- Stylish seven-seat SUV
- Spacious and upmarket cabin
- Cheaper than the equivalent Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace
- It’s not exactly a full-size seven-seater
- You can spend a lot of money on a high-spec model
- The 2.0-litre petrol is thirsty
Skoda launched its Kodiaq in 2016 and it quickly became the default choice for car buyers with a growing family. So, when sister brand SEAT sought to introduce its own take on the seven-seat SUV a few years later, it had quite a challenge on its hands. How could it offer something equally competitive without copying the formula like-for-like?
The result is the SEAT Tarraco. It builds on the Kodiaq with added technology, slightly sportier driving dynamics, and - arguably - more stylish looks.
It shares an engine line-up with the Kodiaq (and the slightly more expensive Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace), meaning buyers get a choice of 2.0-litre diesels and 1.5- or 2.0-litre petrols. You can also choose from manual or DSG automatic gearboxes, as well as two- or four-wheel drive.
Although it’s not politically correct to say so these days, we actually rate the diesels in the SEAT Tarraco. They cope better with the weight of an SUV of this size, with plenty of torque providing a relaxed driving experience. The lower-powered 150PS diesel engine will suit most buyers but the 190PS version makes for particularly effortless motorway driving. It comes with four-wheel drive and an automatic gearbox as standard, too - the caravanner’s dream combination.
If you only cover low miles (or do a lot of driving around town), you’d be better with a petrol. Unfortunately the 2.0-litre petrol is particularly thirsty which makes it hard to recommend. The 1.5-litre petrol is more frugal, although you will have to be prepared to drop down a gear or two when you get to hills or look to overtake.
The SEAT Tarraco is a more nimble handler than the Skoda Kodiaq, although it still feels like a big old bus compared to the smaller SEAT Ateca. And, because engineers have tried to make the Tarraco better to drive, it’s rather firm. It’ll thump over potholes and you’ll have to slow down significantly for speed bumps. It’s better on the 17- or 18-inch wheels than the 19- or 20-inch alloys that furnish high-spec models.
A highlight of the SEAT Tarraco is its cabin. It might not be as interesting to look at as a Peugeot 5008’s, but it’s functional and feels pretty classy. It’s also quite a tech-fest - all models come with an eight-inch media display as well as a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster behind the steering wheel.
And, of course, it’s very practical. There’s loads of room up front, with a high seating position and supportive seats. Adults will be equally happy in the middle row, although the third row of seats really is for occasional use only. If you need to carry lots of passengers, you should be looking at the dull-but-uber-practical SEAT Alhambra people carrier instead.
All in all, the SEAT Tarraco takes an already winning formula (as seen in the Skoda Kodiaq) and makes it even more appealing. If you like a family SUV that handles well, offers stylish looks and features the latest technology, the SEAT Tarraco is a very strong choice indeed.
Is the SEAT Tarraco right for you?
Like most seven-seat SUVs, the SEAT Tarraco isn’t going to cut it if you really need to carry seven adults regularly. But it’s still a very practical choice, with a stylish cabin that feels well up to the job of dealing with day-to-day family life. It’s also good to drive, with a wide range of efficient petrol and diesel engines.
What’s the best SEAT Tarraco model/engine to choose?
We think the 2.0-litre TDI is the pick of the bunch, although you’d be better with a petrol if you only cover low miles. In terms of models, go for a mid-level trim - the SE Technology has everything most buyers will need without breaking the bank.
What other cars are similar to the SEAT Tarraco?
If you’re considering a SEAT Tarraco, you should also consider the Skoda Kodiaq and Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace. Both of which share engines and a platform with the Tarraco, making choosing between them difficult. The Tiguan Allspace is a bit more upmarket than the SEAT, although you’ll pay for that, while the Kodiaq is slightly waftier to drive (which may or may not be a good thing, depending on your requirements).
Outside of Volkswagen Group, you should also consider the stylish Peugeot 5008 with its futuristic interior. The Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento represent good value for money, while the Ford Kuga is another strong choice (although it’s not available with seven seats).
You'll find it's easy to get a comfortable driving position because of the wide range of adjustment available for the seat and steering wheel.
One-up-from-base SEAT Tarraco SE Technology models have tinted rear windows which are great if you have kids in the back, while climbing another step to FR adds keyless entry and go, so no more sifting through your pockets to find your keys.
FR Sport cars feel reasonably luxurious with their leather seats that are heated in the front and the back, while Xcellance models have a genuinely posh feel with Alcantara upholstery and front sills that light up. To that, top banana Xcellence Lux models add an electrically adjustable driver's seat with a memory function.
Quality and finish
The SEAT Tarraco’s interior feels significantly plusher than we’re used to from Volkswagen’s Spanish brand. You’ll find lots of soft-touch materials and neat finishes, meaning it’s almost as classy as the pricier Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace.
Infotainment: Touchscreen, USB, nav and stereo in the SEAT Tarraco
An eight-inch touchscreen media system is standard across the range, including navigation across all but basic SE models. This is a really simple device to use, with useful shortcut buttons and quick responses. It might look like it’s plonked on the dash like an afterthought, but it’s conveniently positioned close to the driver’s eye line which means it isn’t too distracting - although we’d like it more if it had a Mazda-like rotary controller between the seats. That said, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are fitted as standard and both have excellent voice recognition systems that mean you barely have to take your hands off the wheel to do simple tasks.
Space and practicality: Seat Tarraco boot space
If you’re looking at the SEAT Tarraco, you’re probably most concerned with how spacious it is. There’s loads of room in the front, with big comfortable seats and lots of useful storage spaces. In the back, the middle row of seats can slide backwards and forwards as well as recline, meaning you can prioritise comfort or boot space.
The rear doors open 90 degrees giving you superb access to the back seat, which is a boon when you come to fitting a child seat. The Skoda's tall height and roominess make manoeuvring a seat into position easy and the Isofix points are clear to see allowing you to get the chair quickly slotted into place.
There’s plenty of space back there, although the same can’t be said for the rearmost seats. These really are for occasional use by children only. And when they’re in use, they eat up boot space - leaving just 230 litres for luggage. The SEAT Tarraco has boot space of 700 litres with five seats in use.
The SEAT Tarraco has dimensions of 4735mm long, 1674mm wide and 1839mm tall.
As motorway car, the Tarraco is brilliant. It's a relaxed cruiser and even models with larger wheels ride comfortably. Adaptive cruise control is standard across the range, so the SEAT will accelerate and brake for you so long drives are less mind-numbingly boring.
As a relatively bulky SUV, you might expect the Tarraco to slip up in town, but it doesn't – it turns reasonable tightly and all models have rear parking sensors that allow you to reverse with confidence. FR Sport models and above have a reversing camera, while Xcellence Lux cars have a 360-degree camera which makes negotiating width restrictors less of a hand-in-mouth exercise.
What engines and gearboxes are available in the SEAT Tarraco?
There are two petrol engines to choose from: a 1.5- or 2.0-litre TSI, the former with a manual or automatic gearbox and two-wheel drive, while the latter comes with 4Drive all-wheel drive and DSG automatic transmission.
The 1.5-litre petrol will be sufficient for most buyers, although it does feel a little strained when fully-loaded. The 2.0-litre is noticeably punchier, although it’s not a frugal choice.
If you cover a lot of motorway miles, we’d recommend looking for the 2.0-litre diesel engine which is available in a variety of flavours. The standard 150PS model is potent enough and can be combined with a manual or automatic gearbox and two- or four-wheel drive. For the ultimate in pulling power, look for a 2.0 TDI 190 engine, which comes as standard with the DSG auto transmission and all-wheel drive, though strangely it doesn't feel that much quicker than the 150 model and isn't quite so smooth.
Refinement and noise levels
The Tarraco suffers from a little bit of wind noise from around the A pillars and the mirrors, but it's no more than a distant flutter unless you go well beyond legal speeds. Tyre rumble is only really an issue on cars with larger wheels while there's little to no engine noise at a cruise.
Safety equipment: How safe is the SEAT Tarraco?
The SEAT Tarraco got a five-star rating for safety when it was crash tested by Euro NCAP in 2019.
Standard safety kit includes the usual glut of airbags as well as eCall, which will phone the emergency services if the car is in an accident, and automatic emergency brakes that can detect cars and people. You also get lane assist that gently steers the car in lane and hill-hold assist that stops the car from rolling when you're setting off on a hill.
This drops to 42.2mpg with the automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive, while the more powerful 2.0 TDI 190 with DSG transmission and all-wheel drive returns up to 39.2mpg.
The petrol models are less frugal, particularly if you buy one with the 2.0 TSI engine. This only comes with four-wheel-drive and the DSG gearbox, and officially it’s good for up to 31.7mpg. Ouch. The 1.5-litre petrol is better, returning up to 38.7mpg with the manual gearbox or 39.2mpg as an auto.
Realistically, though, you can probably knock 10mpg off both the 2.0 and 1.5-litre models' figures in the real world.
VED (car tax) will cost a flat rate of £150 a year after the first year. The exception is those models with a list price of more than £40,000, which will cost an extra £325 a year in tax for the subsequent five years. Even if you pay considerably less than this second-hand, you’ll still be liable so it’s worth bearing in mind.
How reliable is a SEAT Tarraco?
SEAT didn't come in for particular criticism in our sister website Honest John's Satisfaction Index, but Volkswagen, which SEAT shares many of its parts with, came tenth place in our list of the top ten least reliable manufacturers. On the upside, SEATs come as standard with a three-year/60,000-mile warranty, although it's not a patch on the seven-year cover you get with a Kia Sportage.
Insurance groups and costs
The cheapest SEAT Tarraco to insure is the 150PS 1.5-litre petrol model in SE trim, which sits in insurance group 18. Group 31 insurance means the 2.0 TSI 245 Xcellence model with a DSG gearbox and 4Drive four-wheel drive costs the most to insure.
VED car tax: What is the annual road tax on a SEAT Tarraco?
Taxing the SEAT Tarraco won't cost the earth, but it pays to avoid top end models that cost more than £40,000 and are subject to the UK's premium car tax meaning you'll be due to pay an extra £335 for the first five years of ownership, which transfers to the new owner if you sell the car on.
The 150PS diesel model produces 142g/km CO2 and has the cheapest year-one road tax of £220, climbing to up to £1345 for the 245PS petrol which produces 200g/km. You'll pay £155 every year after that.
That said, we would avoid the damage-repaired examples languishing at below £20,000 and spend around £22,000 to find a car that hasn't been crashed – it's enough to get you a 2020 car with less than 10,000 miles on the clock and fitted with the nippy, cheap-to-run 150PS 1.5-litre petrol engine in basic SE trim.
Having said that, spending over £25,000 is enough to get our pick of the range – the 150PS diesel in SE Technology trim. So long as you'll use it on long journeys, the diesel model's grunty low range suits the heavy Tarraco to a tee and SE Technology models add useful kit such as the smarter looking 18-inch wheels and upgraded infotainment screen. We saw a 2020 car with 10,000 under its wheels for £26,000.
Trim levels and standard equipment
The SEAT Tarraco range kicks off with the SE grade. This comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, an eight-inch media system (with DAB radio and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto), the 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster, rear parking sensors and three-zone climate control.
SE Technology models build on this with 18-inch alloy wheels, tinted rear windows and navigation with 3D mapping.
The stylish Tarraco FR adds 19-inch alloy wheels, black exterior highlights (including the grille and roof rails), a rear spoiler and a twin exhaust system. Sports seats trimmed in Alcantara and cloth are standard, along with electric seat adjustment for the driver’s seat. The FR also comes with adaptive cruise control, keyless entry and go and an electric tailgate. The park assist feature is also standard with self-parking functionality and front parking sensors.
The FR Sport builds on the FR trim with 20-inch alloy wheels, leather seats, a rear- and top-view camera and the Winter pack (with heated front and rear seats as well as heated washer nozzles).
The posh Tarraco Xcellence comes with 19-inch alloy wheels, chrome exterior trim (including roof rails and window trim), along with front sports seats in cloth with Alcantara. Technology includes the adaptive cruise control, keyless start, electric tailgate, park assist and a rear-view camera.
Topping the range is the Tarraco Xcellence Lux. This comes with 20-inch alloy wheels, leather sports seats (with electric adjustment for the driver), a top-view camera and Winter pack.