Unspectacular in looks, unheralded in reputation and not the first choice of badge-conscious buyers, the Alhambra is an exceptional package for those who prize content and value-for-money.
It might not be the most elegant or flamboyant MPV — the Ford S-Max wins that prize by a mile — but once you get over the dull styling, what is left will impress you.
I tested the Alhambra DSG, which has an automatic, six-speed gearbox, and while you could cavil at the dull looks, there is no quibbling about the car’s performance or abilities.
Originally conceived as a three-handed venture between Ford, Volkswagen and Seat, the Alhambra is built in Portugal on the same production line as the VW Sharan.
Practicality was obviously one of the instructions for the designers, as exemplified by the sliding rear doors (brilliant in a car park, for example), the multi-folding middle row of seats and the vanishing third row.
Given the excellent driving position, the well-assembled dashboard layout, and airy and spacious interior, it is hard to find fault with the Alhambra.
The engine was fitted with the 140bhp version of the familiar VW Group, 2.0-litre turbodiesel, four-pot unit and it is a brilliant companion. Capable of the 0-100kph dash in 10.9 seconds and with a top speed of 191kph, it will also deliver a return of 5.7 l/100km (49.1mpg) and emit 149g/km, so it is good for Band C road tax — €390 per year.
This model — as with all DSGs — comes as standard with paddle shifters, which are pretty neat in a family car. The DSG also offers regular ‘drive’ mode with a ‘sport’ option. The stop/start facility is standard.
The Alhambra’s load capacity might not be as commodious as others in the class, but this is not a problem, because when all the seats are folded down you’d fit a three-ring circus in it.
On the road the car is capable: it does not roll excessively, grips very well and both ride and handling are up to, if not better than, class standards.
I really liked the electric handbrake with ‘auto hold’ facility, which keeps the car stationary at traffic lights, but disengages when you press the accelerator. The Alhambra also has a separate ‘hill hold’ function.
This Seat is bristling with standard kit and the only extra was metallic paint, for €644. Otherwise, the Alhambra is absolutely crammed with goodies.
I came to this machine with no expectations of greatness, but I left it with plenty of them. It might be understated — a touch drab, even — but as far as living with it on a daily basis goes, I came away mightily impressed.
This car may not spring immediately to the minds of many families, but not checking out how well-put-together and well-sorted it is — not to mention well-equipped — would be to make a serious error of judgement. Check it for yourselves.
from €45,255 (€45,899 as tested).
The Engine: familiar two litre turbodiesel from the VW parts bin — and a very good unit it is too.
Seat has really put the tin hat on this one — hard to find any chink in the specification armoury.
the styling is perhaps a little on the plain side, but the rest of the car is a very complete package and one which gets an unstinting recommendation from this quarter.