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What Car? says

4 out of 5 stars

For A well-built cabin, versatile seating, tidy handling and good visibility

Against Limited luggage space and limited availability

Verdict For the money, few big MPVs are as versatile or as enjoyable to drive and own

Go for… Any diesel

Avoid… 2.8-litre V6

Seat Alhambra MPV
  • 1. With all seven seats in use, you won’t be able to carry much more than a single suitcase in the boot
  • 2. Our favourite engines are the 1.9 diesels with either 110 or 115bhp
  • 3. Catalytic converters can fail on diesels
  • 4. The suspension and brakes can wear if the car has been used to cart heavy loads on a regular basis
  • 5. Verify the mileage is genuine - clockers like the Alhambra because they wear the miles well
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Seat Alhambra MPV full review with expert trade views

The Alhambra was forged from the same DNA as the Ford Galaxy and Volkswagen Sharan, and given only the mildest dose of Seat corporate medicine.

That means it’s a hugely capable MPV that drives more like a family hatchback, with a comfortable ride and taut handling (but not quite as sharp as the Galaxy's). Every engine is refined, and the cabin remains hushed, even at motorway speeds.

All shapes of driver should be able to get comfy behind the wheel, and stay comfortable over long distances. On top of that, the layout of controls is intuitive, and all-round visibility is good.

Talking of seats, most Alhambras are fitted with seven. The 2-3-2 layout allows for the five rearmost to be slid backwards or forwards - to create more legroom or boot space, as necessary - folded or removed (a heavy and fiddly job). With all seven in use, you won’t be able to carry much more than a single suitcase, so pack light.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Demand remains constant; 1.9 TDi 130 SE/Stylance is the one

James Ruppert
Used car guru

The diesels are the ones to get. There have been a few since the Alhambra’s 1996 launch - the VW-supplied 1.9 TDI turbodiesel comes in various flavours from 90-130bhp - but our pick is the 110 or 115bhp version.

The smaller petrols are cheaper, but not so widely available. Of these, the 113bhp 2.0 can feel weedy, so the 150bhp turbocharged 1.8 T is our choice. There’s also a stonking 201bhp 2.8 V6, with lower, firmer suspension and four-wheel drive, but it's expensive to run, so best avoided.

A major face-lift happened in 2000, when all models became seven-seaters as standard. They also got more kit, a slightly more modern look outside and an updated cabin.

From the outset, even basic spec (S on early cars, Reference on later ones) meant air-con, a CD player, electric front windows and a good level of safety equipment. Stylance (SE on early cars) is the more upmarket choice.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Another poor MPV with big bills and frequent failure rates

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct

The V6 is expensive, so it probably will. It guzzles a gallon every 25 or so miles with typical driving, and lumps you in group 15 for insurance. It’s also the most expensive of any Alhambra to service.

Generally, though, the Alhambra is wallet-friendly transport. It’s keenly priced for the versatility, drive and quality on offer. You can also pick one up for noticeably less than its VW Sharan lookalike, and a little cheaper than the other triplet, the Ford Galaxy. Expect it to hang on to its value as well as most MPVs.

The diesels make their fuel go a long way. Expect high-30s or low-40s to the gallon. Go for the 2.0 or 1.8 T petrols, and you’re looking at a reasonable but not outstanding 30mpg or so.

Servicing will cost you about the same as most comparable MPVs, and insurance ranges from groups 11 to 13.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Demand remains constant; 1.9 TDi 130 SE/Stylance is the one

James Ruppert
Used car guru

The Alhambra is sound and robust, but there are a few areas that demand special attention. The air-con is a known weak spot, for a start, so test it properly before you buy, because fixing it could land you with a four-figure bill.

Among the other things to look for are: on some cars, the wipers won’t switch off or can seize; the immobiliser can fail and lock you out; and, electric windows that drop into the door and won’t come back out. Owners also report other sporadic electrical-related gremlins, so ensure everything works as it should.

The engines are largely trouble-free, but catalytic convertors can fail on diesels. Suspension and brakes can wear if the car has been used to cart heavy loads on a frequent basis. Also check the cabin for signs of a hard life.

Insist on a full service history, for your own reassurance and to help verify the mileage is genuine - clockers like the Alhambra because they wear the miles well.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Another poor MPV with big bills and frequent failure rates

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct
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