November 9th, 2010

Driven: SEAT Alhambra

Getting older is inevitable. I know this to be true, and I’m doing all I can to prevent it from happening. Indeed, video games, play fights, and general misbehaviour are the order of the day for me – and I don’t see that ever stopping.

But the thing that really, really scares me about getting old is having to buy a people carrier. In fact, I don’t think I want to have children – not necessarily because they can’t wash themselves, or change their own underwear, and that they cry, wake you up and cause a general nuisance. No, I don’t want them because I’d have to possibly buy a people carrier.

They’re just so dull. A box with lights on each end. Brilliant. They’re underpowered and they have all the driving dynamics of those little plastic tricycles with pedals on their front wheel.

At least that’s what I thought. In fact, I was considering not even bothering to drive one at a recent SEAT press day – a day in which I also drove the Ibiza Cupra and the Leon Cupra R, some rather rapid and seriously fun pieces of kit. But in the end, it was decided that a drive was necessary, and so me and the Gas Station Podisode team (@A1GOY and @Cameraman_Phil ) picked out a brown one from the car park, and decided to have a go.

The Alhambra is merely ‘OK’ on the eye, but it is a people carrier after all. However, open the door and get into the drivers seat, and things are a little more positive. The seats are comfortable, leather trimmed, and electrically adjustable. The rear sliding doors and tailgate are powered electrically and you can operate them remotely, which is brilliant fun. There are 7 seats, and the middle row is adjustable so that you can fit an actual human in the back row. There’s also a reversing camera that shows you where your car will land based on the angle of the steering. A lot of kit which dads will actually like, though bear in mind this was the top spec SE Lux model. The Entry level S model still has a decent amount of tech, though, so don’t cry.

But what dads will really like is the drive. And no, I’m not making a mistake, it really is quite a laugh. We were driving a 2.0 TDi with 170PS and a 6-speed DSG, and it can see off 60mph in just under 10 seconds, which is pretty good for a car which is about as long as a cruise liner. In auto mode, gear changes are smooth, but if you want to play race-driver, there’s a paddle shift too.

So it’s fairly rapid, but the amusement doesn’t stop with the accelerator pedal. Take it to a bend, and it does a decent job of going around it. In fact, it feels a lot like a small car, it’s nimble and pointy, but only from the driver’s point of view. I spent a while in the back row of seats, and while I was reasonably comfortable, as soon as the driver realised he could play ‘rallies’ I found myself falling off my seat, terrified.

But really, that’s not important. If wife and children are present – pop it in auto and laze, it can do that rather well. And once you’ve dropped them off, drive home like you’re on a special stage, and then make Star-Trek door noises when you get back and start unloading the shopping via the sliding electric doors. It’s brilliant fun.

Indeed, if people carriers like this still exist when I get old, I don’t really mind having some more birthdays. Not sure about the children though. In fact, I might just have one now and use it as a party bus.

John Slavin

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