It wasn’t that long ago that the thought of a compact MPV like the Seat Altea with a 1.2-litre petrol engine under the bonnet would have been laughable. But thanks to the excellence of the VW group’s turbocharged four-cylinder, with 105bhp, it’s actually quicker and more refined than the 1.4-litre naturally aspirated model. Not only that, but the power is spread across a wide rev-range and delivered with a smooth linearity often missing in small-capacity turbocharged engines. Even more impressive is the 1.4TSI, which uses the same technology to provide an example of how well a petrol-powered compact MPV can actually work day to day.
But regardless of the petrol models excellence, it’s the two diesels that make the most sense, their extra torque coming in especially handy if you plan to drive your Altea fully loaded. You’ll also have to stick with diesel power if you decide that you want the excellent twin-clutch DSG automatic gearbox, as it’s not available on any of the petrol models.
The 1.6-litre may only muster 103bhp but it can still sprint from 0-60mph in 12.2 seconds, all while returning over 60mpg. And if you can afford to sacrifice a few mpg, the 2.0-litre TDI with 138bhp makes for the consummate all rounder – especially in the heavier Altea XL. And despite the boost in performance on offer from the 2.0-litre, CO2 emissions are only 10g/km higher and combined economy just 5mpg lower than the much tardier 1.6 TDI. It’s a sacrifice worth making.