I’ve never been to Marbella, but I suspect anyone with the nickname ‘Marbella Playa’ is best avoided. Spend a night with him or her and you’ll wake up with a sore head, a venereal disease and an empty wallet. Possibly all three.
But there is a Marbella Playa you’d happily spend some quality time with. Introducing the Seat Marbella Playa concept of 1991.
Launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show, the Seat Marbella Playa looks like the kind of car a three-door Land Rover Freelander and Skoda Felicia Fun would create after a one-night-stand in a ‘Marbs’ motel room. It’s also more in-yer-face than a shirt worn by Timmy Mallett.
In fairness, it probably had the same level of structural rigidity as Mallett’s Mallet.
As the name suggests, the Playa was based on the Seat Marbella, which in turn can trace its roots back to the Fiat Panda of 1980. The Marbella Playa may have been a new kid on the block, but it was showing its age like an overly tanned 40-something on a Club 18-30 holiday.
It all looks a little…. unfinished. Take the canvas roof, which has the whiff of something that was purchased from the Spanish equivalent of Millets, before being hastily attached to the car on the eve of the Frankfurt show. Accommodation would be best described as ‘bijou’, with the rear jump seats looking suspiciously like outdoor toilets.
Power was sourced from a 40hp engine, while the wheel on the back hinted at proper off-road credentials, of which it had none. According to Xavier Villanueva, a designer at Seat, “it stood out with bright, youthful colours as well as round foglight at the front.”
Don’t you miss the days when round foglights were a key selling point for a lifestyle vehicle?
The press shots feature a real-life Marbella Playa who seems all too keen to extol the virtues of life with the Seat. Note how he leaves his two female companions to sort the fiddly roof. Also see how he breaks away from his game of badminton with one girl to share a drink with the other. He’s living the Marbella dream.
In fairness to Seat, the Marbella Playa was ahead of the curve. The three-door Freelander, with its removable rear hardtop, was still a few years off, although project ‘Lifestyle’ was already underway at Land Rover. The Honda HR-V wouldn’t arrive until the end of the decade.
The body armour looks like it could cope with the rufty-tufty of the airport car rental parking, while the hose-down and wipe-clean interior is perfectly pitched for an outdoor life. It also scores marks for its single wiper and very 90s grille design.
It wasn’t meant to be. The Marbella Playa remained a one-off. It soon faded into the distance like the memory of that summer romance when you learnt to dance the Macarena.
Still, it looks fun, and fun seems in short supply at the moment. Maybe spending a weekend with the Marbella Playa wouldn’t be such a bad idea after all. Anyone fancy a game of badminton?