By Tom Sharpe | 03/10/2017


Engine: 2-litre, common rail turbo diesel
Power: 141bhp and 236lb.ft.
Performance: 0 to 62mph in 9.2 seconds and 133mph
Fuel economy: 51.5mpg (combined)
CO2 emissions: 143g/km
Price: £18,345
Rating: ****

¡Viva España!


EAST 17, All Saints, Michael Jackson at the O2, they’re all proof that a comeback doesn’t always work out...or remotely live up to expectation for that matter.

In SEAT’s new Exeo saloon, however, we see the usually forward thinking Volkswagen-Audi Group’s polish and refine a platform that had already won acclaim and sales but had since been superseded.

I am talking, of course, about the last generation Audi A4, a car that the Exeo makes only mild efforts to disguise itself from.

SEAT may make the point that there has been a lot of development work involved in transforming the A4 into something with a dose more auto emoción but lying at the heart of their new saloon remains a still-beating German heart.

It promises to be a compelling combination.

What the Audi always lacked was design flair, the kind we have become used to in SEAT’s Leon and Ibiza, and any brand launching a new saloon could do with the build quality of Audi to fall back on.

The Exeo has was born out of extensive work to the suspension and interior and VAGs new range of two litre TDI and TSI engines lie under the bonnet. All that and a specification and prices which promise to satisfy the thrifty among us.

Prices range from £17,740 to £21,340 with halogen headlights, tinted windows, dual zone climate control, Bluetooth phone operation and cruise control as standard on the base-spec car (S, SE, SE LUX and SPORT are available).

The two-litre TDI SE tested here comes in at £18,345 and 17 inch alloys, rear parking sensors and an uprated stereo are among a raft of additions.

From the off the Exeo wins points by coming with a specification that would sit in many manufacturers top-spec offerings yet coming in some £5,120 short of a new, similarly-engined Audi A4.

The first thing to acknowledge on introducing the Exeo in the metal, however, is that SEAT have chosen to play it safe with this particular design exercise.

Sharp creases and dramatic concave surfaces have all been the handiwork of SEAT’s head of design Luc Donkerwolke in recent times and all are sadly absent.

There is SEAT’s now distinctive “arrow design” front end design but, overall, this is a disappointingly conservative interpretation of the A4’s styling.

Open the door and you are met with a space that moves SEAT on apace, however.

What the Exeo loses in design flair over its siblings it gains in build quality and there is a soft, tactile feel to almost every surface.

There are several cup holders (including a pair which pop out of the rear arm rest), supportive seats and a fully adjustable steering wheel as well as more rear leg room than I recall on any Audi A4 and a 460-litre boot.

The Exeo SE comes with fabric seats which add to interiors generally dark colour scheme, but a slightly gloomy feel is one of few drawbacks, a folding arm rest which gets in the way of the handbrake being another.

Out on the road there is a predictable composure about the Exeo.

Although multi-link suspension set-up balances bump absorption and body control, however, the Exeo never quite lives up to SEAT’s boasts of sporty dynamics, instead pushing into understeer as the limits of grip are approached.

Predictably strong, the common rail two-litre turbo diesel engine is not particularly refined from the outside but sound deadening keeps interior noise to minimum, as it delivers its power in smooth, lag-free fashion.

With 141bhp on tap (there is a 168bhp diesel option) the Exeo should hit 62mph in 9.2 seconds and a 133mph top speed.

The 236lb.ft. peak torque on tap between 1,750rpm and 2,500rpm ensures flexible in-gear acceleration which makes the Exeo feel relaxed yet determined rather than rapid.

Go easy and there’s also the promise of 51.5mpg (combined) fuel economy and 143g/km CO2 emissions—£125 a year road tax to you and me.

As SEAT’s D-segment debut the Exeo is a fine proposition.

In my opinion it doesn’t inject enough of the strong design DNA which SEAT have become known for in recent times but a generous specification and impressive build quality mean it offers exceptional value for money.

The Exeo gives Leon and Ibiza drivers an extremely capable car to move onwards and upwards towards and those of us who aren’t badge snobs a cut-price entry into executive motoring.

On strong foundations SEAT have managed to hit something of a high note...