With eight pounds in every 10 spent in their stores, Tesco’s message that ‘Every little helps’ certainly seems to be getting through to the cost-conscious masses.
And SEAT has obviously decided that the same sentiment should be applied to its Altea mini-MPV.
This model has always been under-endowed when it comes to offering the key mini-MPV benefit of space, so it has launched the Altea XL, in which you get an extra 18.7cm in length, more head and legroom and more than 100 litres of extra boot space.
At first glance, it could be the regular Altea, but look more closely at the rear and you spot the tell-tale differences.
Firstly, there are split tail lights aimed at giving an upmarket feel, while open the rear hatch and there’s a noticeably larger boot than in the standard Altea – up from 409 litres to 532 with the rear seats in place and 1,604 with the seats folded down, compared to 1,320 in the regular model.
While the gains over its smaller brother are evident, the XL is still outclassed by the Ford C-MAX, which offers 550 litres of luggage room, or 1,620 with the seats folded down.
None can match the Renault in outright carrying capacity, though, with the Scenic offering 1,840 litres.
There are nice little touches, such as a tray on the back of the front seats which also have a hook to hang bags on so they don’t roll around the floor. To add more space, standard roof-rails allow an extra 75kg to be carried up top, although extra luggage might impact on the 52.3mpg claimed average fuel economy figure.
From the driver’s seat, the red-lit instrument panel lifts an otherwise plain outlook, with quality grey plastic the order of the day, apart from a splash of silver backing on the centre console.
Standard specification is generous and includes rear parking sensors, rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlights and a free TomTom navigation system with dashboard fitment. There are also steering wheel-mounted controls for the stereo.
On the downside, the cup holders are hidden under the dashboard, which makes them hard to access.
Road noise is well-suppressed and the car corners well, with nicely-weighted steering and a minimum of tyre scrabble under hard acceleration. Progress is swift and the 105bhp unit pulls strongly all the way to its redline, rather than suffering from torque peaks like some rival diesels.
All this comes at just £500 more than the standard Altea – and there seem to be few penalties for the driver, while the fleet manager gets better RVs, with CAP estimating 34% retained value for the XL against 33% for the standard model.
Overall, for a little extra you get quite a lot in terms of equipment, space and increased flexibility. Which begs the question – why wasn’t the Altea designed as an XL from the outset?
P11D value: £14,847
CO2 emissions (g/km): 146
BIK % of P11D in 2007: 19%
Graduated VED rate: £115
Insurance group: 5E
Combined mpg: 52.3
CAP RV (3yr/60k): £5,100/34%
Monthly lease (3yr/60k): £328
- More rear space
- Equipment level
- Build quality
We don’t like:
- Uninspiring interior
- SMR cost
- Hidden cup holders
THREE RIVALS TO CONSIDER
- Ford C-MAX 1.6 TDCi 90 Style
- Citroën C4 Picasso 1.6 HDi LX
- Renault Scenic 1.5 dCi 86 A/tique
A rare occurrence in the fleet sector – the Citroën is the most expensive to buy, coming with a £1,000 price premium over its rivals. It is the most powerful, though, with 110bhp compared with 105bhp for the SEAT, 90 for the Ford and 86 for the Renault.
EMISSIONS AND TAX RATES
The Renault’s front-end price and low emissions mean good news for company car drivers, resulting in a benefit-in-kind tax bill of £48 a month for a 22% taxpayer. The Ford is close behind, costing £1 per month more. The SEAT will cost £51 a month and the C4 Picasso £61.
Renault : 137g/km/18%
Ford takes top spot here with a £300 advantage compared to its nearest rival, the Renault Scenic. The SEAT is less than £100 behind over three years/60,000 miles, while the new Citroën comes in at nearly £600 more than the cheapest model in our test.
Ford: 2.76 (pence per mile) £1,656 (60,000 miles total)
Renault: 3.24 £1,944
SEAT: 3.51 £2,106
Citroën : 3.72 £2,232
All the models are exceptionally frugal, with the Citroën falling behind because it offers ‘only’ 47.9mpg on average. The others manage well over 50mpg, with the Ford hitting 58.9mpg, meaning a driver would save £1,000 compared to the Citroën over 60,000 miles.
Ford: 7.31 (pence per mile) £4,386 (60,000 mile total)
Renault: 7.77 £4,662
SEAT: 8.23 £4,938
Citroën: 8.98 £5,388
Depreciation can make or break a car’s challenge and the SEAT puts up a strong showing. CAP thinks it will retain 34% of its cost new after three years/60,000 miles. The C4 will retain 35% but its higher front-end price means more cash lost. The Ford will retain 32% and the Scenic 28%.
SEAT: 16.24 (pence per mile) £9,744 (60,000 miles total)
Ford: 16.87 £10,122
Citroën: 17.07 £10,242
Renault: 17.48 £10,488
The value-for-money Ford takes the running costs crown here, with a significant margin worth £600 per car over the nearest competitor, the SEAT. The other two are trailing, with their running costs falling into the £17,000 segment, not helped by higher depreciation.
Ford: 26.94 (pence per mile) £16,164 (60,000 miles total)
SEAT: 27.98 £16,788
Renault: 28.49 £17,094
Citroën: 29.77 £17,862
A difficult verdict. The Ford has a significant running costs advantage on paper over the SEAT, which is the other front runner.
However, this £600 advantage doesn’t reflect equipment levels and the SEAT puts the Ford in the shade with features ranging from standard satellite navigation to electric rear windows. To get similar equipment levels in the C-MAX would cost significantly more money – the next cheapest Ford is £1,000 more and still doesn’t come with sat-nav as standard.
- WINNER: SEAT Altea XL 1.9 TDI Stylance