Seat Alhambra, 04-reg to 10-reg

Seat Alhambra exterior

Why it's a great used buy

The current-model Alhambra is What Car?'s reigning MPV of the Year 2013, but as it went on sale only three years ago and has strong residual values, you're unlikely to find one for under £10,000. Look instead for the previous, first-generation Alhambra, produced between 1996-2010 with updates in 2000 and 2004 that between them brought seven seats as standard, slightly updated looks and more equipment. It isn't quite as big or as practical as today's Alhambra but it's still very spacious and can seat seven adults in comfort. 
 
Seat Alhambra interior
 

What it's like to drive and use

Despite having space to seat seven adults in roomy individual seats, the Alhambra doesn't feel it size to drive, thanks to its responsive steering and good body control. The dashboard is intuitively laid out and all-round visibility is good. The Alhambra is also quiet and comfortable to ride in, with suspension that's soft enough to soak up most bumps but taut enough to prevent the car from leaning over too much in bends, which is good news for those in the back. 
 
Seat Alhambra rear seats 1
 
Bear in mind that in Alhambras of this vintage the backs of the rear seats fold down, and the seats can be tumbled forward to free up more luggage space (and provide access to the rear) but if you want to make use of the car's maximum load space you need to remove the seats completely, which is awkward and hard work. Still, if you don't need the extra space very often or have somewhere to store the seats when they're not in use, that may not be a problem. 
 
Seat Alhambra rear seats 2
 
With just five seats in place, the boot is huge, and usefully square and flat. Seven-up, there's room for a slim-folding pushchair and a few bags if you can manage to pile them in a sort of rectangular tower behind the tall rearmost seats. Some Alhambras may have been fitted with an optional integrated child booster seat, but bear in mind that the one aimed at very young children uses only a three-point harness as opposed to the five-point one that's now standard for off-the-shelf Group 1 child seats. 
 
Seat Alhambra boot 1
 

Our pick 

Diesel
2.0 TDI PD Stylance
Typical price £9779 for '09/58 with 56,000 miles 
This engine has plenty of muscle to haul a fully-loaded Alhambra (even if its maximum oomph is available only at certain revs), yet fuel economy is fairly good - expect around 38-42mpg. Stylance was the top trim when '58-reg cars were new, and included front and rear parking sensors, dual-zone climate control and a heated windscreen. 
 
Petrol
2.0 Reference
Typical price £5634 for '09/58 with 56,000 miles 
Petrol buyers will be limited to the slightly weedy 113bhp 2.0 engine unless they're happy to take the risk of a much older car; the stronger (and turbocharged) 1.8T was only available until 2003. On later cars, the 2.0-litre petrol was only available with entry-level Reference trim, but that doesn't mean it's short of kit – the long spec list includes four electric windows, climate control, cruise control, alloy wheels and ten speakers for the stereo. Bear in mind that Reference cars have slightly softer suspension than higher trims, and don't feel quite as responsive to drive.  
 
Safety info on these models
NCAP rating Not tested (Alhambra first tested in 2010)
Rear airbags? Yes, for both rows of rear seats
Isofix? On all five rear seats
Front passenger airbag deactivation? Standard
 

Problems to watch out for

The air-con is a known weak spot on first-generation Alhambras, so be sure to test it properly on your test drive; it may just need re-gassing but a major fault could land you with a four-figure bill. Make sure all of the electrically-operated systems work as they should (several gremlins have been reported by owners) and check that the mileage given in the car's service history book fits in with the odometer reading you see on the forecourt – the Alhambra wears its miles well, but this can make it a target for 'clocking', where a seller illegally adjusts the mileage to make the car seem younger than it is.