The steering is also communicative, allowing the driver to feel the road rather than having to put up with vague handling that dogs some of the Alhambra's competitors. The turbodiesel engine in the Alhambra is one of Volkswagen's class-leading TDI units delivering 115bhp. This translates into a refined performance, while the six-speed gearbox is smooth and allows the driver to cruise economically in top gear.
The engine is quiet and only really sounds like a diesel at cold start and tickover. Most impressive is its economy - an average of 43.7mpg and I'm sure that thrifty drivers could even see the magic 50mpg on the car's multi-function trip computer. But what really matters from a fleet point of view is carbon dioxide emissions. The Alhambra's 178g/km mean that under the new 2002 CO2-based company car tax system a driver will pay 20% on the car's P11D price, including the 3% diesel penalty.
With a P11D price of £21,115, the Alhambra will cost a 22% taxpayer travelling fewer than 2,500 miles a year £1,625.85 and a driver doing between 2,500 and 17,999 miles £1,161.32. A driver covering more than 18,000 miles will pay £696.79.
But under the new regime, the Alhambra will cost a 22% taxpayer £929 - a saving of £696 for low-mileage drivers and £232 for mid-mileage drivers. But high-mileage drivers have to pay an extra £233. At £21,290 on-the-road, the Alhambra TDI SE 115 undercuts its sisters the Ford Galaxy Ghia 1.9 TD (115bhp) at £22,715 and the Volkswagen Sharan Carat 1.9 TDI PD (115bhp), costing £23,030.
Our SE model is also well equipped, with alloy wheels, climate control, the aforementioned lowered sports suspension, all-round electric windows (including the rear side windows, which open outwards a couple of inches), heated windscreen and a six-CD autochanger.
The SEAT Alhambra was voted Best MPV at the 2001 Fleet News Awards for the second year running and it's not hard to see why. A high level of standard equipment, low CO2 emissions, a competitive pricing strategy and good running costs, make this a serious MPV contender.
As our longest-serving test fleet vehicle, the Alhambra is about to go back to SEAT. Throughout the year we've had it, it has been one of the most popular vehicles - and not solely because of its carrying capabilities. It's genuinely good to drive, despite its bulk and the exceptional diesel engine gives a good turn of speed. If your drivers must have an MPV, you could do worse than add a SEAT Alhambra to your fleet.