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Review

First Drive: Seat Exeo ST 2.0 TDI SE Tech car review

12/04/12

THE EXEO has been thought of as something of a wise buy ever since its release in 2009. Wearing the undergarments of a previous generation Audi A4, only partially disguised with a nice new-for-2012 Seat frock means it’s a bit of a bargain.

If I may be so bold as to shift the bottom line up so high, at £22,290 on your drive the Exeo ST looks handsome on paper next to any of the alternatives. It has a proven chassis, huge boot, cutting-edge engines courtesy of the Volkswagen Group and an impressive amount of standard kit.

It’s a car designed for one primary purpose: giving company car drivers what they want. Its price means it sometimes falls into some people’s choice list when the A4 on which it’s based wouldn’t have, and it offers a very high-spec option for the money.

This particular car is an SE Tech model, which throws an extra £3,270 of kit into the mix for an £875 premium over the normal SE model. It’s hard to say no to a deal like that, especially when the resulting kit list reads like this Exeo’s.

You get leather upholstery, 17-inch alloys, stainless steel roof rails, dual-zone climate control, sat-nav, a Bose Premium Audio system, cruise control, automatic lights and wipers, Bluetooth, rear parking sensors, leather-trimmed contact points and loads of practical touches like a net partition at the rear, a fold-out bag that emerges from behind the middle seats and can safely house skis, and a dual-floor boot. Aaaand breathe.

It’s a phenomenal list of makes-your-life-easier kit, boosted on this car by optional bi-xenon headlights, a very reasonably-priced Convenience Pack that includes front parking sensors among other handy things, double-glazed side windows to prevent condensation and reduce wind noise, and a detachable tow bar.

All of this makes the Exeo very easy to live with. On the motorway; its anticipated home for much of its driving life, the double-glazed side windows go some way to helping minimise wind noise to really impressive levels. You still hear gusting crosswinds, but on a still day on decent Tarmac it’s a quiet car indeed.

This one is powered by the familiar 2.0-litre TDI diesel from the Volkswagen Group, an engine that sees service in dozens of models and states of tune across Seat, VW, Audi and Skoda cars. It’s a tremendously good all-round choice for a high-mileage driver, and with 141bhp it has plenty of shove for most people.

In particular, it’s tuned to give high torque with only a gentle press of the throttle pedal in second gear, giving it a really lively and pokey attitude around town. At low revs there’s some noticeable vibration, but that disappears as the revs rise up past 1,500rpm and the turbo kicks in.

Being based on an older generation car it’s a little smaller than the current Audi A4, for example, but it feels a bit more agile and interesting to drive as a result. It’s no sports car but mid-corner the driving experience has more about it than some of the other options for the price.

As many company cars get used as family buses at the weekends, the Exeo ST scores more points. The boot is wide, long and has a handy dual-floor layout that allows smaller or thinner, potentially more fragile or valuable items to be stowed out of sight and out of harm’s way. There’s no load lip so hoisting pushchairs and/or heavy shopping in and out is no problem.

If you were to fault it you could argue that the road tax bill isn’t as low as it could be in this day and age. The trade-off for having to pay £120 per year for road tax instead of, say, £30, is that the car costs a lot less to buy in the first place than it might. Business users might be put off in some cases, though.

Then there’s the bizarre audio system which at first glance offers every way under the sun of playing music. IPod connection? Check. Standard aux-in port? Check. SD card slot? Check times two. CD multi-changer? Che… oh, hang on a minute.

The media interface, displayed on the 6.5-inch sat-nav screen, appears to show six CDs as if there’s a multi-changer, but there isn’t. To play a CD you have to take the navigation DVD out, so you can’t play CDs and use the nav. It’s a bit of a technological ball-drop, but owners say as long as your music is on SD cards the system works a treat.

On the whole the Exeo is a very convincing car, offering an awful lot of substance underneath its distinctive styling. In value-conscious times like these, business and private buyers alike would do well to have a closer look.

FACTS AT A GLANCE Model: Seat Exeo ST SE Tech 2.0 TDI 143PS, £22,290 on the road.

Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel producing 141bhp and 236lb.ft.

Transmission: 6-speed manual gearbox driving the front wheels.

Performance: Top speed 130mph, 0-62mph in 9.6 seconds.

Fuel economy: 56.5mpg.

CO2 rating: 132g/km.

  • Enginesdiesel
  • Power3 (average performance)
  • 0-60 mph
  • Economy3 (average fuel economy)
  • CO2g/km
  • Insurance groups3 (average costs)
  • Airbags
  • Seats5

Motors.co.uk value verdict:    stars

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