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Turning squeezy into easy-peasy!

Byline: MOTORING WITH LEE GIBSON DRIVETIME

WITH the rise in popularity of SUVs the people carrier, once ubiquitous on the school run, has fallen down the pecking order for family car buyers.

However, for anyone who regularly has to carry more than five passengers these family buses are still the sensible choice in my book.

Sure, some of the larger SUVs and crossovers give you the option of two extra seats - but invariably they're only really big enough for kids, require the agility levels of an Olympic gymnast to clamber into and mean you can forget about any usable boot space.

A well thought out large MPV, such as SEAT's Alhambra, avoids these issues and adds extra practical touches designed to make family motoring just a little less stressful.

Sliding rear doors, for instance, make getting in and out of the back seats a cinch, even in tight spaces in the supermarket car park, and the individually sliding and folding middle row of seats means that getting into the rearmost pair is pretty much contortion free.

Then there are the aircraftstyle flip-up tables on the front seat backs and extra storage compartments, including in the floor, which are useful when you've got multiple children wanting to eat, drink and use and stow their stuff while travelling.

With SEAT's EasyFold system the second and third-row seats can be quickly collapsed into the vehicle's floor, freeing up almost 2.3 cubic metres of load space.

With just the third row seats down the Alhambra provides a capacious and family-friendly 658 litres of boot space when loaded to the windows, and even with all seven seats in use there is room for a decent weekly shop.

A host of possible seating configurations offer many ways to balance space between passengers and cargo of various shapes and sizes, With decent head and leg room all round though, passengers will always be able to get comfortable, with even the rearmost seats capable of accommodating adults with ease.

The expansive glass real estate also means the cabin is light and airy and affords the driver and passengers a good all round view, while the fixtures and fittings all have a reassuring solidity and appealing, soft-touch materials adorn many surfaces.

Factor in the generous equipment levels across all three trims - SE, SE L and XCELLENCE - and the Alhambra is a pleasant motor to get around in.

All cars get alloy wheels, rear privacy glass, a touchscreen infotainment system, satnav, integrated sunblinds in the rear doors, three-zone climate control, cruise control, blind spot detection, lane keep assist and automatic emergency braking. Our range-topping car added an electric panoramic sunroof, electrically adjustable, heated front sports seats, reversing camera, keyless entry and ignition powered sliding rear doors and a powered tailgate.

Vehicles with all this room will by necessity, of course, be somewhat boxy and van-like, and the Alhambra's no exception.

However, it neither drives nor rides like a van with a choice of punchy but efficient and pretty refined engines offering plenty of pull, even when the Alhambra's loaded up, and a supple suspension ensuring any lumps and bumps in the road are dealt with effectively.

Our vehicle had a 177PS, 2.0-litre diesel powerplant under the bonnet mated to a smooth six-speed manual gearbox and proved wellmannered in town traffic but with pace aplenty for cruising on the motorway.

As you'd expect from any car this size, there is some body roll in bends and driver engagement and nimble handling are not really its forte - but neither are they meant to be.

The steering is well weighted and accurate, though, and the Alhambra is an uncomplicated, even relaxing, motor to drive.

They may not be the height of fashion any more, but if you have a large family and value functionality over form, a big MPV still has plenty of advantages - and the Alhambra should be on your short list.

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FAST FACTS | Model: SEAT Alhambra XCELLENCE 2.0 TDI 177PS 6-speed DSG | Price: PS38,855 | Mechanical: 177PS, 1,968cc diesel engine driving front wheels via 6-speed automatic transmission | Max speed: 130mph | 0-62mph: 9.3 seconds | Combined mpg: 40.4 | Insurance group: 22 | CO2 emissions: 147g/km | Bik rating: 37% | Warranty: 3yrs / 60,000 miles

Sliding and folding seats means that getting into the rearmost pair is pretty much contortion free

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| The Alhambra is perfect if you have a large family and value functionality
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:MOTORING WITH LEE GIBSON DRIVETIME
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Feb 9, 2020
Words:760
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