SEAT Altea XL Electric Ecomotive: First drive
The Altea XL Electric Ecomotive is the second prong in SEAT's two-tiered future attack on electromobility, alongside the Leon TwinDrive.
This charged Altea XL is the first electric car in Spain and like the Leon, SEAT are producing cars for use by government departments in Catalonia and Madrid. These will be doing useful test mileage, before a future production version is launched.
This project may seem more about SEAT putting an electric car infrastructure in place in Spain, than perhaps the production car, but I was keen to have an early drive at the event in Barcelona.
The electric Altea XL is powered by a 115bhp E-machine motor, which boasts 270Nm of torque. The fact it's an electric car means there's no emissions and a range of 83 miles.
On the outside, the only changes over the standard car, was the sealed grille, the green coloured wing mirror covers and the sunroof that has a solar element.
The solar sunroof is quite clever, as it charges the air conditioning so it can be set to keep the car cool while it's parked, via a smartphone app. The app can also monitor the amount of charge, unlock the car and operate the warning lights.
Inside, the most obvious change is to the green tinged instruments. The central rev counter is now a battery charge indicator and the temperature and petrol gauges tell you the range and how much charge is left in the batteries.
Thankfully, unlike the Leon TwinDrive, interior space is not compromised by the addition of a battery pack, as it lives under the Altea's rear seat.
So what's the Altea XL Electric Ecomotive like to drive then? Well, to be honest, a lot like the other electric cars I've tried. Turn the key, select your drive mode on the auto box, take the handbrake off and a small electric whirring noise (which could be unfairly compared to the noise a milkfloat makes!) and you're off in almost complete silence.
The electric Altea has the choice of three engine and transmission modes. Normal, eco and range, with D and S being the drive options through the automatic gearbox.
Normal is exactly what it says, with performance, acceleration and air-conditioning settings unchanged. Eco model limits the Altea's top speed and makes the air-conditioning condenser run more efficiently. Finally, there's a range mode, which acts like a safety net to get you home. As it cuts the air-conditioning, but limits the top speed and acceleration too.
On top of the usual drive mode for the gearbox, there's also an 'S' mode, which in this case doesn't mean Sport. Instead, the S mode increases the effectiveness of the regenerative braking, which can be adjusted by what used to be the paddle shifters on the steering wheel.
I spent all of my time in D and normal mode and thought that although well executed, the Altea was possibly not best suited to an electric drivetrain. Slow to accelerate, 62mph comes up in 12 seconds and the top speed is just 84mph.
Still, despite the extra weight of the batteries, the ride and handling feel unchanged from a standard Altea. Despite some body roll, the electric XL has plenty of grip and steers precisely.
So, whilst it's not a sparkling drive, the Altea XL Electric Ecomotive demonstrates SEAT's commitment to producing electric vehicles and that should be applauded.