Don’t get the wrong idea, I haven’t joined the growing army of fleet drivers having to present themselves at court after being caught in the nationwide net of speed cameras, bus lane cameras and even CCTV cameras, which all seem designed to rack up points on our licences.
Instead, I have been called up for jury service. As this means I will be away from the office for an unspecified length of time weighing up the evidence, I have swapped out of our newly-arrived long-term Mitsubishi Grandis as it needs to be photographed and I can’t guarantee when I will be in to have it done.
Which means I am the temporary custodian of the SEAT, and it’s experiencing a different kind of life than it was used to with its previous custodian. My colleague Julie Jackson ran the car before me, and among the many long-distance journeys she undertook was a marathon drive down to the SEAT’s home country of Spain.
The Altea proved its long-distance credentials on that drive down to Santander, but now it is experiencing the daily slog of commuting into a busy city centre as I make my way to the crown court building.
Now my usual commute into the office doesn’t see me hit any congestion, but this alternative drive regularly sees me creeping along in stop-start conditions, and the SEAT is earning its spurs here, too.
The high seating position means visibility is excellent, while the sports seats strike a good balance between comfort and holding you in place.
Then there’s the light clutch and a diesel engine with masses of low-down power, making it ideally suited to this environment. You can just lift the clutch without touching the accelerator and the car drags itself to walking speed to cover the few paces needed.
But after a hard day of listening to evidence, the journey home is much quicker and allows the Altea to stretch its legs.
Like our other road testers, I don’t think the Sport claim for this car sits comfortably, even though it is very rapid across country and handles more than adequately. It seems more suited to family motoring at a normal pace than hammering round hairpins. This also means fuel economy levels easily top 50mpg.
Nevertheless, the Altea has put up a strong defence of its character. John Maslen
Model: SEAT Altea 2.0 TDI Sport
Price (OTR): £17,000 (£17,505 as tested)
CO2 emissions (g/km): 159
Company car tax bill (2005) 22% tax-payer: £56 a month
Insurance group: 8
Combined mpg: 47.9
Test mpg: 45.1
CAP Monitor residual value: £6,050/37%
Typical contract hire rate: £338
Expenditure to date: Nil