If you want a seven-seat SEAT, your only option up to now has been the Alhambra MPV. Sliding doors aside it’s about as sensible as a pair of slippers – but with the new Tarraco you can now have all that practicality wrapped up in a proper, chunky SUV.
It’s the third SUV to join the Spanish firm’s range; two years ago SEAT didn’t have a single crossover in it’s line-up. It sits at the top above the Arona and Ateca, and rivals cars like the Skoda Kodiaq, Kia Sorento and Nissan X-Trail.
In fact, it shares a lot with the Skoda; it sits on the same MQB platform, comes with seven seats, and powered by the same range of petrol and diesel engines. It’s even offered with four-wheel drive if you need it.
Like the Skoda, it’s also very spacious: the 700-litre boot is about the biggest in this class, and it offers a maximum load bay of 1,775 litres if you drop all of the seats. That third row, like all of the Tarraco’s rivals, is pretty tight for space and only really suitable for smaller children.
Up front, the Tarraco takes on a new look for SEAT and centres around a new floating eight-inch display. In truth it looks like a bit of an afterthought; SEAT’s current integrated display, like you’ll find in the Ateca, looks slicker and more cohesive.
Sure, the screen is responsive, bright and has all the appropriate smartphone connectivity, but it does look as if it’s been bolted on to the dash at the last minute. As for the rest of cabin it’s well built, sturdy and packed with kit even in middling SE Technology spec. These models get climate control, sat-nav, 18-inch alloy wheels and privacy glass as standard. Final pricing and specification are yet to be finalized but you can expect to pay around £30,000 for an example like ours.
Engine options are made up of two petrol and two diesel units. A 148bhp 1.5-litre turbo kicks off the range, with a more potent 187bhp 2.0-litre version sitting above it. The 2.0-litre diesel is also available in 148bhp or 187bhp outputs.
The 1.5-litre petrol is familiar and the same engine you’ll find in the SEAT Ateca and Arona ranges – as well as various VW and Skoda products. And, as with all of those models, it’s a very smooth, quiet and refined motor.
However, due to the sheer size of the Tarraco – it’s 38mm longer than a Kodiaq – it does struggle slightly when tackling inclines and slower corners. Developing only 250Nm of torque means you have to work the engine to make real progress, but hooked up to a snappy six-speed manual gearbox does add an extra degree of engagement.
The engine can be paired with SEAT’s 4Drive all-wheel drive system and a DSG auto, but due to the extra weight these add (around 110kg), you’re probably better off with the 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel and the more punchy 340Nm of torque is delivers. You immediately notice the extra degree of urgency this engine brings, especially at lower revs. So if you’re planning on carrying a family of seven, that extra grunt will be invaluable.
As far as SUVs are concerned, the Tarraco is one of the better seven-seaters to drive – although how much that is likely to matter to potential customers is debatable. Nevertheless, the steering is responsive and brings quick changes of direction. Body roll is well controlled, thanks in part to the SEAT being around 20mm lower than a Kodiaq.
Our car also felt pretty comfortable, due largely to the SE Tech’s sensibly sized 18-inch alloy wheels. The Tarraco soaks up road imperfections – and the long suspension travel means a soft and cushioned ride and all speeds. SEAT’s Adaptive Chassis Control (ACC) is an option on lower spec cars and standard on higher-end models, but on a seven-seat SUV it’s about as useful as windscreen wipers on a submarine.
The Tarraco is a perfectly comfortable and practical family SUV, but devoid of any real unique selling point. Where the Kodiaq stands out because of its ‘Simply Clever’ touches – such as the hidden umbrella in the doors, ice scraper behind the fuel filler cap and door protectors which pop out to avoid dents and scrapes in the car park – the SEAT fades into the background.
It may not seem like much, but in such a busy and crowded market it’s the small things that count.