NOT SO MINI
Technical analisys: Seat Alhambra
A popular Minivan, with a loading capacity and features commonly found on a Grand Tourer, comfortable for up to 7 passengers
High-end minivans or MPVs, represented a true revolution in family vehicles back in the 90s, and are still a viable alternative in the quest for maximum space, enjoying, at the same time, the comfort offered by high-end sedans and station wagons. Furthermore, the reduced interest in this category hasn’t at all influenced their technical development; in fact, if anything, it strengthened the quality and image of these vehicles, reaffirming their important role among the options available even to the most demanding clientele.
A striking example of a roomy Touring Minivan concept that evolved over time, the veteran Alhambra, has been a familiar name on price lists and catalogues for over two decades, thanks to a continuous work of upgrading, the latest one dated 2015, and performed as usual under the aegis of the Volkswagen Group.
A CLUB FOR SEVEN
No lack of space or luxury, if desired. A cosy and silent interior with two trim levels, Style and Advance, gives the Alhambra a feel of great comfort, although this iconic Spanish minivan still preserves some sporty ambitions, thanks to its 184 hp top-of-the-range engine, DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission, adaptive suspensions and permanent 4Drive.
The latest updates change very little in terms of aesthetics compared to the previous series, preserving those characteristics that have made it one of the leaders in its segment. A little more than 4,85 meters in length, a width of 1,90 m and a height of 1,72, the Alhambra appeals more for its pragmatic approach than its “powerful” presence, with an aerodynamically efficient body shape (a Cx of 0,299) and stylistic features remind us of the car’s family feeling, especially looking at the front end of the Alhambra, where new headlights and the arrow shaped front grille immediately recall the stylistic philosophy of the company based in Martorell. Updates are focused mainly on the Bi-Xenon LED Headlights with AFS directional system in the front and new LED Tail Lights at the back, interior trim with multi-function steering wheel included, new and more efficient engines and, obviously a new alloy wheel design, with a size choice of 16 and 17 inches, depending on the version, and an optional 18” too with tire sizes ranging between a 205 or 215/60 R16, 225/50 R17 ending with a 225/45 R18 low profile. The interior is dominated by the space element, as expected, with clever expedients aimed at maximizing its versatility. For example, the second and third row of seats can be folded under the floor, through an EasyFold system, so as to obtain, if necessary, a huge and perfectly flat cargo area. Two electric sliding doors provide access for the passengers just as a rear electric hatch make loading the luggage as well as bags and other loads simple and easy, being able to rely on a 267 liters load capacity of the luggage compartment, expandable to 809 in 5 seats configuration, not to mention the amazing 2,430 liters (almost 2.5 cubic meters of volume) in a 2-seat configuration, using the entire back section as a 2.10 meter long loading deck.
Roomy behind and comfortable in front: facing a long journey has never been easier and more comfortable, both for the driver, who can benefit from a Massage Seat, and for passengers, thanks to large seats adjustable also longitudinally, a reliable and adequate air conditioning system, perfect for the individual need of the passengers through a separation of the air flow into three distinct areas.
Noteworthy too the new infotainment system, managed through a multi-function MFA 6,5” display and control keys located on the steering wheel, for easy access to the on-board GPS system, Full Link Technology allowing the driver to access emails and messages as well as listen to his favourite tunes, not to mention MirrorLink able to guarantee the maximum compatibility with any mobile device.
Simplicity is the key word for the new Alhambra, from a Kessy locking and starting system with a button on the console to a new generation ESP system not to mention the ever more popular Park Assist to easily access parking space even in crowded parking lots.
HIGHLY EFFICIENT DIESEL ENGINE
After “losing” two engines with the TSI petrol units packed away in the “attic”, Seat draws on Volkswagen’s heritage with a TDI engine, a single, modern 4-cylinder four-valve 2-liter unit, with common rail technology and Euro 6 approved, already used on a number of the group models in three different versions, with 115, 150 and 184 hp. In terms of performance the Alhambra deserves respect with top speeds ranging between 188 to 204 km/h and great acceleration (especially as we are talking about an MPV and not a sport sedan), equipped with an automatic six-speed DSG dual-clutch transmission, instead of the more traditional manual six-speed. In terms of fuel consumption, start-stop technology and regenerative braking help Seat’s MPV in claiming an average mileage of 20 and 17.8 km/liter, not bad considering the gross vehicle mass, just under 19 tons in running order, with an additional 100 kg for mechanical components on 4Drive models with permanent all-wheel drive systems.
It goes without saying that the platform on which the Alhambra was developed is the same as the Volkswagen Sharan, and both models share many technological features. A chassis with four independent suspensions, supported by auxiliary aluminum frames in order to offer the highest level of comfort, relying on traditional coil springs and hydraulic dampers, supported by anti-roll bars front and rear. As an option, adaptive chassis control DCC is available, which acts on the damper valves to adapt the response of the car to the road conditions.
The front wheel traction becomes a permanent all-wheel drive on versions with 4Drive systems, with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, while braking is guaranteed by four large ventilated discs (312 or 314 mm diameter in the front and 282 mm behind) managed by the inevitable Abs system.
Equipped with self-sealing tires as OE, able to instantly cope with any potential puncture lurking on the road, SEAT Alhambra does not provide, as standard, any type of accessory for emergency replacement, or a spare wheel nor a repair kit, though the latter can still be supplied as an option on request.