The new Volkswagen Group people-carrier family represents a complete rethink about how an MPV should be designed. Hingeing rear passenger doors are out; in come sliding doors, with the option of electric operation. Seats which have to be removed to create a flat load floor? Gone. Now the seats fold into the floor — though of course that means that the floor is higher. The middle row of seats can be mounted longitudinally.
The most strinking thing that’s changed is the size. The original Alhambra — a design which is still available as the Volkswagen Sharan — was a little smaller than a Renault Espace — two centimetres shorter and five centimetres narrower, to be exact. The new model is almost the size of a Grand Espace.
Renault Grand Espace
Seat is keen to emphasise the Alhambra’s creditbility as a driver’s car, which is an interesting pitch for an MPV. A more predictable boast is that it offers good luggage space — 885l (up from 852l for the previous
model) as a five-seater and 2297l as a two-seater; these figures are up to the window-line.
The engine range consists of 140PS and 170PS TDIs and a 150PS TSI petrol unit. The TDIs use selective catalytic reduction (SCR) particulate traps. Volkswagen’s DSG dual-clutch automated transmission is available.
Seven airbags are fitted as standard, as are anti-lock braking and an ESP system. The ESP incorporates a braking assistant (it presumes to know when you want maximum braking), trailer stabilisation and — a very useful function — tyre-pressure monitoring.
There are some interesting optional extras available. A rear-view camera is invaluable on a car like the Alhambra with a large rear blind spot. Bi-xenon headlamps feature adaptive control of the beam pattern and automatic dipping; this feature is an increasingly common standard fitment on high-end executive cars. Perhaps the most remarkable optional extra is a parking ‘assistant’, which actually steers the car into a parking space for you. Next year’s Ford Focus will offer this system, too.
The Alhambra is built at Palmela in Portugal. It goes on sale in Iberia in the summer and in the U.K. in the autumn.
Both the second and third rows of seats fold into the floor.
Previous model: seats had to be removed to give unobstructed load floor.
The new Alhambra’s dash is neat and commendably free from gimmickry.
The outer seats in the centre row can be mounted facing in.