Emerging from the market leading Ford/VW/Seat MPV development triumvirate, the Alhambra boasts all the virtues of its brothers but stands out when it comes to value for money, offering more generous standard provisions than the Galaxy or Sharan.
The original 1996 Seat Alhambra came with the choice of the same 2.0 litre petrol and 1.9 litre turbo diesel engines used in the VW Sharan. These were joined in 1998 by a 110bhp version of the diesel, only available in seven-seater variants and soon after by a 1.8 litre turbocharged petrol unit. In 1999 a luxury variant was released, the Gran Via, with the petrol turbo powerplant and six plush 'Captain's' seats with leather upholstery.
A 2000 facelift to bring the Alhambra in line with Seat's company-wide branding policy gave the Alhambra more personality of its own rather than as an adjunct of a cost-saving development programme. Engine line-up was uprated to a 115bhp TDi PD unit, followed swiftly by a 2.8 litre V6 petrol unit. A new six-speed manual gearbox was made available and both the exterior and cabin benefited from more sophisticated styling.
2003 brought us a 130bhp diesel turbo addition to the SE trim level, which in 2005 was upgraded to a new 140bhp 2.0 litre TDi, at the same time that the V6 petrol unit was thrown on the scrapheap.
The approved used Seat Alhambra was modernised in 2010 and given a larger but sleeker form.
Bang for your buck
In standard MPV style and following the pattern of its stable mates, the Alhambra comes with five or seven seats. All the rear seats can be folded down, turned around or removed completely, with myriad configuration options. The downside is the sheer heft needed to achieve this flexibility, as the seats are not lightweight, so moving them around requires some forward planning.
In terms of cost and size, the Seat Alhambra for sale compares with your average medium or large family estate car but the interior has been configured, Tardis-style, to maximise the space available. The elevated driving position and greenhouse-like cockpit make driving a pleasure.
Where the Alhambra gains over the Galaxy and VW Sharan is its generous convenience features. Unlike the others, Seat provided air-conditioning and a comprehensive three-year warranty as standard from the beginning and later added twin front airbags, remote control central locking, electric front windows, anti-lock brakes and cruise-control as part of the basic package. There was also a wide range of optional extras including ESP(Electronic Stability Programme), a leather/alcantara seat trim option, a fridge, side airbags and front/rear split climate control.
In general, build-quality is excellent, particularly after the 2000 revisions, with higher quality materials taking the cabin almost to luxury standards.
What you'll pay
High customer satisfaction levels mean that although the Seat Alhambra sold well, used models are fairly thin on the ground as owners aren't keen to part with them. However, keen pricing from new means that second-hand Alhambras are affordable if you can track one down. Year 2000 2.0 litre S models can be had for under £2,000, while the diesels are more desirable – a W-reg S trim turbo diesel will be closer to £3,000. Sportier 2.8 V6 variants will cost you a little over £4,000.
What to check
There have been reports of noisy, clanking transmissions due to a lengthened gear linkage system, while as with all family cars trim damage is endemic. MPVs also generally suffer from parking damage. A full service history is, as usual, essential.
You're looking at £315 for a clutch assembly kit, £240 for a new exhaust system and £220 for an alternator with exchange. A set of front pads will set you back £75 while a replacement headlight should cost you about £175.
How it drives
The Galaxy/Sharan/Alhambra triumvirate are all renowned for their driving experience. These MPVs drive like a car rather than the van their body shapes might suggest. That remarkable chassis keeps the Alhambra tight on corners and the larger engines have a rewarding amount of shove to them if you don't mind paying for the fuel! In terms of ride there's really nothing to choose between the three, but as a second-hand buy the Alhambra makes the most sense, with tighter pricing and better standard equipment than the other two. In addition, that generous warranty period should mean a used Seat Alhambra was well-maintained.