First Drive

First Drive: Seat Tarraco 1.5 TSI

The story:
SEAT completes its SUV line-up with the Tarraco that sits above the Ateca and gives the first cues of the company’s new design direction
Category:Upper Medium SUV
Key rival:Land Rover Discovery Sport
Seat Tarraco 1.5 TSI 150 SE Technology
Price:£29,330
MPG:38.6
Emissions:165g/km
On sale:December 2018

Seat’s UK sales are up 13.1% in 2018 compared with the previous year and the Spanish firm is hoping to continue on this positive trajectory with the addition of the Tarraco large SUV.

Fitting in above the Ateca, the Tarraco is as obvious a fit for Seat as sequins are for Strictly Come Dancing outfits. While not noted for its off-road heritage or prowess, Seat has made headway with the Arona and Ateca, so completing the range of SUVs was inevitable when there was a ready-made offering to adopt from within the broader Volkswagen Group parent company.

While it would be easy to dismiss the Tarraco as merely a Skoda Kodiaq with different badges, there are unique features for the Spaniard. Prime among those are the new styling that shows how future Seat models will look. It’s distinctive enough to look classy, although it’s also sufficiently conservative not to scare leasing firms and company drivers.

Seat has yet to confirm what its ambitions are for fleet sales, but it’s fair to say they will be crucial to this model’s success. As a consequence, another distinguishing feature for the Tarraco compared with the Skoda is that the Spaniard will only be offered with seven seats in the UK. It will also come with a standard specification that’s pitched at the upper end, so all come with metallic paint, safety pack, fully linked infotainment, air-conditioning and at least 17-inch alloy wheels, depending on specification. A sporty FR trim will follow.Seat Terraco 2018 - Image 5

Under the bonnet, the petrol choice is between 1.5- and 2.0-litre TSI turbo engines with 150 and 190hp respectively. The smaller of these two is expected to be the best seller and when you head out in the Tarraco it’s obvious why.

Where the 2.0-litre promises more performance, it comes with four-wheel drive and a DSG dual-clutch automatic gearbox as standard, both of which blunt its advantage. We also found the 2.0-litre needs to be revved more than is aurally comfortable to make decent progress, and the DSG ’box’s reactions are too lazy in the Normal setting of its drive modes, which forces you to swap to Sport.

Take the 1.5 and its front-drive-only chassis with six-speed manual transmission makes it much lighter on its feet. It feels peppier and its 0-62mph time of 9.7 seconds isn’t too far off the 2.0-litre’s 8.0 second dash.

There are a pair of turbodiesels, too, comprising 150 and 190hp versions of the 2.0-litre unit; each comes with the DSG gearbox, and all-wheel drive is standard for the more powerful motor.

Performance of the diesels is all but identical to the petrol units of the same power output. However, we found the turbodiesel to be a little noisy when cruising on the motorway, so this would steer us in the direction of the 1.5 TSI, even if its 38.6mpg and 165g/km CO2 emissions are only average for the class.

What’s definitely not ho-hum with the Tarraco is its ride and handling package. With the suspension in default Comfort setting on our test cars, it placated any ruffles in the road surface very efficiently. There’s plenty of grip into and out of corners and not too much body lean.

You’ll find plenty of space in the back for all five rear passengers, helped by the sliding middle bench, and there’s even still some useful boot capacity left over.

Up front, it’s typical VW Group SUV fare, which means clear dials and controls, good build quality and fine comfort.Seat Terraco 2018 - Image 7

The question is whether the Tarraco has done enough to warrant business drivers choosing it over an Audi, Skoda, Volkswagen, or any of many other SUVs in this class? On looks, the Tarraco warrants attention, but it’s the finer details like the ride comfort and standard kit that give it real appeal.

Al suttie

The verdict

Seat comes into a hard-fought sector with a strong proposition in its Tarraco. Practical, comfortable and well equipped, it grows the Spanish SUV line in a logical and appealing fashion.