Having sampled the joys of a seven-seat X-Trail for several months, my experiment in finding the best vehicle to transport my family of five is now taking a different tack.
Gone is the modern-style SUV and in comes a more traditional large MPV in the shape of the Seat Alhambra.
The Alhambra range starts at £24,885 for an S spec model with a 1.4-litre petrol but our test car is a stupendously well-equipped SE Lux spec which, with options, tips the scales at £30,645.
For you money you seem to get pretty much every gadget going – including a powered tailgate and automatic sliding doors which can all be opened and closed at the touch of the key fob.
There are also parking sensors, a reversing camera, heated leather seats and a top-of-the-range sat nav and media system. Auto lights, wipers and handbrake, a massive panoramic sunroof and three-zone climate control are also present.
Seat Alhambra SE Lux 2.0 TDI Ecomotive
Engine: 2.0-litre diesel
Top speed: 126mph
0-62mph: 10.2 seconds
Fuel economy: 55.4mpg (combined)
CO2 emissions: 132g/km
The Alhambra definitely falls into the “traditional” MPV styling camp. That’s to say it’s been designed for function rather than form so is big, boxy and not very exciting to look at. Still, the front has echoes of the sharp Seat lines of the Leon, the 17-inch alloys fill the arches nicely and the LED tail lights have a stylish signature.
Our car is fitted with what must be one of the most-used powerplants on the planet. The 2.0-litre 148bhp diesel engine that powers the Alhambra is the same one that is on offer in virtually every model in the VW Group line-up.
As such, it’s a well-known quantity. In other, smaller vehicles I’ve found it smooth, fairly quiet, with good pulling power and offering good economy. How it copes with the heavier, more brick-shaped Alhambra will be interesting but already it’s proved as refined as in other applications.
Of course, the Alhambra’s raison d’etre is accommodate a large number of people and a large amount of stuff in comfort. To that end it packs in seven full-size seats across its three rows. That means three people can sit in the middle row without bashing elbows and even those consigned to the boot won’t feel as if they’re being treated as an afterthought.
I’ve tried out every seating combination imaginable and it seems that, in part thanks to the sliding centre row, pretty much anybody can sit comfortably in any of the passenger seats.
My eldest has already praised the rear seats for the big windows, hidden cup holders and dedicated air vents that make them a comfortable place for long journeys.
Given the space in the middle row, though, my plan is to sit the kids across that and leave that boot to swallow up the pushchair/changing bag/tonne of other junk that seems to accompany our family on even the shortest outing.
It seems likely to manage that just fine. Even with those rearmost seats up, there’s a supermini-like 267 litres of luggage space. Fold them down and that soars to 658 litres.
That should be enough to handle even my hopeless attempts at packing, but only time will tell.