The Seat Altea is one of those invisible cars that’s talented where it matters but, being of advancing years, is under the radar of most car buyers. Yet it’s a well-rounded family vehicle that offers practicality, comfort, good equipment levels and a dynamic drive.
It has a more stylish design than most compact MPVs, but it still has virtually no profile in the new car market. This means the Altea is less in demand on the used market so prices are very tempting. The key problem the Altea faces is that many newer rivals can take seven. With room for five only — even in Altea XL guise — the Seat could do with more seats.
Launched in 2004, the Altea originally came with a 1.6 or 2.0 FSI petrol engine or a 2.0 TDI diesel option, the latter easily being the pick of the bunch. A few years later came a 197bhp 2.0 TFSI powerplant, as seen in the Golf GTI; it’s a great unit, but out of place in a family carry-all. It was at this point (2007) that the Altea XL appeared. Stretched by 187mm over a standard Altea, it offered the same engine choices and trim levels, but with even more practicality.
If the Altea is rare, it’s almost ubiquitous compared with what came in August 2007: a four-wheel-drive variant called the Freetrack4. With a 2.0 TDI or 2.0 TSI engine, the Freetrack4 makes a great tow car, especially in diesel form. Whatever version you buy, though, go for the facelifted model, launched in summer 2009. With an overhauled interior plus more standard kit, this offers 1.4, 1.4 TSI and 1.6 TDI engine choices, too, the last offering real-world economy of getting on for 60mpg.
If buying a pre-facelift Altea, avoid Essence trim; it’s too spartan when a much better-equipped Reference edition will be available for a similar amount. This higher-spec Altea features air-con, a CD/tuner and electric front windows, while Stylance trim adds alloy wheels, cruise control and powered windows for the rear. If buying a facelifted model, go for an SE over the S alternative; it’s much better equipped.
It would be easy to assume that the Altea’s age counts against it, but look more closely and you’ll see it’s still a contender. Sharp looks, excellent reliability, strong engines and generous equipment levels make this a tempting used buy. Most importantly, though, for a people carrier, the Altea is also practical and comfortable, especially the XL vesrion. So if you’re after great family transport, don’t overlook this stylish Spaniard.
What to look out for when buying a used Seat Altea
The key issue for Altea owners is failure of the antilock braking control module on earlier cars; replacing it is costly. Other potential maladies include a notchy gearchange on manual cars, creaks and squeaks from the interior trim, part-time cruise control systems and paintwork damage. Four recalls shouldn’t give any real cause for concern, although they’re spread fairly evenly over the Altea’s lifespan. They were issued for flywheel failures on manual 2.0 TDI editions, problems with the DSG gearbox and fuel leaks.
The one to buy
Seat Altea XL 2.0 TDI 140 SE
- 1968cc, 4 cylinders
- 138bhp @ 4200rpm
- 236 lb ft @ 1750rpm
- 6-speed manual
- 0-62mph in 9.8sec
- Top Speed:
- 51.4mpg (combined)
- Road Tax Band:
- L 4469mm, W 1768mm, H 1581mm