SEAT’s extended Altea XL people-carrier is so family-friendly, says Iain Dooley, PA senior motoring writer.

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Engines – Being a SEAT means you get to choose from a good rage of petrol and diesel engines. And being a car from the Volkswagen family means you can be sure that the oil-burners are particularly good. With the Altea XL very much a people-carrier, you’ll be grateful of the latter’s economy.

Exterior – The Altea appeared at time when SEAT was keen to present a united front in terms of vehicle design. This means that most of its larger cars looked very similar. Call it a high-rise, long wheelbase Leon if you want, but the Altea XL is easily recognisable as a SEAT.

Interior – Much like its exterior, the Altea XL’s interior is very similar to the rest of SEAT’s large car line-up. This is a good thing in the context of a people-carrier, as you’ll be grateful for the inclusion of bash-proof plastics and a generally durable interior. And, naturally, there’s no shortage of space in the car’s cabin for people and their belongings – especially as the XL boasts an extended rear load bay.

Driving – SEAT has a reputation within the Volkswagen family for producing firmly-suspended cars in a bid to illustrate its sporting intentions. The Altea follows this trend but don’t worry too much as we’re not talking GTI levels of ride discomfort here. In fact, the firmer set-up helps reduce pitch and roll in this tall vehicle. And if you pick the right engine – torquey diesels work best – you can hustle this car along and enjoy it.

Ownership – With its extended length and spacious cabin the XL version of SEAT’s Altea is a practical and affordable alternative to a conventional people-carrier if you don’t need all those extra seats but you do enjoy driving. Furthermore, the frugal diesel motors deliver a good mix of economy, modest running costs and day-to-day refinement.

What to look for – Predictably, being a family car, it’s important to look for high levels of wear and tear in the cabin, plus the usual parking dents and kerbed wheels associated with leading a hard life in an urban environment. The latter in particular could be hiding more costly damage, which makes conducting a test drive all the more important. And don’t forget the paperwork – especially as older models might have a patchy service history.

Model history – 2007, SEAT launches a new version of its Altea family car – the Altea XL. As the name suggests it’s a little bigger – this version has been given more boot space to appeal to buyers seeking greater versatility but keen to retain the Altea’s key family hatch attributes. As with so many VW family cars, the Altea XL boasts a good choice of petrol and diesel engines plus a sturdy-looking cabin and reasonable level of standard kit. Manual and direct shift DSG automatic gearboxes available depending on engine choice.

Reasons to buy – Durable and spacious cabin, extra large rear loadspace, easy to live with and rewarding to drive, low ownership costs, diesel economy.

Reasons to beware – Hard-used family cars can show obvious signs of wear, styling similarity to other SEATs might be off-putting.

Pick of the range – Altea XL 1.9 TDI Stylance.

What to pay – 2007 07 £6,225; 2007 57 £6,575; 2008 08 £7,500; 2008 58 £8,025; 2009 09 £8,875. Showroom prices for cars in A1 condition.

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