SEAT have been ‘bigging’ the new Altea XL … but does it measure up?

By Philip Hedderman
We live in a world of soundbites.
Tragic, I know but we’re so busy running around doing whatever that everything else has to be condensed so we can fit as much as possible in.
For some Twitter and Tweeting sums up this particular phenomena and they literally live through this medium.
Each to their own, but it’s something I personally don’t get.
What I do get is the quick fix solution –  snippets of information which get updated by the minute.
That got me thinking about my own affliction – all things automotive – and how it would fit in my little petrol world.
Taking me around this world right now is the SEAT Altea XL – a high roofed, roomier big brother of the hugely successful people carrier, the Altea.
So is there a soundbite for it.
Well, if ever an MPV were summed up in two words it would be ‘family values’ … or rather ‘values family’.
Our loved ones, especially children and their safety and well being is the very foundation of this carriage.
Every nook, cranny, gadget, and feature inside was designed for a that very specific reason and it’s immediately apparent when you climb inside.
This is why this segment of vehicle is the most contested of all and every inch means a mile to that most discerning of customer.
You see, when you have a growing brood there are so many things to consider when buying a vehicle.
The pecking order will change according the individual clan but space will not be too far off the top of the list.
Now the last offering was massive and the new model is even bigger (almost 19cms longer than the Altea) and more versatile with a boot capacity of of 532 litres – 123 litres more that little bro.
But as anyone who has spent the guts of a Bank Holiday stuck in traffic with three narky kids and an equally irritated wife will tell you – it’s  the personal space which counts the most.
The front seats are fitted with fold-down airplane-style shelves at the rear – an absolute must if you have under 10s who can happily colour away to their hearts’ content.
There is oceans of storage too with cubby holes everywhere for the Nintendos, drinks and all the other creature comforts needed for a long journey.
The genius though is in the versatility of the seating arrangements.
Not only are the pews adjustable in that they slide forwards and back, they are also split into three and foldable to whatever variation suit your needs, giving you as many options as possible.
Among those possibilities is a picture in the press pack of a mid-range mountain bike sitting upright in the boot whilst all three seats are up.
Now, we didn’t test it that thoroughly, but the high roofline and lower sill does mean that it is capable of carrying just about anything.
With the high ceiling comes the elevated driving position – which is particularly popular amongst lady drivers, especially my missus.
Let’s face it, they may not buy one, but the main drivers of a bus like this will be the yummy mummy and its main terrain will be the schoolrun, shopping and all the other extra curricular activities.
Thank God for multi tasking and of course the MPV but nipping here and there these days can prove expensive.
Luckily SEAT’s secret weapon here is the uber efficient and frugal 1.6 litre diesel Ecomotive powerplant which has very low emissions (119g/km – €104 a year tax) while returning over 65mpg (or 4.1 L/100kms).
The Stop/Start system is standard on the Eco model and can be deactivated if the driver finds it a little unnerving.
It quite sprightly too churning out a very respectable 105bhp giving it ample grunt for overtaking or cruising on a motorway.
Speaking of motorway driving, I was a tad disappointed at the absence of cruise control and a sixth gear – a must for anyone doing above average mileage or indeed, living outside the Pale.
That said, it didn’t effect the ride which was absolutely superb considering the tall nature of the design and the fact that it is carrying a little more weight than a normal car.
There is plenty of goodies, but only on the higher end models and the top spec Style has a raft of extras including cruise control, on-board computer,  electric heated folding mirrors, front fogs and snazzy alloys.
The only drawback is the extra cash you will part with to get bits and pieces we’ve all come to expect like electric rear windows.
I got caught on the first day with three in the back when suddenly the windows wound themselves down.
At least with electric ones the driver has the ability to lock them from the front removing the temptation to shout at the less fortunate students who have to walk home.
That is a classic symptom of the parent company (VW) and after all the Altea XL is more or less a Golf Plus in a cheaper suit.
Still, It’s hard to not to ignore the extra couple of grand which gives it a huge advantage over the Ford C-Max, Scenic and the German cousin we mentioned earlier.
For drive, comfort and above all, the economy the Altea XL is up there with the best of them.
Prices start at  €20,430 (non scrappage) and the Irish favourites will be the 1.2 litre TSI petrol engine and the 1.6litre 105bhp diesel.