Seat Tarraco long-term test: report 2

Large SUV buyers have never had so much choice, so where does the Seat Tarraco fit in among its competitors?...

Seat Tarraco LT boot

The car: Seat Tarraco 2.0 TDI 150 SE Technology Run by: Jim Holder, editorial director

Why it’s here: To show why it should stand out in the crowded large SUV market

Needs to: Be practical, economical and ideal for everything from short urban hops to long-distance holiday travel

Mileage 1348 List price £31,055 Target Price £27,727 Price as tested £31,055 Options None Test economy 37.2mpg Official economy 44.1mpg

The Seat Tarraco hasn’t had an easy ride this week, being subjected in quick succession to a house move, a visit to a self-storage centre and a truly regrettable trip to Ikea on a Sunday, resulting in it being packed to the rafters with all manner of boxes, bags and hot dogs of questionable origin. Hardly a relaxing weekend, but a great test of a car.

Design-wise, the Tarraco doesn’t do a bad job of differentiating itself from its Hyundai Santa FePeugeot 5008 and Toyota RAV4 rivals. Passengers have been quick to comment on how it stands out from more neutrally-styled seven-seaters, while the contrasting black trim lends a welcome degree of purpose to its presence. 

I've been pleasantly surprised, too, to discover that the diesel engine and six-speed manual gearbox work reasonably well together, with latter lending a small degree of driver involvement that an auto would miss. I will say, however, that first gear is annoyingly short, giving me more to do on brief hops between traffic lights. Fuel economy is pleasing, though; longer motorway blasts elicit a near-40mpg read-out with the driving mode selector in Eco. 

Seat Tarraco LT boot full

Despite its not-insignificant bulk, the Tarraco is also surprisingly manoeuvrable, with direct steering and impressive all-round visibility helping to keep me relaxed, even in rush hour. Its well-cushioned ride is another asset, helped no doubt by the substantial sidewalls on the tyres. More expensive trim levels gain bigger wheels, and thus lower-profile tyres, which can result in a harsher ride and make the alloys far more prone to kerb damage. 

Luggage space was never an issue on my busy weekend, with the middle row folding completely flat to take boot capacity from 700 to 1775 litres. However, loading and unloading of unwieldy items was made tricky by the deep rear bumper and sizeable incursions from the wheel arches. The shortage of any substantial lighting in the boot also made things difficult when we were loading up in an underground car park. 

Inside, the various switches promise the Volkswagen Group’s characteristic combination of durability and usability. The lane-keeping assistance, however, is irritatingly intrusive, and can only be deactivated by taking your eyes off the road to delve into the touchscreen-based driver aid settings – not an easy task at 70mph on a busy M25.

Seat Tarraco storage

Playing music through Bluetooth is also unreliable, with the signal overly susceptible to phone-shaking bumps in the road and sharp turns, although that is perhaps an indication of a wider automotive shift towards smartphone-mirroring infotainment technology, and the fact that I should stop living in the early 2000s. 

Other gripes I have about the Tarraco mainly come down to options I wish I'd added. The bootlid is neither electrically assisted nor sensor-operated, which is a problem when you’re standing in the pouring rain with an overflowing box under each arm. It’s also a shame that our mid-range SE Technology model makes do with an animated parking sensor display, rather than the far preferable camera setup exclusive to more costly packages. All trims go without front parking sensors, which is fine, so long as you don’t forget about the protruding lower splitter when parking front-in. 

In contrast, one thing I could certainly do without is the puddle lighting, which displays the car’s silhouette on the ground when you open the front doors. This isn’t a Bentley, and the Tarraco name certainly doesn’t carry enough premium weight to warrant such extravagances.

Even so, there are enough positives here to suggest that this car will earn itself some proper bragging rights over the next few months.

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