What is it?
Us Brits love a sporty looking car, and Seat is banking on the chance that we’ll love a sporty-looking large MPV as well. It’s introduced FR-Line as a trim package on the cavernous Alhambra.
There’s only a limited amount of actual sporting purpose about this trim level, though. The Spanish brand only offers it with the 2.0-litre TDI engine, with either 148bhp or 181bhp, no petrol engine is available. However, if you opt for the more potent lump with the dual-clutch ‘box (like our test car) and it’ll sprint to 62mph from rest in a not-too-shabby 8.9sec.
But it isn’t this that makes it an FR-Line; lesser Alhambras can be had with the gutsier engine. No, it’s a sporting garnish consisting of 18in wheels, FR-Line badging inside and out, dubious side stripes and a flat-bottomed wheel that single this model out.
What’s it like?
Like SE Lux models, the FR-Line gains sports suspension. Combined with the 18in wheels, you’re left with an MPV that can cover ground pretty quickly. Grip levels are high and body roll is well contained for such a lofty thing. The penalty for such a dynamic compromise, however, is a ride that’s firmer than rivals; not that it’s ever outright uncomfortable, even on a long journey.
The steering’s weight is well-judged, offering enough resistance to stop it wandering around the road at the slightest movement, but without seeming overly heavy. Sure, there’s virtually no feedback, but it is precise, making it easy to place the Alhambra on the road. As for balance, you’ll no doubt have guessed by now that it’s a natural understeerer.
The engine is certainly a good match for the car, though. Even with six adults onboard, there is more than enough acceleration to get up to speed at a reasonable pace. There’s a good spread of torque on offer, while the dual-clutch ‘box delivers smooth and swift shifts.
Not all is good with the gearbox, though. We found it downshifts unexpectedly when accelerating relatively gently, and sometimes it’s hesitant to change gear manually. Still, these issues were infrequent enough not to spoil the experience.
Most people are unlikely to buy an Alhambra, even in FR-Line trim, to corner it on the door handles, of course. What you’re likely to be interested in is how well it swallows people and/or stuff, and the Alhambra does that very well indeed. As you’d expect from something with such a large footprint and upright seating, the Alhambra accommodates four or even five adults in its first two rows with space to spare. With the centre row slid back as far as it’ll go, leg room and head room are plentiful even for those over six feet tall, while the boot is vast.
Once you’ve got past the fiddly mechanism and unfurled the rearmost chairs from their hiding place in the boot, you’ll find that adults won’t be too uncomfortable in the third row either, assuming the middle row has been pushed forward a few inches. Boot space is greatly reduced with the third row in place, but not by as much as you might think. You’ll still get a surprisingly large number of bags back there, maybe even a couple of reasonably sized suitcases.
Not only is the Alhambra practical, it also feels well screwed together. Sure, there are some hard plastics around the centre console and the lower reaches of the dash, but the bits of the interior you interact with regularly are pleasingly pliable. With everything so black though, you’ll be pleased to have the panoramic roof and red detailing.
Should I buy one?
If you regularly need to carry six or seven adults, the Alhambra should definitely be on your list of cars to try. It may not be the comfiest MPV out there, but it has acres of room inside and the engines are punchy and efficient, so it’s not at all bad to drive.
If, however, driving pleasure is something you really value, a Ford S-MAX is a better steer. Adults may not be quite as happy in the Ford’s rearmost row, but for shorter trips they’ll manage.
If an Alhambra does seem like your best bet, then we would suggest looking a little lower down the range. Choose carefully and you can pick one up for significantly less than the £38,000 (including options) of our test car. It won’t be quite as plush or sporty, but at least you’ll avoid those ghastly side stripes.
Seat Alhambra 2.0 TDI 184 FR-Line
Location Suffolk; On sale Now; Price £36,130; Engine four-cylinder, 1968cc, diesel; Power 181bhp at 3500rpm Torque 280lb ft at 1750-3000rpm Gearbox six-speed dual-clutch automatic Kerb weight 1879kg; Top speed 135mph; 0-62mph 8.9sec; Economy 53.3mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 139g/km, 27%
What is it?