Editor's choice
7 Dec 18

First drive SEAT Tarraco: playing with the big boys

Those doubting between the VW Tiguan Allspace and the Skoda Kodiaq can now add a third choice to the list: the technically nearly identical SEAT Tarraco. Wolfsburger beer (or Czech pilsner) aged in a cava barrel, this big German-built Spaniard? Fleet Europe went to Barcelona to get a taste.

Everybody knows that if there is growth to be expected, it will be in the crossover segment. Since SEAT launched the Ateca in 2016, it has seen its sales surge in Europe. At a given point delivery times of some versions were exceeding 6 months. Last year, the Spanish VW subsidiary welcomed the Arona in its line-up to go and chase the B-segment crossover buyers. The Tarraco is the keystone of SEAT’s SUV offensive and targets mothers and fathers who want space for their (newly combined) offspring and cargo.

Moving up the ladder

You can’t say that the Tarraco is extraordinarily original in terms of styling, but it certainly pleases the eye. Its nose inaugurates the new design theme of SEAT and will certainly be copied by its smaller brothers once they are facelifted or switch to the next generation. First impression when you open the door: this Tarraco looks clean and tight. The materials are VW quality and the dashboard actually looks quite premium. The floating central display is within perfect reach of your hand and the digital instrument cluster projects all the information you need, how you need it, where you need it. Full link (Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, MirrorLink) comes standard. Bravo. If you live in Spain, Italy, Germany, France or the UK, you can also use Google's cloud-based voice assistant Alexa.

Heavy yet light-footed

We started our test drive in Barcelona with the 2.0 TDI 190 DSG 4Drive – indeed, the top model. The VW/SEAT engineers have done a splendid job trying to make this powertrain as discrete as possible, but that also means that driving wind is now the main source of noise on motorways. The Tarraco makes you feel its weight during acceleration – the 190 horses seem rather tame and the DSG does little to wake them up – but it definitely behaves more agile and light-footed than the Skoda Kodiaq. The latter seems to have been adapted to the bumpy Czech roads, whereas the SEAT feels more at ease on winding asphalt.

Nothing new under the bonnet

This SEAT borrows its engines and transmissions from the Skoda Kodiaq and the Tiguan Allspace, but not all combinations are available. There is no 1.5 TSI with the automatic DSG gearbox, for instance – which in our opinion is a shame. We tried the manual version of this entry-level petrol model and were underwhelmed by its performance. The heavy vehicle weight and tall gear ratios mean you have to push the rev counter past 4,000 rpm to avoid that the engine suffocates as soon as you shift up. The DSG of the 2.0 TDI suffers from a certain inertia. We drove the VW Tiguan Allspace just a few weeks ago and compared to the latter, the Tarraco's gearbox seems to have a less dynamic software setting.

In search of USPs

Compared to its Czech and German cousins, this Spanish take on a 5-to-7-seater is a bit less austere, without however bursting with energy or exuberant individualism. Logically, it offers the same pros and cons (large interior, but hardly useful fold-up seats in the back), more or less the same comfort, connectivity and safety equipment (including AEB with pedestrian recognition), but manages to add a certain flair. If you expect this biggest SEAT ever to be cheaper than the others, you could be disappointed. The line-up does not start with a Reference model, but with the higher-spec Style. The cheapest Tarraco will set you back €28,000 excluding VAT. That’s nearly €4,000 more than the cheapest Kodiaq with the same engine. A plug-in hybrid model won't arrive before late 2020, incidentally. Why not, VW?

The bottom line

If the Skoda Kodiaq feels too woolly on the road and looks too middle-of-the-road and if the VW Tiguan Allspace is out of reach or too frequent a sight on roads near you, this likeable SEAT Tarraco could tickle your fancy. There is a problem, though: its WLTP figures and correlated NEDC ones are a lot higher than the ones posted by what we believe to be its biggest rival: the Peugeot 5008 – and so is its list price. Time will tell where on the market the Tarraco will find its place, but it will surely expand SEAT's customer base, possibly to the detriment of Skoda.

PROS CONS
More lightfooted than the Skoda Kodiaq Engines and transmissions lack punch
Fit and finish, look and feel Relatively expensive, high CO2 emissions
Digital dashboard with Full Link standard Plug-in hybrid not coming before late 2020

 

Main competitors: Skoda Kodiaq, VW Tiguan Allspace, Peugeot 5008, Citroën C5 Aircross

 

Authored by: Dieter Quartier