Wednesday 19 June 2019

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Seat’s SUV is pick of the VW triplets

Thursday, 28th March, 2019 8:52am

Looks aren’t everything of course.

Indeed, were you to ask the likes of Marilyn Monroe, you’d be told that good looks can actually be something of a curse, but nonetheless they count.

If something isn’t aesthetically pleasing, given our relatively shallow human nature, it’s not going to be popular.

Being called the best-looking SUV isn’t necessarily the highest of compliments. SUVs are, after all, by their nature rather more blocky and sturdy than slinky and sexy, but even taking that into account, I think Seat has pulled off something rather good with this new Tarraco.

As you’d expect, it’s a car that’s closely related to the two other VW Group products that swim in more or less the same price and style sea: the VW Tiguan Allspace and the Skoda Kodiaq.

Indeed, look at the Tarraco from side on and you’d be winning awards from your local optometrists’ society if you can reliably tell the Seat from the Skoda, so similar are they (hint; the Seat has a slightly more kicked-up rear windowline).

Around the front, though, with its new more sculptured grille and the rather attractive LED headlights, the Tarraco looks very smart, so I’m going to go out on a limb here and call it the best-looking of the three cars.

Like the Kodiaq and the Tiguan Allspace, the Tarraco’s wheelbase — the measured distance between the centres of the wheels — is a relatively lengthy 2.7 metres, and that extra length, relative to the mechanically-related, but smaller, Ateca, means that Seat can squeeze in seven seats.

Squeeze being the operative word.

Although there’s plenty of space, and no little comfort, in either of the front seats, or the rear bench, the folding seats in the boot are pretty tight.

It’s hard to overly-criticise the Tarraco for that, as small folding third row seats are pretty much endemic in this part of the marketplace, but it is worth noting that while this will be sold as a seven-seater, those extra seats are really for occasional use only.

Happily, Seat’s roomier, similarly-priced, but rather less fashionable, Alhambra MPV remains on sale, for those who value space above all else.

It’s also worth pointing out that those extra seats are an option, and a €1,000 option at that, so you’ll have to pay extra for something which some key rivals include as standard.

Apparently, it’s because some customers prefer to buy the Tarraco without the extra seats, but with the bigger boot.

That boot is pretty enormous, mind.

Even with the extra seats, once you’ve folded them flat you’ve got 700 litres to play with. That’s a tiny bit less than what you’d get in a Kodiaq, but still on the massive side of large.

Plenty enough for the sort of family duties that a Tarraco will be pressed into.

It’s pretty well priced and well-equipped, too. Basic SE models are more expensive than the cheapest Kodiaq (a car I keep mentioning quite simply because the two are so closely matched) but the Seat’s starting point is effectively one spec level higher, so it evens out when you start counting equipment.

As standard, that equipment includes 18 inch alloy wheels, a digital instrument panel, those LED headlights, cruise control, a rear parking camera, emergency braking, three-zone climate control, and a big eight-inch infotainment touchscreen, which looks rather smart and which has a sort of ‘semi-floating’ effect, compared to the Ateca’s more inset screen.

That big screen adds to a rather pleasing cabin ambience.

Being able to flip through different instrument panel layouts is a nice tough brought by the digital instruments, but the Tarraco’s cabin is actually better when you’re ignoring the whizz-bang digits and instead focusing on the basics.

A comfortable driving position, and great seats. Plenty of space for keys, phones, cups of tea etc. Good exterior visibility (something that too many cars, yes even big SUVs, seem to ignore these days.

To drive, the Tarraco also seems to pull out a small lead on its in-house VW Group competition. Recent Seats have usually had sharper, more communicative steering than their VW and Skoda rivals, and so it proves again.

The Tarraco might be a big, tall, seven-seat family wagon, but its handling is well balanced, and its cornering attitude is tidy and neat.

It’s also one of the safest cars you can buy.

According to EuroNCAP, the only comparable SUV that scores better in crash tests is the Volvo XC60, and that only by a single percentage point.

The 2.0 litre 190hp TDI diesel is, for the most part, impressive. Tied into optional four-wheel drive and the dual-clutch DSG automatic gearbox, it’s quiet and reasonably frugal, and provides solid, if it must be said less than thrilling, straight-line performance.

Its weakness is found when driving around town with the driving mode selector switched to Eco mode. Then the engine is just too lethargic at low revs, and it can make pulling out of a busy junction rather more of a heart-in-mouth process than it should be.

While we’re at it, the brakes could also do with being a bit sharper.

These seem like relatively minor foibles in what is otherwise a very polished package, however.

The Tarraco takes its trophy for being the best looking SUV of its VW cousins, and runs with it to put in a solid performance as a very likeable, useful, and comfortable (and safe) family 4x4.


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