It might seem odd to get hung up on a car's cup holders. In fact, it is odd.
But in the case of the Seat Tarraco worrying about things like awkward beverage holders and weird badges goes to show just how much Seat has got right.
The Tarraco is its first stab at a seven-seat SUV, ousting the Alhambra MPV as its biggest model in pursuit of a share of that swelling market.
Anyone with a passing knowledge of the motoring industry landscape will be aware that this is closely related to those other seven-seaters the Skoda Kodiaq and Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace.
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Seat Tarraco SE Technology
- Price: From £32,795
- Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder diesel
- Power: 148bhp
- Torque: 250lb/ft
- Transmission: Six-speed manual
- Top speed: 126mph
- 0-62mph: 9.8 seconds
- Economy: 45.6-48.7mpg
- CO2 emissions: 152g/km
You can moan all you like about homogenisation (and I often do) but that does mean it’s got a solid platform on which to build while carving out its own small slice of individuality.
It’s arguably the best looking of the three, with a lower, longer bonnet and smaller, pinched headlights. It also looks longer and lower than the others overall while a questionable full-width lightbar and that weirdly spaced badge make it look wider too.
But cars like this are really about practicality, not prettiness. The seats in the boot fold flat, and the middle row flips down at the pull of a lever in the boot leaving a flat space big enough to take a couple of full-sized mountain bikes without removing their wheels. In that layout, the Tarraco can hold 1,775 litres. In five-seat mode that’s reduced to 700l and with all seven seats it falls to 230l.
As with every model in its class, the rear two spots are not a place any adult will want to spend much time, due to limited legroom and slightly awkward access. It’s the same story for the middle seat in row two due to limited hip and shoulder room. But for a family of five or six, or for the occasional journey with seven adults it’s on a par with its key rivals.
As one of the newer models in the line-up the Tarraco gets the latest Seat infotaiment system with smartphone mirroring and the fully digital 10.25-inch instrument display. Even basic SE ones also get family-friendly touches like three-zone climate control and three Isofix points and safety features including autonomous emergency braking, lane assist and emergency call. Our SE Technology’s only additions were tinted windows, sat nav and 18-inch alloys. As for those weird spring-loaded cupholders, they’re the only missed step in a comfortable, user-friendly interior that doesn’t dazzle but does make day-to-day life easy.
As a rule Seats’ chassis tend to offer a firmer ride than some alternatives and the Tarraco is not the smoothest riding of its kind. It can feel a bit too rigid on rough roads but on better-kept surfaces and long motorway stints it feels secure, composed and refined.
Seat is due to introduce a plug-in hybrid version of the Tarraco but our test car was powered by a 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel. It’s an engine that crops up in dozens of cars and with good reason. Even in something as big as the Tarraco it offers as much performance as you’ll need, with loads of torque that mean you don’t spend forever shuffling through the six-speed manual transmission. Our economy varied wildly from low 30s on short runs to high 40s on a fairly mixed commuting route.
The Tarraco doesn’t break new ground and doesn’t wow in any particular fancy way. But particularly when it comes to family transport sometimes all you need is a car that handles the fundamentals with ease and without fuss. And there it excels, taking the strain out of the everyday.
This article first appeared on The Scotsman