Seat is finally replacing its Alhambra with a new model after 14 years and 33,000 sales in the UK.
The Spanish brand is after 10% of the MPV segment with the new Alhambra, which is a slightly larger share than the previous model had in its peak year of sales in 2004.
The new model is pretty much identical to its sister car, the Volkswagen Sharan, sharing much of the same equipment and styling, but Seat’s offering will be priced lower and will feature a higher level of standard equipment.
The Volkswagen badge holds more prestige with buyers and as a result the Alhambra is likely to have lower RV percentages, but based on its lower asking price, the actual value difference could be marginal.
Although exact UK specifications haven’t yet been confirmed, hi-tech optional gadgets include a reversing camera which is available for the first time on a Seat, and park assist.
Customers in the UK can choose from three trims, S, SE and SE Lux, and three engines – a 2.0-litre TDI in 140bhp or 170bhp guises, as well as an entry level 1.4 TFSI petrol.
All models are available with a six-speed manual gearbox or twin-clutch six-speed DSG automatic. Ecomotive technology such as stop/start and brake energy regeneration is standard across the range.
The Alhambra’s driving dynamics don’t quite fit with Seat’s “small and sporty” brand message, but it’s relatively car-like with good body control.
Practicality, space and modularity are more important in this segment and the seven-seat Alhambra delivers well in these areas.
At 4.85 metres, it is 22cm longer than its predecessor.
Sliding doors are standard, but electric operation is an extra.
The second and third rows of seats can be folded so the floor of the luggage compartment is always completely flat.
When the third row seats are folded, the load surface is 1.3 metres long. With five seats in place, load capacity up to the parcel shelf is 809 litres.
Boot space rises to 2,430 litres when the third and second row seats are folded.
Prices haven’t been confirmed but the Alhambra is expected to cost around £21,000 when it goes on sale at the start of November.
Seat wouldn’t talk sales figures “in this climate” but fleets are expected to take two-thirds of the pie, with 85% of these diesel.
Seat UK managing director Peter Wyhinny admits the brand doesn’t have a good history with fleets, but has been encouraged by Seat’s recent performance with a 31% increase in corporate sales year-on-year.
The Spanish brand wants to stabilise its market share of 1.7% this year and is looking at the fleet market to help balance things out.
Wyhinny said: “We’re just not even on the choice list in a lot of cases and that’s got to change.”
He hopes corporate deals with Centrica and Royal Mail will raise Seat’s profile for big corporate business while dealers are being urged to target small businesses.
The new Alhambra is a big step up in terms of quality and ability, while it offers – along with the VW Sharan – the most efficient engines in its class.