Alhambra – your palace on wheels?
IT’S NOT too long since full-blown people carriers were out of reach for many used car buyers.
But the explosion of models to hit the market over the past half dozen years has seen not only a wide choice open up, but also prices in the sub-£5,000 bracket.
Among them is one of the best value MPVs around, the SEAT Alhambra.
While its stablemates the Ford Galaxy and Volkswagen Sharan – all are built at a purpose built factory in Portugal – appealed to people with differing priorities, the more ritzy image of the SEAT endeared it to a younger audience.
Plenty of storage compartments, a user-friendly dash, manoeuvrable SEATs and high quality fittings are features of the Alhambra, which boasts quite a taut ride and handling set-up.
The 1.8 and two-litre petrol engines can be thirsty so opt for the 1.9 turbodiesel if possible. This one is powerful, lively and there’s virtually no rattle. Add a superb ride, high quality materials and precise power steering with the minimum of body roll and you have an impressive package. The build is solid too.
For those unfamiliar with the Alhambra, its SEATing is versatile. Following the popular configuration of 2-3-2, the second and third rows fold and tumble for easy rear access. You can fold the rear ones flat to use as tables and the front passenger SEAT swivels. The five rear ones are also removable.
But if all the SEATs are being used there’s not much room for anything else – though that’s hardly a problem confined to this people carrier.
Expect to pay around £5,000 for a 1996 Alhambra 1.9 TDi on an N or P plate or £6,300 for an R-registered 1998 1.8T model in good condition.
For those prepared to splash out a bit more, the range was revamped during 2000 to offer slicker trim and a more distinctive SEAT face. It saw the line-up stretch from a two-litre 115bhp petrol model in S trim grade up to the flagship 2.8-litre V6 Sport.
And not only do these later models ride better, but they heralded a smooth shifting six-speed gearbox, side airbags and Isofix child-SEAT mountings. Spec includes air-con, electric front windows, front and side airbags, child locks, alarm, immobiliser, and 10-speaker sound system.
Prices are in the region of £9,500 for a 1.8T in S trim and on a 2000 W plate, £11,750 for the excellent 1.9 TDi PD in upgraded SE spec and also on a W-plate or £10,500 for for an 01/51 Alhambra 2.0 S model.
Model: SEAT Alhambra
Driving: Most engines feel lively for the size of car and the ride quality is excellent
Performance: 1.8 T will do 0-62 in 11 secs, TDi takes closer to 14 with a top speed of 112mph
Economy: Petrol units are quite thirsty, but fuel consumption is good – around 40mpg – from the diesels
Safety: Solid build, twin airbags, passenger and side airbags from 2000
Recommended buy: Alhambra 1.9 TDi 90 or TDi PD.
Alternatives: Ford Galaxy, Hyundai Trajet, Kia Sedona, Volkswagen Sharan