Anybody familiar with Seat’s product line-up might point out that the Spanish car-maker offers one of the best seven seaters currently on sale. It’s called the Alhambra and is a big, comfortable, practical and competitively priced people carrier. What it’s not, however, is an SUV. That’s where the new Tarraco comes in, offering an alternative seven-seat solution in a body style that is much more on-trend.
SEAT’S MOST PREMIUM CAR TO DATE
Seat is rightly optimistic about the Tarraco’s prospects. After all, its other SUVs – the mid-size Ateca and baby Arona – have been flying out of showrooms since being launched in 2016 and 2017 respectively, and between them account for 35% of Seat’s new car sales. Combined with a continued strong showing from its VW Golf-rivalling hatchback, the Leon, this puts Seat in good health; sales are up 60% since 2012, and revenue has increased by 33% in the past five years. What’s more, with UK sales up 12% from 2017 to 2018 (to just shy of 63,000 units), Seat is currently the fastest-growing car company in the country in terms of volume.
Launching the Tarraco, then, isn’t so much a bold move as an obvious one. Not only does it increase Seat’s presence in the still growing market for SUVs, but by being big and expensive it allows the company to highlight how far it has come in terms of quality and technology with its most premium vehicle to date.
PART OF THE VW GROUP
As to what ‘premium’ means to Seat, think sweeping LED indicators (the Tarraco is the first of the company’s cars to use this tech), plenty of equipment (all models get seven seats, for example), plus the inclusion of an 8-inch touchscreen, Seat’s take on the VW Group’s digital dial display, and the availability of 20-inch alloy wheels.
With many of these features being borrowed from VW, it’s not terribly surprising that sitting in the Tarraco feels much like sitting in a Tiguan Allspace (which in turn feels much like sitting in a Skoda Kodiaq). Of course, to some degree you could say the same thing about all Seats and their VW Group equivalents, but with the Tarraco the impression is enhanced due to the nature of the car not really lending itself to the kind of youthful, sporty touches the brand might ordinarily employ.
It’s a similar story on the outside, for while this flagship model is being used to preview styling elements that we will see on future Seats – most notably in the design of the LED headlights – it is still very much of the VW Group large SUV mould.
SEAT TARRACO PRACTICALITY
What it lacks in youthful zeal, the Tarraco makes up for with space. You really can get seven people in one of these, plus some luggage, which instantly makes it more useful than a Land Rover Discovery Sport. In the second row there’s acres of legroom, as well as the ability to slide the seats fore and aft and tilt the backrests. Unlike a Peugeot 5008, you don’t get three individual rear seats, but one long bench that splits in a 60:40 configuration. This also means there’s only two sets of Isofix mountings points, rather than three.
Access to the third row of seats is reasonable, and there’s enough room once in for a couple of kids to be happy, although an Alhambra is roomier still.
It’s a similar story with the boot, which by SUV standards is a highly respectable 700 litres with the rear seats folded. But once again an Alhambra wins when it comes to practicality thanks to its 809-litre load bay when in five-seat configuration.
The Tarraco fights back by being a trendier, less utilitarian vehicle, as well as having a much more modern interior design than its nine-year-old stablemate. Unless ultimate practicality is the deciding factor, it is surely the one you’d choose.
WHAT’S THE SEAT TARRACO LIKE TO DRIVE?
The Tarraco is initially available with two petrol engines and one diesel. The former are the VW Group’s 1.5-litre turbo unit with 148bhp and 184lb ft of torque, or a 2.0-litre with 187bhp and 236lb ft. The latter, a 2.0-litre diesel, can be had with either 148bhp/250lb ft or 187bhp/295lb ft. Depending on engine, buyers can also have access to a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, and front- or four-wheel drive. The range kicks off with the 1.5-litre turbo petrol manual with front-wheel drive in SE trim, which retails for £28,335. A plug-in hybrid is set to follow in 2020.
Our test centred on a 2.0-litre, 148bhp diesel with the manual gearbox and front-wheel drive. In in SE Technology spec and this comes in at £30,820. And if that sounds pricey, consider that a VW Tiguan Allspace with the same drivetrain has a list price of £32,695.
While the price might be a surprise, the driving experience almost certainly won’t be. Because for any claims Seat might make about the Tarraco being engineered for a sportier drive than other large SUVs, the reality is that its strengths lie in just how competent it feels. This is a generally smooth, quiet and grippy vehicle, and while the body will inevitably heave over if you corner really quickly, the chances you’ll be tempted to do so in something that weighs over two tonnes seem pretty small.
Performance is similarly appropriate, with the 148bhp diesel taking 9.8 seconds to get from 0-62mph, and pulling willingly in-gear. The gearbox itself shifts as cleanly and as easily as one could hope, although we’d be tempted to opt for the DSG automatic for its added ease. More than anything, the Tarraco epitomises just how far these big SUVs have come, for once used to its size it is no more difficult to drive than a family hatchback.
With the Tarraco Seat hasn’t so much rewritten the rulebook for seven-seat SUVs as followed it to a T. While that means there aren’t any surprises in the way it goes about its business, it also ensures there are no major flaws. If you’re in the market for a big, well-priced SUV then it really should be on your shortlist.
Price: Seat Tarraco from £28,335. As tested in SE Technology 2.0 TDI DSG 4Drive, £34,010
0-62mph: 9.8 seconds
Top speed: 123mph
Fuel economy: 50.4mpg (Combined)
SEAT TARRACO RIVALS
Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace
The latest Tiguan has been a strong seller for VW, limited only by its five-seat configuration. So adding an extra two seats to create the Tiguan Allspace seemed like an obvious move. The result is a well-rounded SUV, although the third row isn’t quite as accommodating as the Kodiaq’s.
Search for a used Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace on CarGurus
Skoda is a brand built on offering value, quality and the odd surprise. The Kodiaq fulfils that brief perfectly, especially when ordered in the very practical seven-seat configuration. What’s more, with a range that goes from an entry-level 1.4 petrol all the way up to the twin turbo vRS, there’s something to suit everybody.
Search for a used Skoda Kodiaq on CarGurus
For the latest X-Trail Nissan steered away from the utilitarian design of its predecessors in favour of a sleeker, more modern look and frugal engines that align it with the hugely popular Qashqai. Throw in the option of a seven-seat configuration and it’s not difficult to see why it’s been so popular.
Search for a used Nissan X-Trail on CarGurus
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