The Alhambra actually has a decent range of engines, starting with the Ecomotive 2.0-litre diesel with 113bhp. Far better performers are the 138bhp and 168bhp versions of the same unit, the former probably being the sweet spot. With the DSG twin-clutch gearbox fitted it provides effortless acceleration, completing the 0-62mph sprint in around 11 seconds. Those who prefer petrol power only have one choice, but it's the talented 1.4-litre TSI with 148bhp with a reasonable blend of performance and economy. Don't expect any model to handle like your old hot-hatch though, with children comes responsibility, and the Alhambra is resolutely safe and secure with little in the way of feedback or involvement -- especially from the numb steering.
If you really must have a bit of fun hooning around in your 7 Seater, the Peugeot 5008 is probably a better bet.
Economy & environment
If you're looking for green then the Ecomotive model is the one to hunt down. Fitted with a 2.0-litre 113bhp diesel engine, this economy special can achieve 50.4mpg and emits only 147g/km of CO2. These aren't startling figures, and you may as well go for the more powerful 138bhp diesel which gets within 3g/km and 1mpg of the Ecomotive's figures.
Equipment & value
Three trim levels make up the Alhambra's hierarchy, starting with S, then SE and SE Lux -- though this can be augmented by the Ecomotive versions when selecting the 2.0-litre 113bhp diesel engine. One of the key parts of the Alhambra's appeal is the standard seven Seats it comes with, where some rivals start with only five. The cheapest Alhambra is the £23,535 S with 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine, rising to the £32,590 of the SE Lux with 2.0-litre 168bhp TDI and DSG dual clutch gearbox. Even the base models come with 16inch alloys, front and rear parking sensors, auxiliary heater, start/stop and a three zone climate control.
The Alhambra's never actually been tested by Euro NCAP, but it is physically identical to the VW Sharan so the testers have awarded it exactly the same score -- the full five stars. Adult occupants are clearly well looked after with a 96 percent score, as are children with 80 percent. However, though the side head airbags cover all rows, the rearmost Seats weren't occupied during the test, so who knows how those dummies fared.
The Alhambra is dependable and solid, just what you want from a family MPV. It's practical, has an interior that is both flexible and well built, with some incredibly useful sliding rear doors for easy loading and unloading. It's also hard to ignore the value for money pricing, undercutting the identical VW Sharan quite considerably. However, cost conscious buyers should also consider the Renault Scenic which may not be as solidly engineered but is cleaner and more efficient than the Seat.
Model tested: Seat Alhambra 2.0 TDi CR SE DSG
Engine: 2.0-litre diesel
Acceleration: 0-62 in 10.9 seconds
Top speed: 119mph
Emissions: 149g/km CO2