The wraps are today pulled off the Altea FR – the hottest and fastest version of SEAT’s versatile and dynamic MSV (Multi-Sports Vehicle). The new model is unveiled at the 38th Essen Motor Show in Germany, hot on the heels of the prototype version’s debut at September’s Frankfurt Motor Show. It is the first of the new generation of SEAT models to join the evocative ‘FR’ (Formula Racing) stable, which has proved to be such a success for the Ibiza and first generation Leon.

The Altea FR’s striking appearance incorporates all of the principal features of the show car. These begin with a restyled front bumper including a full-width lower air intake with sporty honeycomb grille. The new car’s flanks display the all-red letters ‘TDI’, indicating that this Altea is powered by the most potent diesel engine in SEAT’s range, while the titanium colour door mirror housings are a hallmark of FR models.

At the car’s rear, it is the distinctive bumper with its black ‘diffuser’ styling which really demands attention. Chromed twin tailpipes add further impact, while the letters ‘FR’ on the tailgate announce this model’s identity clearly to other road users. Finally, imposing new five-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels complete the car’s purposeful appearance.

The interior builds on the Altea’s driver-oriented environment, accentuating the sporty ambience that is expected of SEAT’s FR range. For example, the dashboard boasts a new grey/black look that contrasts with other Alteas, while the attractive three-spoke steering wheel (with metal FR badge on the centre spoke) is exclusive to this model. The FR logo dominates the top of the gearknob, with the gearshift pattern displayed underneath.

White backgrounds to the instrumentation are enhanced by the FR badge appearing once again, this time on the rev counter, which naturally is the centre of attention within the instrument cluster. The seats, with generous side bolstering, are upholstered with a combination of sporty looking fabrics and also bear the FR logo at the top of the backrests.

In short, drivers of the Altea FR will be left in no doubt that they are sat behind the wheel of something very special.

At the heart of the SEAT Altea FR is its engine. Based on the 2.0-litre TDI 140 PS diesel, it produces 170 PS and is partnered by a six-speed manual gearbox whose ratios have been optimised for this model. This extra power has been achieved principally by modifying the turbocharger’s geometry and increasing maximum fuelling rates to the injection system.

The key modification has been the inclusion of high-pressure direct diesel injection technology in the form of the Piezo Pump injection system. The piezo-electric injectors optimise injection timing and quantity, resulting in far superior acoustics and cleaner emissions through greater injection precision.

Performance figures are yet to be released, but with such a potent powerplant nestling under its bonnet, the new model promises to deliver the swift pace expected from any SEAT bearing the FR badge.

Good news for the environment too – the new engine complies with Euro 4 emissions standards, and goes one step further by adding a DPF diesel particulate filter system.

The Altea’s already dynamic chassis – featuring sophisticated multi-link rear suspension – has undergone careful redevelopment in order to harness the extra power of the 170 PS engine. The springs have been made firmer, while thicker anti-roll bars have been fitted. As a result, the FR sits 7 mm lower than even Alteas fitted with sports suspension. The brakes have also been uprated, with larger ventilated front discs and bigger rear discs.

UK sales of the SEAT Altea FR, which has been developed entirely at SEAT’s Technical Centre in Martorell, are due to start in March 2006. It will offer a compelling alternative to vehicles such as the Ford Focus C-MAX and Renault Scénic, delivering great looks and overtly sporty dynamics. Prices and full specification of this exciting new model will be announced closer to launch.