Journalists tend to have a more cynical outlook on life than people in other professions.
So when the SEAT Altea Free-track 4 was announced, my immediate reaction went along the lines of “obviously can’t afford to develop a proper SUV, so they’ve bastardised one of their existing cars”.
But having spent a day driving one, I’ve become less cynical about it.
True, the Freetrack is a halfway house model but it doesn’t pretend to be anything else.
It’s based on the Altea XL – a longer version of the Altea, but with four-wheel drive, body cladding and 40mm extra ground clearance over its cousins.
More importantly, it gives SEAT a presence in the burgeoning small SUV sector.
Prices range from £20,495 to £21,395, but the Freetrack comes with a lot of kit as standard.
As well as four-wheel drive, equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, rain-sensing wipers, MP3-compatible CD player and a multi-media system for rear passengers.
Behind the wheel
As the Freetrack is a quasi-SUV, its off-road ability is compromised. I tackled some fairly steep and slippery slopes in it, but for serious off-roading it’s best looking elsewhere.
However, it can cope with some rough stuff, although its natural habitat is on the road where it drives very similarly to a regular Altea.
The TDI diesel is the model to go for – it pulls well out of roundabouts in third or fourth gear, and its torque level is more suited for some light off-roading.
For someone who wants the rugged appearance of an SUV but doesn’t want to go the whole hog, the Freetrack fills the niche. The diesel is the model to choose, although at this price point it faces some stiff competition.
|Model:||2.0 TSI||2.0 TDI|
|Max power (bhp/rpm):||200/5,100||170/4,200|
|Max torque (lb-ft/rpm):||207/1,800||258/1,800|
|Max speed (mph):||133||127|
|Fuel consumption (mpg):||30.1||41.5|
|CO2 emissions (g/km):||223||179|