- We like...Punchy engine
- We don't...Price, poor visibility
Freetrack blends MPV space and mud-wallowing agility
‘The Altea – you mean the one over there, wearing a bra?’ Although we hadn’t noticed until the chance remark came, this odd-bod Spanish motor ds look as if it has a women’s undergarment snugged around its front. Look across, and you’ll see what we mean. Not that any resulting lift and separation improves its looks.
Judging appearance is a personal thing and not something we stress usually over-much. That said, we’ve yet to find anyone who thinks this Seat is pretty. And when £12,695 buys an entry-model Altea, you’d hope that this £21,395 would be the looker of the range. Still, for your money it ds give all-wheel-drive, a powerful diesel engine and the extra length of the XL Altea. Seat call it an ‘all-road’ car, not an off-roader.
So you’ll get extra grip to pull you across a muddy track but don’t try charging across ditches in it because you’ll come unstuck. There’s a couple of extra inches between it and the road, compared to other Alteas, but that’s not enough to take it deep into the mire. It runs as a regular front-wheel-drive car unless its clever transmission sense that extra grip would help, and then it diverts power to the rear wheels, too.
The Altea’s a MPV-cum-regular hatchback, so you sit high in a glassy cabin. There’s huge lounging space for five, and the back-benchers get the extra treat of a DVD screen that drops down airline-style from the roof, and cordless headphones. The cabin is decked out in a weird mix of the sporty and the comfy. The wheel and gear shift are pukka sporty jobs, while the centre dash is covered in what looks like carbon fibre. But, like the rest of the cabin in our car, it is milk-chocolate brown.
The seats are sporty-shaped but covered in a fabric that looks stolen from your gran’s sofa. Those in the back drop to reveal a huge loading area but, unlike those in most other MPVs, they won’t lift out or slide to and fro.
The 170bhp 2.0 diesel shoves the Altea along quickly but can be over-eager when you’re edging into a tight parking spot. And the thick rear pillars and shallow tailgate glass don’t help. Wieldy steering and its crisp mid-revs response makes the Altea a pleasure to row along quickly, although the ride is too sporty-firm to keep passengers happy for long.
And, for us, windscreen pillars made sizeable blind spots. Seat’s arranged things so that the clap-hands screen wipers hide beneath these until needed – it’s a clever thought, but those pillars seem way too broad.
The Altea is intriguing and, bra or not, its looks hide its talents. But when cheaper Alteas do almost as much, that price is a bit strong.
Update: As of April 29, 2008, Seat has announced price reductions. The 2.0 198bhp TSi now costs £19,495 and the 2.0 TDi is now £19,995, slicing £1400 from previous prices.
- Engines2.0 TDi
- 0-60 mph8.7sec
- Insurance groupsgroup 11E
Motors.co.uk value verdict: