Seat Tarraco Review
It wasn’t that long ago that Seat didn’t have a single SUV in its range. Now there’s something for everyone, from the compact Arona, the mid-size Ateca and this, the Tarraco, which won’t surprise you for being a full-size SUV.
As part of the Volkswagen Group, it’s no coincidence that it bears more than a passing resemblance to the Skoda Kodiaq, but Seat assures us that there has been enough work done underneath the skin to warrant it wearing the sporting Spanish badge.
Select's rating score* - 3.9 / 5
Seat’s take on the large SUV has just a little more style than its sombre yet tidy Skoda sibling, with a large chrome-cad grille dominating the front aesthetic, and some sharp lines and angles around the body. It’s not exactly ground breaking, but it does enliven what could be an otherwise staid shape.
As a vehicle for everybody, it produced several trim levels and drivetrains to meet most demands, from frugal petrol and diesel engines, manual and automatic gearboxes, and even a choice between two or four-wheel drive.
You can’t fail to find a lot of space in a car that size, but seating passengers can be trickier. Fortunately, every Tarraco comes with seven seats as standard, making it ideal transport for a large or growing family.
And having a four-wheel-drive option means it makes for a tantalising lifestyle vehicle. The rear-most seats might not be entirely necessary, but the young brand style and acres of space mean you can access beaches or trails with your surf gear or mountain bikes without sacrificing style.
For a brand with Cupra credentials (a sub-brand that it spun off to become a separate high-performance manufacturer), you might expect the Tarraco to be something of a hot-SUV. It’s not, but what it’s got under the bonnet is sufficient for the job.
The range starts with 150hp, produced by either a 1.5-litre petrol engine or a 2.0-litre diesel, and both can be specified with a six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic, although the latter can be quite jerky at low speeds.
The petrol unit is the best engine in the range, although you need to work it hard to get the 1.6-tonnes or so of Tarraco rolling. That said, the UK’s standard measure of performance, the 0-62mph dash, is dealt with in under 10 seconds.
The diesel models, despite having as much as 360Nm of torque against the petrol versions 250Nm, are a little slower off the line. Part of that is that the diesel weighs another 125kg. Even with that extra bulk, and a slower 0-62 time, the diesel models feel more flexible in normal use, relying on the wave of torque to make progress, rather than the endless shifting of gears that you need with the petrol.
There is a more powerful diesel version offering 200hp and 400Nm of torque, but it’s not entirely necessary unless you want to start towing - the weight limit for that model rises from 1.8 tonnes for the petrol and 2.0 tonnes for the diesel, to an impressive 2.45 tonnes.
Seat’s sporting prowess does show a little on the road. The suspension is the stiffest of the Volkswagen trio (including the Skoda Kodiaq and Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace) and leaves it feeling competent in corners. Inertia takes over fairly quickly though, as you realise you won’t be keeping up with any low-slung estate cars ahead of you. It’s got a sporting edge to it though, at least for something so large.
The compromise here is that the ride quality suffers as the stiff suspension crashes over potholes, making you aware of every surface crack and break. Crests and undulations are dealt with well enough, though, so it makes a decent motorway cruiser.
Four-wheel-drive models manage off-road surprisingly well, too, but you’ll need to go for that powerful 200hp option to get some 4x4 action. Scrambling up a 40-degree muddy slope on normal road tyres was undramatic, and bodes well for a trip across a damp field, but the Tarraco isn’t a proper off-roader - venture too far from the tarmac and you’ll be defeated by a low ride height, while those road tyres won’t remain unclogged for long
Seat is sure that most buyers will choose a petrol engine, which brings with it some definite upsides, not least a lower purchase or lease price. Of course, the flip side is that fuel economy suffers by opting for petrol power.
The SE Technology model tested here, with the 1.5-litre petrol engine, promises to return between 36.7 and 40.9mpg, which is pretty competitive for a vehicle of such size, although that figure could be a little optimistic if our driving experience is anything to go by.
Opt for the diesel and economy improves as you would expect, rising to as much as 51.4mpg. There’s not much in it in terms of monthly lease payments, so what works best for you will depend on how many miles you’ll cover.
CO2 emissions range from 143 to 179g/km, with most models falling around 160g/km for the petrol models, and a slightly lower 150g/km for diesels. Only the four-wheel-drive models, with their 200hp engine, reach higher.
The team responsible for Spanish flair clearly had the day off when dealing with the inside of the Tarraco. It’s as conventional as cars come, with a neat, if uninteresting, dashboard that encompasses a 9.25-inch infotainment scream protruding out of the top, above a couple of air vents and some heating controls.
The screen ends up looking a little cheap, especially with a thick black bezel that suggests there should be a larger screen there, but that’s balanced by some impressive material choices around the rest of the cabin. It feels plusher than many of its rivals, despite not having the pizazz of some.
Every trim level is comfortably equipped, with the FR Sport model and above receiving posh leather trim. Beyond that, there’s not much visually to split them, as even the entry-level SE gets an impressive digital instrument panel in place of traditional dials, giving the Tarraco a modern, digital, style.
That’s not the only tech, as Seat has embraced modern, if not quite cutting-edge, accessories. The infotainment has everything you expect, including a DAB radio and Bluetooth connectivity. Grades from SE Technology and up also include navigation, with 3D imagery. And, of course, there’s Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
However, Seat has added multiple USB-C sockets - these are smaller and omnidirectional, but you’ll need to make sure you have the right cable or an adapter to plug your phone in. Apple users can also take advantage of wireless CarPlay, rendering the need to dangle cables around the cabin redundant.
Finding space for seven seats, even in something as big as a Tarraco, requires some compromises, but there’s nothing too concerning about the big Seat.
Starting at the front of the car, you get an excellent pair of seats and an awful lot of headroom and shoulder room. Move back a row and the middle row of seats and there’s almost as much room; you wouldn’t want to put three adult passengers together in there, but three kids will be fine. There are Isofix points for two child seats, too, and both outer seats get fold-out picnic tables to scribble on, rest an iPad on, or spill food on.
The final row is best left to small children. Adults could fit in there if you didn’t like them much, but they’ll need to be young, flexible and thin to get in and out. Kids, however, will be fine and enjoy being as far away from parents as possible.
The compromise is in the boot. Those seats into the space available, leaving a tiny sliver of space when all seven seats are in use. Fold the rear seats down to make it a five-seater and the Tarraco becomes quite cavernous, taking 700 litres of cargo below the window line. Fold everything down and stack it to the roof and that extends to an impressive 1,775 litres.
As with its Skoda and Volkswagen cousins, the Seat Tarraco scored a maximum five-star rating in Euro NCAP’s safety testing, with one of the highest marks we’ve seen for adult occupant protection. Children fare well, too, which is reassuring, but you’ll not be able to put a child seat in the final third row.
There are three basic trim levels for the Tarraco; the entry-level SE, the ‘sporty’ FR, and the luxurious Xcellence. Those three levels then get an extra sub-level, adding some extra equipment for a small uplift in price, creating the SE Technology, FR Sport and Excellence Lux.
You’ll not have many complaints about the SE, and especially the SE Technology, as they come fitted with most essentials. The SE Technology gets navigation, which could be important, but little else of significance.
FR trim levels are the pseudo-sporty models, with larger wheels, some bolt-on spoilers and splitters, and sports seats inside. There’s also some red stitching which, while not sounding significant lifts the otherwise drab cabin.
The Xcellence models are loaded with most things you can think of, with the Lux addition bringing heated rear seats to the mix.
Options are extremely limited; you can choose any paint colour you like, at zero cost. Every model can be specified with a panoramic sunroof for an extra £980, while those wishing to tow can get a variety of tow bar installations. A space-saver spare tyre is a £115 option, with all models receiving a tyre repair kit as standard.
The Tarraco’s most obvious rival is its near-identical twin, the Skoda Kodiaq. It’s not quite as refined as the Tarraco, opting for plastics that are, if we’re being polite, more hard-wearing. The technology onboard isn’t as advanced as you’ll find in the youth-oriented Seat. That said, there’s precious little to choose between them.
The Peugeot 5008 adds a more stylish flair to the SUV game, especially when you step inside. However, the ride quality isn’t what you’d expect from a Peugeot, and the engines can be underpowered. You’ll find more room in the Seat, too.
Kia’s Sorrento is enormous, with seven seats that can happily take an adult. There are also some impressive engines to choose from and it’s positively loaded with tech. It’s a fine choice for the segment, but it can be very pricey.
If you just want space above all other requirements, perhaps a SsangYong Rexton could do the trick. It’s huge, looks good, is packed with technology you didn't know you needed (you can even change the indicator tick-tock noise) but its ride is rough and, while still cheaper than its rivals, prices aren’t quite the bargain you might expect.
There are few better alternatives in this sector, and those that do edge ahead tend to be significantly more expensive. That leaves the Seat as a strong choice, offering acres of space, youthful style, modern equipment and, for an SUV, impressive handling.
Only the ride quality and interior style let it down, and you can mitigate the former by choosing your model - and wheel size - carefully. The latter can probably be overlooked too, as the sector isn't exactly overrun with fashionable models.
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*Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top five leading independent car website reviews of the Seat Tarraco
**Correct as of 07/03/2021. Based on 9 months initial payment, 5,000 miles over a 48 month lease. Initial payment equivalent to 9 monthly payments or £2470.28 Ts and Cs apply. Credit is subject to status.