Steve Sharpe puts SEAT’s Altea to the test
SEAT recently changed its trim structure for the Altea in a bid to increase the popularity of its MPV/hatchback.
There’s now just one trim on offer for the whole Altea range, the I-tech, which replaces the S Copa editions that were available before.
What that means in real terms is that the company has included a load of equipment as standard along with, as the name suggests, a lot of technical improvements thrown in, too.
Although the price has risen slightly, most buyers will think the extra goodies on offer are well worth the increase.
Buy any Altea and you now get dual-zone climate control, automatic wipers and lights, sat-nav, an eight-speaker DAB radio, Bluetooth, overhead storage bins, tinted rear windows, sliding rear seats and a double space as standard.
Sixteen-inch alloy wheels with a Titanium finish, front and rear parking sensors and roof rail are also included.
The I-tech also has a Family Pack as standard, which includes a host of clever storage solutions and features –for those long journeys, you can also keep your rear passengers entertained with a TFT screen mounted in the roof that can be connected to external sources such as games consoles and tablets.
The Altea is a slightly unusual car, with a foot in both hatchback and MPV camps, with the benefits of both.
On the outside it hints at the shape of an MPV but has equal DNA of a hatchback. It looks far sportier tham most MPVs, with aerodynamic looks and SEAT’s attractive corporate grille. Its height has been well disguised thanks to good proportions.
The Altea now comes in just two engine forms – a 1.6 TDI Ecomotive diesel engine with 105 PS, the same engine with a DSG automatic transmission, or a 2.0 TDI diesel with 140 PS.
There’s also an Altea XL version for an extra £500, which is nearly 20cm longer, increasing space in the boot and the rear.
Along with the increase in standard equipment, SEAT has also given the Altea an eco treatment too. Both the Altea and XL have been given the Ecomotive badge, along with others in the SEAT and VW stable.
It means that emission levels have been cut to lower road tax levels to £35, thanks in part to a Stop-Start system, while the 1.6 diesel engine boasts economy figures of more than 60mpg.
Out on the road these eco improvements haven’t affected the Altea’s performance too much. For a tall sided family car the Altea performs pretty well overall.
There’s steady acceleration through the gears and when the revs get higher you can inject a bit of pace, too, if you need to. It only begins to huff and puff on long inclines, although even heavily loaded it found its own cruising speed.
The gears are solid, although I did feel like slipping into a sixth gear that didn’t exist a few times.
As a family car it needs to be a jack of all trades. Being a tall car the suspension has had to be set on the firm side to counteract body lean when cornering, and on the whole it does on all but the sharpest corners. The steering lacks a bit of precision but it’s accurate enough.
As always the downside is that the ride tends to be firm, but SEAT has managed to keep things comfortable, and the Altea can soak up bumps and potholes with ease.
It’s an accomplished performer on long runs and will cruise for miles. The engine noise rises at higher revs but at motorway speeds in top gear it’s smooth. There is, however, quite a bit of noise coming in through the tyres, and the noise levels can be quite high on rougher sections of the motorway.
As a high-sided car it’s bound to catch the wind, and there’s some wind noise coming through, but on the whole it’s a comfortable, pretty refined way to travel. The cabin itself looks well-built and smart enough, although all the plastics are hard to the touch, clunking when you tap them, and the dark colour scheme is a bit drab.
The central control column, which houses the satnav, is simple to operate and all the controls are clear, and the seats are comfortable and easy to manipulate. The driving position is high, affording a good view from the front, but the wide side pillars affect the side view, while wide rear pillars affect visibility when reversing.
There is plenty of room in the front and the back of the Altea, with generous levels of headroom and legroom.
The split-level double boot floor is now standard on the I-tech, while the rear seats slide, split and fold flat. They can’t be completely removed, however, unlike some rivals.
The Altea range begins at £19,345 for an Altea I TECH 1.6 TDI 105 PS Ecomotive, while the DSG version is £20,215, and the 2.0 TDI 140 PS is £20,145. For an Altea XL, the 1.6 TDI Ecomotive is £20,065, or £20,935 for the DSG. The 2.0 TDI 140 PS version is £20,865.
The Altea has some strong rivals in the MPV sector but even with the increase in price it’s still cheaper than the majority, and when you consider the impressive levels of standard equipment on offer in these it makes a lot of sense.
SEAT seems to press the right buttons when it comes to mixing performance, value and economy and they’ve done it again with this Altea.
It’s a great all-round performer, and with these improvements in economy and extra equipment it now makes an even better proposition.
SEAT Altea I Tech 1.6 TDi Ecomotive
Engine: 1.6 diesel
Transmission: five-speed manual.
0-62: 12.2 seconds.
Top Speed: 114mph.
Economy: Avg 62mpg