Seat’s SUV line-up is now complete with a large seven-seat model as its new flagship. Can it continue the Spanish brand’s recent good form?
On the road
On the road
Seat’s SUV hat-trick has now been completed by the brand’s new model, the seven-seat Tarraco that sits above the Ateca and Arona in the ever-increasingly popular area of the market.
All versions of the new SUV, which is named after the Mediterranean city of Tarragona, come with a third row of seats as standard, and there are front- or four-wheel-drive options, as well as a pair of petrol and a pair of diesel engines.
The most fleet-orientated model is the front-wheel-drive 150hp 2.0-litre diesel, which is the only one that limbos under the 130g/km emissions level. There is also a four-wheel-drive automatic offered with that same engine that costs over £3000 more and adds another 17g/km to the emissions figure, taking it to 146g/km. For a further £1240 you can upgrade to the 190hp diesel, which is available in 4x4 auto form only, and emits 147g/km.
1. Access into the third row of seats isn’t too bad, but it’s child-only from a legroom point of view, unless you slide the middle row right forward, which then reduces space for the passengers there.
2. A front passenger seat Isofix point is a welcome and still surprisingly unusual addition, even on family cars such as this.
3. The front door bins are usefully roomy things that are capable of taking large bottles or various other bits and pieces.
The petrol pairing follow similar lines, with either a 150hp 1.5-litre front-drive manual or a 190hp 2.0-litre 4x4 auto, but the emissions figures of more than 150g/km and related lower fuel economy numbers make them a little less appealing for businesses, unless mileage will be kept to a minimum. Retail buyers are expected to gravitate towards the 1.5 though, making it the most popular engine overall.
Four trim levels are available from launch, running from the entry SE to SE Technology, and the annoyingly misspelled Xcellence and top-spec Xcellence Lux, with appearance-orientated FR and FR Sport specifications to follow.
Seat’s Easylife spec programme has made its way across the range now, including the Tarraco. The brand has virtually banished options, with only a panoramic roof (£960), space-saver spare wheel (£110) and £685 towbar available as factory fit options. Everything else is standard, and the driver simply chooses the trim level that best matches their budget and kit requirements.
Commendably, that means metallic paint is free of charge across the range, but it does mean only the top-spec versions have heated seats, for example, or you can’t get front parking sensors, rear camera or keyless entry on the lower two trim levels. Nevertheless, it does make for a much simpler speccing process.
All cars get a good level of safety kit, including autonomous emergency braking, tiredness recognition and lane-keep assist, as well as rear parking sensors, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and, impressively, three-zone climate control. Sat-nav and privacy glass come as you go up a trim level to SE Tech, Xcellence brings keyless entry, the self-parking system with front sensors and rear camera, adaptive cruise and Alcantara sports seats, and the top trim adds heated front and outer rear seats, electric memory leather sports front seats and a top-view camera. Alloy-wise, the Tarraco starts with 17-inch wheels and goes up an inch with each trim level until you get to 20-inch alloys that do the already-harsh ride quality few favours.
The 150hp diesel driven here is the pick emissions-wise, and is perfectly fine at cruising speed, although it needs a little work to get there and can catch you out if you’re in the wrong gear. Still, it’s good enough that going from this to the 190hp diesel (which demands a £4430 upgrade because it also adds 4x4 and an auto gearbox) isn’t worth it unless the additional power is particularly desired.
Apart from that surprisingly hard ride quality, the driving experience is good, with well-weighted steering, an easy gearchange and good body control. It’s clearly not a sporting car, but the underpinnings can handle the tall ride height without fuss.
On the inside, the cabin impresses for quality of materials, as well as practicality. Across the interior Seat has specced a nice standard of plastic rather than there being cheaper patches, and there’s decent stowage space, including a handy spot under an armrest that slides forward and can be set to different heights to maximise driver comfort.
The dashboard display is clear, nicely designed and can be tailored to offer a variety of information, while the infotainment is all logically laid out, save the clunky postcode entry; the VW Group navigation systems aren’t tailored for UK formats and think postcodes start with a number.
The middle-row seats slide individually to maximise room for either third-row passengers or boot space. That third row will just about take small-to-medium-sized people, ideally children, with legroom only liberated by those sitting ahead compromising on
their own space. It is comparatively easy to climb into the third row, and there’s plenty of headroom once you’ve landed back there. The middle-row passengers enjoy a very decent view out thanks to the large side windows.
The boot is a decent size with the rear seats folded, and still has more space than might be expected with the rearmost pair raised and occupied. The only compromise is that the third row doesn’t slot away seamlessly to leave a nicely sealed boot; there are a few areas that smaller items might be able to roll into, although the deeper recess each side does give you somewhere to slot small, valuable, bottle-shaped bits of luggage, for example.
The Tarraco looks smart, with Seat straying from the path trodden by its VW-owned sibling Skoda, which has seemingly designed a single SUV look and produced small, medium and large versions of it. The Tarraco certainly has its own identity, and the prominent grille works well with the LED lights to look muscular without being over-the-top or brash.
Rival-wise, there are a few that Seat is targeting, although engines and trims don’t always line the Tarraco up with the same rivals. For example, the Spanish brand mentions the Kia Sorento as a competitor, but the Sorento doesn’t have a small enough diesel to compete at the level of this 150hp version. Equally, there isn’t a diesel manual Renault Koleos (which also has only five seats), and the Skoda Kodiaq doesn’t have a front-drive 150hp diesel; it’s all-wheel drive only, and so the cost and efficiency comparison definitely favours the Tarraco over its Czech cousin.
The Peugeot 5008, our CCT100 SUV of the Year, is the only car that really puts the Seat’s emissions in the shade, because it comes in with 111g/km versus the Tarraco’s 129g/km, although the Peugeot is also 20hp down on power. The French car is also one of the more characterful designs in the class.
Ignoring those, the Tarraco has the likes of the Nissan X-Trail seven-seater and Kodiaq beaten, and matches the VW Tiguan Allspace for emissions while being cheaper and slightly more practical.
The Tarraco is an impressive bit of kit, continuing the great impression that its smaller Arona and Ateca siblings have made on their areas of the SUV marketplace. It looks as good in the metal as it does on costs, has a practical interior with seven-seat functionality and, apart from the ride quality, drives well. Seat’s push into the true fleet sector has gained another very useful piece of ammunition, and there’s more to come from the brand in the next 18 months with the launch of the new Leon and the company’s first EV when the production version of the El-Born concept car arrives.
The T-Cross is another boost for a sector already flying in sales terms, attracting buyers out of regular hatchbacks. It’s pretty practical, looks good, especially with the up-specced wheels and in the lighter colours, and has an excellent residual value to bring running costs back in line with cheaper rivals. But those rivals are cheaper to buy, and most are better equipped for less money while still having an interior quality that at very least matches the Volkswagen. It’s a shame that so many bits you touch every time you get in the car aren’t of a higher standard, because this does take away from the car’s feeling of quality, but the T-Cross still makes a case for itself and sits well at the bottom end of VW’s new crossover and SUV family.
The Tarraco completes Seat’s push into the SUV sector, following the mid-sized Ateca (right) launched in 2016 and the smaller Arona that arrived at the beginning of last year.
The Spanish brand claims that the large SUV sector is one of few forecast to grow in the coming years, and its rival to the likes of the Kia Sorento, Nissan X-Trail and Peugeot 5008, as well as the Skoda Kodiaq and VW Tiguan Allspace from within the VW Group stable, takes Seat to covering over 80% of the UK car market by volume. This is up from around half in 2015.
Seat has enjoyed 68% growth since 2012, and last year it was 12% up overall and 27% up in true fleet registrations. According to the company’s figures, the latter was enough to propel Seat into the top 10 manufacturers for true fleet registrations to end user customers for the first time in its history.
The fact that every model in the Tarraco line-up has seven seats as standard is expected to help bring new people into the brand, according to UK managing director Richard Harrison, who also commented that the Tarraco’s design direction hints at where the firm is heading over the next couple of years.
What they said
What They Said
“We are excited about the introduction of the Tarraco; it is a milestone for the brand, completing our range of SUVs while increasing market coverage to more than 80%. This step forwards means we are a contender for more fleets than ever."
“Not only is it extremely spacious and functional, but with CO2 emissions as low as 129g/km the new model is comfortably below most fleet emissions limits. Drivers new to the brand will be impressed by the quality, technology and trim levels, and despite its ample dimensions, it remains fun to drive, like all SEAT models."
Peter McDonald, head of fleet and business sales, Seat UK
Need to know
Three things we like...
The wide Tarraco-branded puddle lights are bright but not subtle
Parcel shelf has a neat storage area for when it’s not in use
Good amount of boot space, even when all seven seats are in use
...And one we don't
Keyless start without keyless entry leaves the driver with nowhere handy to put the key
The 150hp diesel is fine when it’s up and running, given that the Tarraco isn’t a small car, but can struggle if you find yourself in the wrong gear.
The 129g/km figure is the lowest the Tarraco can do – better than most rivals but well adrift of the Peugeot 5008’s 111g/km.
The third row is only really for small people, but there’s good interior flexibility and storage, and the boot’s a great size when the third row is stowed away.
Kit levels are pretty good, especially the safety systems, but heated seats can only be fitted to the top trim level. However, metallic paint is standard, which is pretty impressive.
It’s refreshing that Seat hasn’t simply gone for just resizing the styling of its other SUVs, and there’s some bigger and more imposing character to it.
Comfort and refinement 7/10
Refinement is good enough, although the ride is a bit on the hard side. That only gets worse with the bigger wheels of higher trim levels.
The material quality and design are impressive, and it’s well laid out.
The VW Group infotainment system is well-honed and good, with the exception if clunky navigation postcode input. The dash is pleasingly configurable, too.
Whole life costs 9/10
A top RV and competitive price help achieve a great WLC, although efficiency isn’t class leading.
CCT opinion 8/10
Excellent and practical continuation of Seat’s good product form.
Ride quality could be better but there’s very little else to criticise with Seat’s third new SUV in just over three years. Good costs, practicality and looks all help it shine.