The Spanish brand Seat has recently been making hot news, particularly with its new sub-brand Cupra, which focuses on performance-oriented models. Although we didn’t get a chance to sample the new Cupra Ateca or León Cupra, we drove Seat’s version of the Volkswagen Tiguan—the new three-row Tarraco, which debuted at the 2018 Paris Motor Show and has proven to be a popular alternative with its sharp styling. During a recent trip to Mexico City, I had the chance to drive Seat’s new flagship SUV.
Propelled by the same 1.4-liter turbo-four engine that’s in the Golf, the Tarraco produces 150 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque and is mated to a six-speed dual-clutch gearbox that sends power to the front wheels. Although we’ve enjoyed this engine in the Golf, it simply feels too small for the Tarraco.
With only 150 hp under my command, the seven-seater SUV had trouble gaining speed, and it didn’t shine when trying to pass vehicles despite using the paddle shifters. Drivers can choose between Eco, Normal, Sport, and Individual modes, and although Sport mode does help a bit, it’s not sufficient. Other markets, like Spain, have more engine options that include two more gasoline engines (a 1.5-liter turbo and 2.0-liter turbo) and a 2.0-liter turbodiesel, but those mills are not offered in Mexico. Even when you have just one person inside, the Tarraco feels too big for this engine.
The Tarraco is no Cupra, but those looking to buy a compact crossover in Mexico may be satisfied with its styling, standard equipment, and pricing. I drove the top-trim Xcellence, which came with premium cloth seats with suede inserts, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a 360-degree camera, and a three-zone A/C system, something you don’t see too often in Mexican-spec cars. The interior design was actually pretty pleasant, with a full digital display for the instrument panel, faux wood along the dashboard and door panels, and chrome surrounds along the infotainment screen and A/C controls. Dig a little deeper, and you’ll distinguish the Tarraco as a Volkswagen Group model thanks to its A/C controls, steering buttons, and fonts, which are taken straight out of VW vehicles. I was particularly surprised by how well the Beats Audio system performs—with eight speakers around the cabin, the sound was crisp and clear.
In terms of interior room, the second row is quite spacious for two adults, but the third row is just too small to put anyone there. Unless you’re driving your children’s friends from soccer practice to your house, that third row is impractical.
Seat’s newest SUV also brings a new design language to the brand, so expect to see some of these cues expanded into future models. The exterior design is quite appealing, and I personally prefer it over the Tiguan. The LED daytime running lights and hoodlines give it a distinct look, as well as its smaller grille and new front fascia. The 19-inch wheels also give it a good stance from its profile.
Strategically priced just below the Tiguan, the Tarraco is a good alternative for those looking for ample space (at least until you get to the third row) and a long list of convenience features. It needs more power—way more power—but as crossovers gain popularity, the Tarraco is a good addition for the Seat brand.