Altea gives a sedate drive

Musa Zondi

Musa Zondi

I must admit that I didn't know what to make of the Seat Altea when it arrived for road testing.

OK, it was not on the level of "Is it a bird or is it a plane?" because clearly it is a car - and a good-looking one too. In brilliant red. I am sure the Spanish manufacturer has some exotic name for it, and it stood out in the crowd.

A number of people asked me what make it was and where it came from. One of them was so eager to find that out that he forgot to greet me first.

But be that as it may, we enjoyed our time behind the wheel of the Altea. It does not have the kind of performance that the mighty Leon - a sister product - has, but it is a sedate drive and perfect for daily commuting.

I suspect that even after covering long distances you would emerge relatively fresh, with no backache or other ills associated with our love for the road.

The Altea has a raised roofline that gives it a bit of a strange shape. As a result, even tall people will find that they will not bump their heads as they get in or out of the car. But having said that, the raised roofline also means that you have to put up with a terrible noise if the window is open.

The 2litre FSi version gave a credible performance. Pumping a respectable 110kW at 6000rpm, it is said to get to 100kmh in just under 10 seconds. Petrol consumption is good and you can get a lot of mileage on a tank, which is welcome.

The car comes equipped with the usual acronyms for safety and convenience - ABS, ESP and traction control are all part of the package.

A whole family in the Altea would just about make it to Durban without too many frayed nerves.

For the driver, the seats are height-adjustable and give lumbar support.

The boot space of the hatchback is generous and, all in all, the Altea is a good package.

You can add the sport package for R10 000, a sunroof for R5500 or you can just take it in vanilla for R212 080.

This is where my agreement with the manufacturer ends. The Altea is not worth that kind of money - even with a 90000km service plan and a three-year warranty.

But I suppose someone will buy it anyway.