Alhambra faces axe in SEAT SUV revolution

The SEAT 20V20 concept will inspire a new large 4×4 to sit above the Ateca and replace SEAT’s long-running seven-seat MPV by 2018.

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The global SUV boom has forced several traditional bodystyles near to extinction – and it looks like SEAT’s Alhambra MPV is the next victim, Auto Express can exclusively reveal. The seven-seater is set to be aced and directly replaced by a large SUV in 2018, according to design boss Alejandro Mesonero.

The current Alhambra, built alongside its Volkswagen Sharan sister car, has been on sale for six years, with only a minor facelift in 2015. When quizzed about what would eventually replace the Ford Galaxy rival, Mesonero said: “We do not want to do that bodystyle any more.”

“We will replace it, but not with the one-box design we have now. SEAT will launch a seven-seater, but that is not desirable now… everyone is buying SUVs right now.”

The Alhambra’s replacement will be based on the 20V20 concept seen at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show, with styling details also shared with the smaller Ateca. Although the 20V20 previewed a large SUV, the concept had just four seats, whereas the production car will benefit from seven.

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Mesonero stated that SEAT’s SUV will be a bit smaller than its Skoda Kodiaq cousin. As such, it’s expected to offer a 5+2 seating layout like a Land Rover Discovery Sport.

SEAT (and VW) won’t be alone in giving its traditional people carrier the chop, either. Peugeot recently replaced its 5008 people carrier with an SUV of the same name, while brands such as Vauxhall, Ford and Mazda are all either axing their MPVs or transforming them into more fashionable 4x4s.

Despite several car makers moving away from the MPV format, the Alhambra is still a strong seller for the Spanish brand. Around 27,000 were sold worldwide last year, up 17 per cent on 2014. It’s expected that the Alhambra will live on for at least another two years as a result, making the most of the largely fleet-based large MPV market while the competition dwindles. It’s expected to be dropped after the unveiling of the seven-seat SUV late in 2018.

As a result, it’s also likely that Volkswagen will consider employing a similar strategy with its Sharan. The near-identical MPV is currently manufactured in the same factory in Palmela, Portugal, as the Alhambra. No official confirmation has been made, but it’s unlikely that VW will redevelop the Sharan on the platform without support from another manufacturer which can share the costs of production.

VW has two new seven-seat SUVs on the way – a Tiguan XL (that isn’t far off the Skoda Kodiaq for size) and a larger US-only model due to be revealed later this month. It also offers van-based seven-seat people carriers such as the Caddy Maxi Life and Caravelle to cater for fleet buyers.

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