Times have changed, thanks to graceful MPVs

IF YOU have a big family or need to transport a five-a-side football team around on a regular basis, you used to have just the one choice: a minibus.

SEAT Alhambra

No frills. No style. Just space, a little grace and no pace.

How times have changed. Drivers who need to carry lots of people can now choose from a fairly extensive choice of people-carriers including some with frills and a few sporty ones.

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SEAT - forever the young section of the Volkswagen empire which includes Audi and Skoda among others - has been making Alhambra for 20 years now and it is pretty well-established.

Like most cars in the VW group, it has been allowed to evolve slowly meaning early Alhambras and today’s latest versions have a similar look.

Now, people-carriers are rarely the prettiest cars and the Alhambra is no exception. These vehicles have a job to do - in this case carry lots of people or lots of luggage - and that comes first.

So, Alhambra does resemble a van, albeit a smart, sleek van. It is a tall and spacious vehicle. And the test version is the FR Line sports version.

Now, it might not look like a sports car but the ride and handling are exceptionally good for a vehicle of this size and it reaches 60mph in under nine seconds.

This car’s stand-out feature is its versatility. It has long sliding rear doors which make for easy access in tight spaces such as car parks. Not everyone likes sliding doors - they remind some people of commercial vehicles - but they do work well.

The test version had electric-powered sliding doors and powered tailgate.

The luggage compartment is generous measuring 2,297 litres, almost 2.3 cubic metres, when the second and third rows of seats are folded.

One focus of SEAT’s development work on this car was on the intelligent and flexible seating. With the EasyFold system the second and third-row seats can be retracted into the vehicle floor in just one movement.

Integrated child seats are available as an option.

The Alhambra does what an MPV should: move up to seven adults in comfort. But it adds refinement, a keen price and low running costs.

It is well equipped with such luxuries as automatic lights and wipers, auto-dimming rear view mirror; 17in alloys; High Beam Assist and cruise control among a raft of added equipment.

It also has black leather upholstery; panoramic glass sunroof; rear view camera and satellite navigation.

SEAT Alhambra FR Line 2.0 TDI CR DSG

PRICE: £36,130 on the road. Alhambra starts at £24,885

ENGINE: A 1,968cc four cylinder unit generating 184bhp via automatic gearbox

PERFORMANCE: Top speed 135mph, 0 to 60mph in 8.9 seconds

COSTS: Average 53.3mpg

EMISSIONS: 139g/km


WARRANTY: Three years, 60,000 miles