So having to sit shivering at Stansted Airport car park, waiting for the windows to defrost enough to safely head home really put the icing on the cake (or the windscreen, as it were).
The advent of winter has shown up a couple of minus points on the otherwise exemplary SEAT Altea – the slowness of the front windscreen demister and the lack of heated seats (available as an optional extra at £125).
To be fair, my winter rant is aimed at cars in general – with a few exceptions.
Picture the scene: the iciness of the world outside means you stay cocooned in the cosy warmth of your bed until the last possible moment, before leaving the house like a veritable whirlwind for the commute ahead.
Then comes the hitch. The ice on the outside of the windscreen is easily tackled with a blast of de-icing spray but inside it’s a different story.
The engine is switched on and the demisting system at full power but a full five minutes can elapse before the screen is clear enough to safely pull out of the driveway. And it’s a long five minutes, even with the radio for company, when the heater hasn’t had a chance to warm up properly.
Worse, once at the office I am regaled by tales of the new Ford Focus and its Quickclear windscreen. I want one. Call me spoilt but that – and the heated seats – really are my vehicle must-haves.
I’ve also now heard about a remote-control pre-heater, surely another essential in our English climate. You used to get them on the Rover 75 and they enable you to hop out of bed to the window, press the button and then get up when the car is nicely warmed up for the journey to work.
In view of recent warnings in the press about the dangers of leaving your unattended car’s engine running while you finish your porridge, a pre-heater could be a very valuable piece of kit and might also keep you on the right side of the law.
According to the Department for Transport (DfT), it is a non-endorsable offence (but you can still get a £30 fine) to leave an unattended vehicle on a road with the engine running.
It’s probably OK on a private driveway but then you run the risk of an opportunist thief jumping in and making off down the road in your nicely warmed-up car.
Anyway, back to the Altea. All of our long-term testers, including me, have given it glowing reviews and hardier motorists probably won’t bat an eyelid over my cold-weather moans.
I’m still getting less than 40mpg but to be fair, that’s all on short urban journeys.
It will be interesting to see if another tester can get nearer the published combined figure. Sandie Hurford
Model: SEAT Altea 2.0 TDI Sport
Price (OTR): £17,000 (£17,505 as tested)
CO2 emissions (g/km): 159
Company car tax bill (2006) 22% tax-payer: £64 a month
Insurance group: 8
Combined mpg: 47.9
Test mpg: 38.1
CAP Monitor residual value: £5,925/36%
Typical contract hire rate: £338
Expenditure to date: Nil
Figures based on three-years/60,000-miles