- We like...Economy, space
- We don't...Heavy seats
Big seven-seater makes a comeback as a fuel-sipping eco special. At up to 47mpg, it's pretty good for its sizeThe Alhambra is almost as old as a car as the place it’s named for. It’s a big seven-seat bus that’s been on sale much as it is now since the mid-1990s. Sure, it’s had a facelift or two over time, but little that's fundamental has changed.
So if it’s been around that long, why write about it now? Because Seat has just fielded a new ‘green’ model, the Ecomotive. What’s happened here is that Seat has taken the regular Alhambra and fettled its 2.0 diesel engine to squeeze extra miles per gallon from it, while reducing its exhaust emissions. Revised gearbox ratios, making the higher gears taller, also help as ds low-viscosity oil in the gearbox. The Alhambra Ecomotive also sits on easy-roll tyres and has lowered, stiffened suspension to reduce its air drag when on the move.
The upshot is that its fuel economy compared to the ‘regular’ 2.0 diesel improves by just over 4mpg – to an overall best of 41.1mpg, while its CO2 emissions come down from 175 to 159g/km, moving it from car tax band D to C.
Aside from the Ecomotive badges, the car isn’t changed and looks very much like the Reference model, on which it’s based. The one difference you might spot from the off is the plastic wheel covers. Apparently, Seat can’t fit the Ecomotive’s ‘eco’ tyres to alloy wheels.
Inside, it’s pleasant enough in a 1990s sort of way. But it is all very grey: there’s none of the gloss-black or brushed metal inlays you’ll find in many more modern car cabins. And, because the Alhambra is jointly produced with Volkswagen (It’s a VW Sharan in all but its badges and minor styling and trim differences), the switches and controls will be instantly familiar to anyone who’s owned a 1990s Golf, Polo or Passat.
There’s good space in all seven seats and while those in the rear two have less leg room than the others, there’s still sufficient for adults. Entry and exit for those in the rear is ok thanks to big, wide opening doors and easy-tip mid-row seats. But with every seat taken, there’s little room left for luggage. You’ll fit a couple of skinny suitcases between the rear-most chairs and the tailgate, no more.
Expanding the load space involves removing the seats – and they are heavy and awkward to shift. Then there’s the problem of where you put them until you need them again.
You sit bus-like behind the wheel with a huge expanse of dash-top before you. But once you’ve grown used to its considerable size it’s easy to place thanks to its short bonnet and squared-off rear. It rides smoothly and handles neatly, although it will start to lean should you push it through a bend too keenly.
The engine is noisy but gives of its power progressively. Teamed with a six-speed gearbox, it’s actually a fraction quicker than the ‘standard’ 2.0 diesel model.
Should you buy one? If you want a vehicle that’ll seat seven grown-ups in comfort, it’s a fair bet to buy new. Second-hand, you won’t find too many Ecomotive models yet but the regular 2.0 diesel Alhambra makes sense at the low prices they are currently going for. Remember, too that the Volkswagen Sharan and indeed older Ford Galaxies are pretty much the same car.
To view new and used Seat Alhambras for sale, go to motors.co.uk
- Engines2.0 diesel
- 0-60 mph11.9secs
- Insurance groups12
Motors.co.uk value verdict: