Road tests by motoring journalist Tim Saunders
Above: Tim Saunders with Vicki Butler-Henderson
By Tim Saunders
Having children is a great help to a motoring journalist because they invariably discover things about cars that could potentially pass by unnoticed.
This point is highlighted on collecting eldest daughter Harriett (5) from school one Friday afternoon in the Seat Alhambra people mover.
Excitedly she jumps into her seat and no sooner has she done this she pulls up a sun visor on her window. “Can you fix it for me daddy?” This is the first day of driving the vehicle and I certainly wouldn’t have discovered that feature until much nearer the end of the test.
The picnic tables on the back of the front seats also score highly with Harriett and sister Heidi (3), who proceed to pull them up to place their brunch bars upon. Yes, life with my daughters is anything but dull and now that they have a little brother, Henry (4mths) we have all but forgotten what peace and quiet used to be like.
The Alhambra, finished in pure white, is an appealing vehicle to a family like ours because where space is an issue in normal cars it really isn’t in this cavernous beast. There’s a third row of seats in the boot which are easy to push into place as you can see in the video at testdrives.biz should extra seating be needed for friends or relatives.
The van-like sliding rear doors are extremely practical when parking in tight spaces because they take up so little room. However, they are heavy to operate.
Exterior colours are getting snazzier all the time and the wing mirrors and alloy wheels demand a second look as the sun catches them revealing a hint of sparkling dark metallic blue, which is a very neat touch. In fact this snazzy blue continues into the interior.
The Alhambra is an extremely practical vehicle; it’s large enough to be a van with admirable load carrying abilities but it can also be a minibus, seating seven passengers in absolute comfort no matter how long the journey. There is plenty of storage space.
It comes crammed with luxuries including all round electric windows, air conditioning and cruise control. The stalk for the latter is underneath the indicators and over a long journey this can become irksome due to ever-changing motorway speeds, resulting in a numb thumb.
Privacy glass and a luggage cover are neat touches for added peace of mind with regards security. I am a fan of the power folding wing mirrors; on a wider vehicle like this, this function is helpful when the vehicle is parked by the roadside to prevent them being clipped by passing traffic.
The raised driving position is always enjoyable providing a good view of the road ahead. It quickly comes to attention that there are houses that pass you by on the school run when in a smaller vehicle but with extra height it is possible to see over those hedges.
Over time the sat nav becomes easier for us to operate and relatively trustworthy. It stores your destinations so that you don’t have to keep inputting them. Trying to find the postcode function is a bit fiddly, though. Thankfully my wife tends to deal with this for me.
The reversing camera is certainly helpful because the Alhambra is a large vehicle but overall easy to manoeuvre.
Total cost of test vehicle: £31,390
Top speed: 124mph
Peugeot 208 GT Line
Each generation should better the last.
So said my late grandfather. I look at my parents and question whether they did in fact achieve this and wonder whether I will. And I look at Peugeot and ask the same question about the 208 over the legendary 205.
Its great ancestor the Peugeot 205 set the standard in the 1980s and was many a boy racer’s aspiration. The 208 has to try and surpass this. And that is a tough thing to do. Where the 205 was small, nimble and a great sports hatchback the 208, like many vehicles (and people) these days seems to have added the pounds and is, as a consequence, less agile, it feels. The 205 was basic, even though some models did feature electric windows and there were certainly no safety features like ABS braking or all round airbags. It was, though, more stylish and able. The 205 GTi won The World Rally Championship Manufacturers’ Championship (WMC) in 1985 and 1986, something that was later achieved by the 206 from 2000 to 2002. Indeed the 205, like the 206 was a worthy adversary to the Golf GTi. The 208 is yet to match this magnificent achievement although it was named Rally Car of the Year at the Autosport Awards in 2013.
But times have changed and life moves on. The 208 GT Line with its touch of red on the bonnet that continues onto the alloys and into the interior does have style and the fixed panoramic glass roof certainly throws a lot of light into an otherwise dark cabin. Its ancestors never indulged in such extravagance. It would be even better, though if this could be actually opened, and electrically. There is a manually operated cover that can be pulled across if the extra daylight bothers you.
The seats are supportive over a long journey. Although the GT Line with its low profile tyres does feel sporty, gripping corners well, it doesn’t feel as competent as I would like despite all the gadgetry including the anti-skid switch. What has happened to the dashboard? Did the designer forget that the driver quite likes to see the speedometer and rev counter? Preferring not to have them obscured by the steering wheel. I know the steering column can be adjusted but not so as to allow a comfortable driving position and a decent view of the instrument panel. Aside from this the interior is finished to a good standard and it’s definitely a driver’s car, with plenty of oomph, if required. However, it can feel sluggish if not worked hard in the right gear. If pushed too hard the engine will stutter demanding a gear change. Those low profile tyres do mean that there is extra road noise inside the cabin, too. The fuel tank is not the largest and so it is necessary to refuel fairly frequently.
I find the five speed manual gearbox a little notchy but the cruise control on the left handside of the steering wheel is easy to operate. I cannot fathom how to operate the satellite navigation but the air conditioning and other little luxuries are thankfully easier on the intellect.
Incidentally, sometimes I like to pull away in second gear especially when on a hill; I try this in the 208 only to find that the stop/start doesn’t like it and the engine stalls.
Although a capable family hatchback with its distinctive looks I cannot help but feel that something has been lost in its overall character and that technology does not overcome this issue.
Facts at a glance
Peugeot 208 GT Line range available as a 1.2-litre three cylinder petrol or a 1.6-litre diesel in three or five door versions
Price: £17,095 approx