Thursday, 16 September 2010

Seat Alhambra

Somewhere in my youth, in middle-class suburbia, there was a time when people carriers were status symbols. As hard as it seems to believe, nobody with any kind of money would be without a family "bus". So my parents bought a VW Sharan at the earliest possible opportunity - actually, they took delivery on the day of the UK release after being given a press demonstrator for a day.

They had it for five years. And it was extremely comfortable. The seats were all individual and could be taken in and out depending on how many sprogs you needed to transport that day. My parents had three, so there was rarely any use for the third row, so that was removed to make way for the dog.

So in effect it became an oversized estate car. An oversized, nausea-inducing estate car. You see, the problem with people carriers is the high centre of gravity. Functionally, they don't really solve the problem of space as the extra capacity is actually height, and they problem with stacking anything high in a car is that it tends to fall over when you go round a corner.

For those of you who remember the original Sharan/Alhambra/Galaxy, it was reasonably modern at the time. Many years passed without an update. Ford seem to have abandoned the tie-in and done their own thing with the Galaxy, which is now much better.

But VW and Seat persisted for another few years, hoping that the trend would come back. In the intervening years we saw the rise and rise of the SUV, which addressed the space problem in an altogether more stylish manner.

And VW and Seat seem keen to kill off the platform. They've taken everything that was good about the Sharan/Alhambra and thrown it in the bin. The rear doors no longer open like car doors, instead they slide, in case you ever thought for a second that you weren't driving what is essentially a taxi for your children. Perhaps they could also install some glass behind the driver with a little hatch for your kids to speak through?

That's probably unfair. The car is not terrible for what it is. It is reasonably well designed, and IF YOU MUST BUY AN MPV, it's not a bad choice.

But times have moved on since the mid 90s. The MPV doesn't really fulfil what it was supposed to do any more, and rightly deserves to die. VW are doing their best to make sure that happens.

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