New 2018 SEAT Tarraco spied testing

The SEAT Tarraco has been spied testing ahead of its official reveal - and Auto Express has exclusive images. This disguised testing mule shows that the Spanish brand are closing in on an official reveal, expected for mid-2018.

Under the skin, the Tarraco is closely related to sister brand’s Skoda Kodiaq, placing it above the Ateca in SEAT’s existing SUV family. Even through the camouflage we can see that the car’s silhouette clearly resembles the Skoda - the roofline and sharp crease through the doors are more or less identical.

• Best SUVs on sale 2018

However, the Tarraco’s front and rear ends will be completely distinct from the Kodiaq’s look. The headlights show an LED signature similar to that of the Tarraco’s smaller SUV siblings - a design which was teased previously in a video posted to the brand’s Spanish Twitter feed. The overall shape of the units seem to be sharper and more aggressive than either the Ateca or the Arona, and the grille appears to be more prominent and vertical than on those models, too.

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SEAT Tarraco spied - rear

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The spy shots follow on from images leaked online through the Facebook group MQB-Coding, showing detailed renderings of how the Tarraco will look both inside and out.

The leaked interior shots reveal that the Tarraco will be equipped with a digital dash similar to that on the Skoda Kodiaq, while other layout traits are also shared with its VW Group sibling and other SEAT models.

The exterior images show that the Tarraco has adopted a rather different design language from the Ateca and Arona SUVs. In addition to the slimmer lights, a clamshell bonnet and full length LED rear light strip set the Tarraco apart. Our exclusive images (see below) preview how it could look when it arrives.

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SEAT Tarraco - render front

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The name of the SUV was decided by the public, after 51,903 SEAT fans voted for the name in an online poll. A total of 146,124 votes were cast during the #SEATseekingName competition run in the latter stages of 2017, with Tarraco proving to be the most popular of four choices. 

The arrival of the new SUV was announced at SEAT’s March 2017 annual press conference, where the manufacturer also confirmed an operating profit of €143m (£124m) for 2016 – the highest in its history and the first full year of profitability since 2008.

In an exclusive interview during the conference, SEAT boss Luca de Meo outlined how the SUV will start a “new design cycle” for SEAT, leading up to the release of a “landmark” next-generation Leon by the end of the decade. “We want to be even more emotional and sporty in our design – both with the interior and exterior,” de Meo told Auto Express. 

De Meo also revealed the new SUV, which will be available with either five or seven seats, will share the modular MQB A2 platform with the Kodiaq and VW Tiguan. He also confirmed that the new car will be “designed in Barcelona and made in Germany” alongside those models. In contrast, the Arona will be built by SEAT at its plant in Martorell, Spain. 

“Producing the new SUV in Wolfsburg, in the heart of the VW Group, will reinforce the ties between SEAT and Volkswagen,” de Meo said. The Arona and the new SUV are part of SEAT’s plan to go from 50 to 75 per cent of market model coverage in the next year. 

Bosses also confirmed the new SUV is “designed for Europe”, rather than allowing SEAT’s expansion into other global markets. Over 80 per cent of SEAT’s sales are in western Europe, while the UK is the brand’s third largest market. 

As the flagship SUV is to be underpinned by the MQB platform, we expect it to be offered with a familiar range of four-cylinder turbocharged petrol and diesel engines. Both two and four-wheel drive will be offered – as with the Kodiaq – while de Meo said that a plug-in hybrid variant would “make sense”. Manual and automatic gearbox options will be available, while a range-topping Cupra variant hasn’t been ruled out.

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SEAT Tarraco SUV leak - front

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The large SUV will be revealed in full in the middle of 2018, with a European release expected soon after. UK sales should start before the end of the year. Prices have yet to be announced, but expect it to be very near the Kodiaq’s £23,000 starting point.

New SEAT large SUV - previous hints

Three years ago at the Geneva Motor Show, SEAT showed its 20V20 large SUV concept, and its then-boss Jurgen Stackmann promised that it would reach production if the company"s first SUV, the Ateca, proved a sales success. Now the current chief Luca de Meo has admitted that the bigger car is on track to reach dealerships before the end of the decade.

Asked at last year"s show if he would like to do a SEAT version of the Kodiaq, de Meo replied: “I can’t say today, but we are working on it. We see opportunities; we’re looking at the business case and the vision of the product.”

He added, "20V20 was not just something we did for fun; there was some thinking behind that."

• SEAT 20V20 concept review

“The whole thing about SUVs is it’s where the money is today," said de Meo. "The next big thing will be interpretation of the SUV and possible themes – variations on the theme. The SUV is not a fashion thing, it’s a strength – in spite of everything: higher cost, higher CO2. It’s the new interpretation of a sports car.”

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SEAT seven seat SUV teaser

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The new SUV (like the Kodiaq) will use the A2 variation of the architecture in its longer wheelbase, sharing many components with VW"s recently launched Tiguan Allspace.

When quizzed recently by Auto Express on what would eventually replace the Alhambra, SEAT design boss Alejandro Mesonero said, "We do not want to do that body style any more. We will replace it, but not with the one-box design we have now."

The current Alhambra, built alongside its Volkswagen Sharan sister car, has been on sale for six years, with only a minor facelift in 2015. When quizzed about what would eventually replace the Ford Galaxy rival, Mesonero said: "We do not want to do that bodystyle any more."

• Best seven-seaters

De Meo also confirmed that he’d be happy selling bigger, more expensive SEAT models. “We could go bigger; you have to do it in the right way with the right timing and sometimes not in an obvious way," he said. 

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SEAT 20V20 drive front

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“In terms of transaction price, between the old Leon and the new Leon there was a huge jump, so we don’t have a problem being at the same level as other competitors - like, for example, the French. 

“We have to do that step by step, we already did it with the Leon, the Ateca was another step so slowly we can find a way to build our presence and the level of average price between €20,000 and €30,000 – before we used to be between €10,000 and €20,000.”

However, di Meo did sound a warning about SEAT pushing too far upmarket. “If everyone goes up in the group, then we all end up doing exactly the same thing; then you don’t need 12 brands,” he said. “It’s very important for SEAT to reinforce its small-car business and be successful with cars like Ibiza and Arona. We need to profile the role of SEAT in the group.”

In spite of the arrival of new SUVs, de Meo confirmed that the brand’s successful Cupra models would continue. “I see additional possibilities of leveraging the whole story of Cupra,” he said. “I don’t want to be more precise than this, but you have to remember that I was the guy who resurrected Abarth when I was at FIAT, so I know that this kind of thing can work, but you have to do it right.”

When asked if it could apply to SUVs, he said, “Why not?” Auto Express revealed last year that a Cupra version of the SEAT Ateca is on the cards with power from the Leon’s 300bhp 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine. That model could still be seen later this year.

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