SEAT Alhambra

Surrey to the Savoie in SEAT’s Palace on wheels

For our household, the Easter Holidays means the annual must-have ski trip to the French Alps.  This year, in common with the last 3 or 4 we had chosen to drive to our resort and courtesy of we had the use of a new SEAT Alhambra. The car in question was the Ecomotive 2.0 diesel with the brilliant VW group DSG auto gearbox.  This vehicle had lots of other clever features which would suit any family on the move: built-in child seats; lots of storage; stargazing double sun roof; reclining 2nd row seats, cruise control, flappy paddle gear change (not really needed in a car like this), parking sensors…the list goes on.

The one missing item was a Sat Nav.  Having done the journey a few times before this wasn’t a great concern, but it is nice to have the security of knowing where you are and the predicted journey duration, as well as a fall-back in case of a diversion.  So, we borrowed a Tom-Tom.  But, more on that later.

The Alhambra was indeed palatial in terms of the space.  We loaded 4 pairs of skis, 4 pairs of ski boots, a snowboard, several ski helmets, jackets, clothes, copious food and drink for the journey and still had 4 of the available 7 seats free for passengers as well as full vision out of each of the many windows.

This year, without needing a roof box due the Alhambra’s internal space, we slotted comfortably into the standard car section on our pre booked Eurotunnel departure.  Arriving in France, fully equipped with the requisite hi-viz vests, breath test kits and spare bulbs etc, we were impressed to see that diesel was priced at 1.46 Euros per litre – the same numbers, just a different currency, as in the pre-departure fill up in Surrey.

The first leg of our journey was uneventful, cruising effortlessly on the peaceful toll roads at the dry weather speed limit of 80mph.  Such a sensible law; to have different dry and wet weather speed limits – score one up to the French.

The Tom-Tom unit fitted easily on to the large windscreen and setting the destination was completely intuitive, not requiring any reference back to the instructions, which for me is the acid test.  While a lot smaller than the typical in-built unit we have become accustomed to, its accuracy was spot-on throughout the journey.  There are very easy to follow countdown and lane indicators (I can’t comment on the audio instructions, we have to turn those off on any Sat Nav).  All in all the Tom-Tom was easier to use than some built-in units.  This was a pleasant surprise and completely overcame our disappointment in there being no unit in the dashboard.

By the time we reached our stop-over point – a hotel near Beaune, in the Burgundy region, we had topped 41 MPG and it remained above this level throughout the rest of the journey. We had also developed a great deal of respect for the low noise and high comfort levels the Alhambra delivered.

The next day and the final leg to our ski resort turned into something of a Top Gear style Jezza vs Hamster & James race.  Our eldest son was en route to the same resort, but instead of the comfort of the Alhambra, he was in an overnight long-haul coach with 52 other students from a London Uni.  The Alhambra team had slept in until 08:30, by which time we discovered via the miracle of SMS that the coach had over-taken us and was an hour further down the road!  Resigned to losing the race, that wasn’t even meant to be a race, we breakfasted leisurely and then plodded on at the legal cruising limit.  Not very Top Gear like, I know.  After a couple of hours another text was delivered, which gave us new hope. The coach had stopped for provisions at 1992 Winter Olympic host town of Albertville.  While the students stocked up on nutritious provisions (yeah right!) we closed the gap.  We later learned that 1 or 2 of the students were very, very keen shoppers, so to cut a long story short, the Alhambra glided past Albertville and took the lead and, inevitably a comfortable win as the last 12 miles or so, were uphill on the classic winding Alpine road.

The return journey was equally comfortable and economical but otherwise uneventful, apart from the torrential rain we encountered as we drove the last leg in England! Interestingly, at one of French services we stopped next to a new VW Sharan of almost identical colour.  The badge was different, the alloy wheels were of a slightly different pattern, but otherwise these two cars are the same, the SEAT is just a good deal less expensive.

SEAT Alhambra 2.0 Diesel Ecomotive

Best features:

  1. DSG auto gear box
  2. Clever folding seats
  3. Quiet engine
  4. Comfort for front and rear passengers
  5. +40 mpg with a full load

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