When you find yourself moaning about the cupholders and badge lettering, it’s generally a sign that a car is getting the fundamentals spot-on.
That’s definitely the case with the Seat Tarraco which gets on with the job of being a big family wagon in a fairly unassuming but utterly competent way.
The Tarraco is the Spanish brand’s entry into the once-tiny but now burgeoning segment of seven-seat SUVs which has taken a massive chunk of the market once held by MPVs.
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.
Seat Tarraco SE Technology
Price: £130,820 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: 44.1-47.9mpg CO2 emissions 129g/km
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 has just announced 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.