Class-leading emissions and impressive dynamics turn the Altea into a worthy contender

What is it?

Seat’s five-seat mini MPV has undergone an eco makeover. Both the standard Altea and larger Altea XL models have been given the firm’s Ecomotive badge, which brings with it VW Group’s 1.6-litre common-rail, direct-injection TDI engine, a stop-start system and energy recuperation technology.

These changes have given both models CO2 emissions of 119g/km, which qualifies the Altea for £35 road tax. Common eco features on similarly badge cars including lowered ride height, low resistance tyres and modified aerodynamics have all been left off the Altea.

Seat says the CO2 savings these offer would not make the car’s overall output low enough to drop it into a lower tax bracket and were therefore not worth applying at this stage. Think of it as an Ecomotive light.

What’s it like?

Impressive. The Altea has always been a competent performer, with decent dynamic ability, but it makes even more sense with the Ecomotive badge attached to the back of it. The 1.6 TDI engine certainly allows it to mix with the class best.

The engine is smooth and refined both in town and on the motorway, while there’s enough torque to ensure swift progress through the gears. Its 104bhp is capable of powering its 1405kg weight and its rare to find yourself in a position where you feel wanting more.

The dynamics are unusually sharp for the class, with its ride quality smooth and soft without ever becoming intrusive. Tyre noise can be an issue though, particularly on motorways.

The XL offers spacious interior, especially for those in the back. It lacks the seven-seat flexibility of some of its rivals (its platform won’t allow it), but its large boot space partly compensates for this.

The raised driving position offers a good view of the road and the steering wheel is both reach and rake adjustable. One problem, however, is its large A-pillars, which really impede visibility especially at junctions and going around sharper corners. Rear visibility is also a flaw.

Should I buy one?

Other more polluting Alteas were never likely to crop up on many buyers shopping lists, but with equipped the 1.6 TDI engine, mixing with the improved performance, fuel economy and tax savings, the Altea certainly now makes a stronger case for itself.

The XL model is worth investing the extra £500 over the standard Altea due to the increased space and no noticeable compromise in performance or economy. Its competitive pricing (tipped to be £16,500 for the standard model) makes the Altea a worthy competitor in its class.

What’s more, its more established (and expensive) mainstream rivals including the Volkswagen Touaran and Vauxhall Zafira can’t match its emissions figure. If economy and efficiency are your primary concerns, then the Ecomotive Altea could well be mini MPV for you.

Mark Tisshaw

Title: Editor

Mark is a journalist with more than a decade of top-level experience in the automotive industry. He first joined Autocar in 2009, having previously worked in local newspapers. He has held several roles at Autocar, including news editor, deputy editor, digital editor and his current position of editor, one he has held since 2017.

From this position he oversees all of Autocar’s content across the print magazine, website, social media, video, and podcast channels, as well as our recent launch, Autocar Business. Mark regularly interviews the very top global executives in the automotive industry, telling their stories and holding them to account, meeting them at shows and events around the world.

Mark is a Car of the Year juror, a prestigious annual award that Autocar is one of the main sponsors of. He has made media appearances on the likes of the BBC, and contributed to titles including What Car?Move Electric and Pistonheads, and has written a column for The Sun.

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timeserved 20 January 2010

Re: Seat Altea XL Ecomotive

Sorry Autocar but have you really driven the 1.6 Tdi Altea XL ? Yes you may only pay £35 tax but you will be in for such an unispiring drive that you may fall asleep !

I have the 1.9Tdi and the performance is underwhelming in that and if you put the climatic air conditioning on you will need to leave plenty of space when overtaking.

The 1.6Tdi common rail engine only just manages to perform adaquately in the Ibiza which I think is on the Polo running gear. Having said that it is a smooth and very quiet power unit.

Being underpowered the fuel economy also suffers. If you get 44mpg you will be doing well so what you save in road tax you will pay in fuel duty. This economy is far worse than some of the earlier Tdi engines fitted in the VW/SEAT range

The Altea XL needs power of at least 130bhp for the engine to be on top of the job, to give relaxed driving and to return decent mpg.

Will86 5 December 2009

Re: Seat Altea XL Ecomotive

TegTypeR wrote:

"One problem, however, is its large A-pillars, which really impede visibility especially at junctions and going around sharper corners. Rear visibility is also a flaw."

It's still considerably better than its sibling Leon, which at times can be plain dangerous!

As a package though, the Altea is a much under rated car full stop. These enhancements only go to making it even better!

The Altea may have a lot going for it, but the visibility issues are such that they ruin an otherwise very good car. It's not under rated, it's flawed.

theonlydt 4 December 2009

Re: Seat Altea XL Ecomotive


Not wishing to brown-nose here, try to curry favour and being completely off-topic - it's really nice that you reply on the threads in this forum! It's nice to have certain things clarified easily.