SEAT Exeo Sport Tech 2.0 TDI 170PS road test review by Oliver Hammond

Don’t worry. You’re not going mad. If the SEAT Exeo looks strangely familiar to you, that’s because it’s based on the previous ‘B7’ generation (2005-2008) Audi A4. The Exeo was originally launched in 2008 and SEAT have now decided to give it a bit of cosmetic surgery along with a few internal tweaks. The result? I reckon it now looks even more like an Audi than ever. But that’s not a bad thing, is it?

SEAT Exeo 2011 2012 facelift 2-0 TDI 170PS diesel Sport Tech road test review by Oliver Hammond - photo - external Ashton Tameside Enterprise 09

Exterior

SEAT have never been ashamed about heavily basing the Exeo on the older A4, so I’m equally unashamed to start off on this admittedly well-beaten track. The Audi A4 ‘B7’ model was actually in itself not a new car in terms of chassis, but merely a new look for the existing ‘B6’ platform, which had been around since 2001. The B7 generation certainly wasn’t a bad-looker, with its ‘new-Audi’ open mouth, conservatively sporty lines and solid image. Since the B7 was replaced, the Audi range has started to look very samey. Anyway, back to the Exeo. In my view, it’s not a bad thing being based externally and internally on the older A4. To complain about inheriting such respected looks would be like a guy complaining that he looks like George Clooney or Daniel Craig.

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    SEAT Exeo 2011 2012 facelift 2-0 TDI 170PS diesel Sport Tech road test review by Oliver Hammond - photo - rear twin chrome exhausts
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The Spaniards have recently given the Exeo a nose job, some eye surgery and a butt-lift – and I have to say I find all the tweaks more than agreeable. New bi-Xenon headlights with very attractive daytime running lights, partnered by equally eye-catching LED lights at the rear, make up the bulk of the exterior enhancements, save for a few re-angled creases. New alloys and paint colours are also now available and even though I’ve always been someone who prefers stealthy, discretely-coloured cars, I really took to my press car’s Emoción Red paint job. The 18” turbine-style ‘Quartz’ alloys also looked the business. The car being reviewed came in ‘Sport Tech’ trim, which is a relatively new option for the Exeo and externally-speaking, gives you sportier lower door mouldings, and tinted windows in the rear. It also came with a solar sunroof fitted. Granted, if SEAT try to squeeze many more years of life out of the B6/B7 platform and indeed the Exeo, it may be a bad move, but for now, the mildly-fettled Spanish compact executive saloon still looks fresh and appealing.

SEAT Exeo 2011 2012 facelift 2-0 TDI 170PS diesel Sport Tech road test review by Oliver Hammond - photo - external Ashton Tameside Enterprise rear

Interior

Compact executive saloon buyers are rightly demanding, especially if they spend more time in their cars each week than anywhere else. So not only does a B/D-segment car like the Exeo have to look the part in business, family and social circles – it’s got to back it up with a competent interior. Okay, if you’ve just stepped out of the latest generation A4, C-class, 3-Series or even a Mondeo, sitting in the Exeo may give you a sense of déjà vu, as the revised model’s interior is still lifted from the previous A4. A friend owns a B7 A4 and the Exeo’s interior really is just as solid, despite bearing the SEAT badge. Something was ever-so-slightly different, though. The Exeo’s interior felt that bit more luxurious and highly-specified. This is because the interior is actually taken from the cabriolet version of the previous A4, with its trio of round air vents above the centre stack and multimedia screen. The black leather covering the sports seats felt a bit hard and cold but it should therefore prove durable and they were pretty good in the support stakes, both cruising on long journeys and pelting down back lanes. Up front, the only other tiny gripe I could find was that the centre armrest was positioned too far forwards, making gear changes awkward at times, so I left it raised most of the time.

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The A4 and Jetta have never impressed me when it comes to rear legroom, unless Ronnie Corbett and Danny DeVito are sat in the front. Head, shoulder and legroom in back of the Exeo are therefore best awarded a C or B grade at best. But most compact executive buyers have kids who frequent the back, rarely ferrying four grown-ups around. So if this describes you, the Exeo will be fine. And the boot is impressively enormous, despite not actually being the biggest in the class. The only snag is, it’s a long boot, so despite the wide opening, you’ll need to stretch quite a way to reach items stored at the back. The rear seats split and fold, for carrying those larger items.

SEAT Exeo 2011 2012 facelift 2-0 TDI 170PS diesel Sport Tech road test review by Oliver Hammond - photo - A4 Cabriolet trio vents

The specification of the Exeo has always been excellent, owing to SEAT’s approach to make it the value-for-money choice in the segment. At £25,855 for this ‘brimmed’ Exeo, the equivalent modern Audi A4 would be knocking on £40,000. This Sport Tech car was fitted with dual zone climate control, an impressively large 6.5” screen for the DVD-based sat nav and the 10-speaker premium audio system from BOSE, Bluetooth, cruise control, heated door mirrors adjustable electronically, rear parking sensors, a tyre pressure monitoring system and wait for it… an electrically-operated rear window blind. This was part of the Convenience Pack which also gives you front parking sensors and remote boot opening. I was, however, shocked to find that the front seats weren’t electrically adjustable, but the abundance of generous storage compartments, cupholders and other cubbies made up for it. The driver’s seat is height adjustable so it should prove easy to find a comfortable driving position, and it adjusts for both rake and reach. The leather steering wheel and gear knob felt durable and tactile, as did all the other controls. The plethora of multimedia buttons took a while getting used to and some may find the cabin rather too busy, but overall, I really liked it. As with the exterior, this is hopefully SEAT’s last run-out with an old-Audi-sourced interior, but for the time being, it’s as excellent as it ever was, will appeal to business rep’s, family people and singletons in equal measure, satisfy gadget freaks and impress the neighbours.

Driving

All the driver controls felt very solid and actually on the tight side, the clutch proving a little heavy at times, especially in slow moving traffic. But the tightness to the steering and the clinical precision of the 6-speed manual gearbox, combined with effective brakes and strong acceleration, result in a very sporty-feeling car. Convenient, really, this being the Sport Tech model and all. The intelligent servotronic steering setup did indeed provide a slightly lighter feel at slower speeds, but overall I’d still say it was on the heavy side and almost too light on the motorway, ironically. The 2-litre TDI diesel engine sounded like a typical VAG unit, making up for its slightly noisy demeanour with strong performance. This test car was fitted with the most powerful diesel engine in the Exeo lineup, producing 170PS. The extra performance compared to the lesser 143PS model is down to a clever double intercooler, upgraded water pump and more pressure from the turbo. On paper it’s a torquey engine, producing 350Nm between 1,750 and 2,500 RPM, and it’s torquey in practice, too. In second and third gears, this thing pulls like a train and is quite addictive. Not that such malarkey will do anything for one’s fuel consumption. SEAT quote the combined figure as 52.3mpg and during the course of my week with it, I averaged high-40s, so not far off, given that the car spent much of its time in slow-moving traffic queues in Glossop and on the M62. Performance-wise, this latest VW-sourced 170PS (168bhp) block can bring up 62mph in 8.4 seconds and a top speed of 142mph. Importantly for corporate buyers, its CO2 emissions are 142g/km, which is a respectable figure and puts it just 3g over a Ford Mondeo 2-litre Duratorq TDCi, for example.

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Sorry to mention Audi again, but their cars have always been known to be on the firm side when it comes to the suspension, like they’ve forgotten to accommodate the less-than-perfect roads here in the UK. So yes, especially in this car’s Sport Tech guise, the ride proved firm at times – mainly in the urban sprawl. But point this thing down a twisty, flowing B-road and you’re in for a pleasant ride. I won’t bore you with technical details of the Exeo’s fancy wishbone, ball joints and shock absorbers, but SEAT have really worked hard on their “Agile Chassis” system, as they call it. And from what I could tell, it’s paid off. It hung on very well during fast bends and really egged me on to push its abilities to the (or should that be ‘my’?) max. If you want a car for work, which can then transform into a sporty number for the weekend, the Exeo is worth looking at. Stick to rival brands or SE spec’ Exeo models if comfort is your priority. Overall, then, I was impressed by the way the Exeo handled, whilst still reaping very good economy figures.

SEAT Exeo 2011 2012 facelift 2-0 TDI 170PS diesel Sport Tech road test review by Oliver Hammond - photo - external Stalybridge 02

Verdict

Being a member of the VAG Volkswagen family is a good thing for SEAT, as they’ve been able to marry the proven and effective B7 chassis and styling with the latest, more powerful and economical group engines, blending old and new into a successful package for those who aren’t as badge-conscious. I for one think Audi is the new BMW, so would gladly suggest an Exeo if you’re content with a previous generation chassis and interior. You’ll be impressed by its high quality build, inside and out, along with its very comprehensive specification. Just bear in mind that the Sport model’s ride is on the firm side, but I’m told it beats the bouncy ride of the SE spec model. Except for a gruff sound on startup, I really gelled with the 170PS 2.0 TDI engine with its gutsy performance from low down in the rev range, its composure at motorway speeds and its relatively good economy. Until its all-new replacement, this minutely-facelifted Exeo still acquits itself well.

© Oliver Hammond

 

Specification of the SEAT Exeo Sport Tech 2.0 TDI 170PS tested in this review:

Engine: 4 cyl turbodiesel / 1968 cc
Max power (PS) / @ rpm: 170/4200
Max torque (Nm) / @ rpm: 350/1750-2500
Top speed (mph): 142
Acceleration 0-62 mph (sec): 8.4
Urban (mpg): 37.2
Extra urban (mpg): 67.3
Combined (mpg): 52.3
CO2 emissions (g/km): 142
Insurance (Groups 1-50) : Group 27E
VED (road tax): F – £135 first year
Service intervals: 12 months / 10,000 miles
Benefit-in-kind (BIK) 2012-13: 22%

Standard equipment includes but is not limited to:

18” ‘Quartz’ alloy wheels
Black leather upholstery
Sports seats
Sports suspension
Sports lower door mouldings
Interior trim & colour differentiation
Dual zone climate control
Dark tinted rear windows
Front and rear electric windows with one-touch
Rain sensor for automatic windscreen wipers
Bi-xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights, AFS, LED taillights,
automatic range adjustment and headlight
Washer system
Satellite navigation with DVD-based dynamic route guidance, 6.5” colour screen,
3D map display and SD card slots
BOSE premium audio system and iPod connection with 10 speakers
Integrated Bluetooth handsfree phone connectivity with voice control
Steering wheel-mounted audio/phone controls
Multi-function display including trip computer
MP3-compatible CD and AM/FM radio
Aux-in connection
Cruise control
ESP + EBA
Driver and front passenger airbags
Front passenger airbag deactivation
Front side airbags
Curtain airbags
Front active head restraints
ISOFIX (with Top Tether) child seat anchoring points in rear
Acoustic windscreen
Electrically adjustable, heated and folding door mirrors
Rear parking sensors
Tyre pressure monitoring
Manual front seat height adjustment
Manual front seat lumbar adjustment
Leather steering wheel and gearknob
Chrome side window trims
Aluminium door sill trims

Recommended Retail Price £24,600.00

SEAT Exeo pricing is on the road including first registration fee, plates, 12 months’ road tax, three-year/60,000-mile mechanical warranty, 12-year body warranty and two-year SEAT Service Mobility valid in over 30 countries in Europe and its borders

Options fitted to this press vehicle:

Convenience Pack £480.00
(includes front parking sensors, air quality sensors with
auto-recirculation function, remote boot opening,
electric rear sunblind and upgrade colour dash display)

Heat reflective windscreen £160.00
Electric glass sunroof (slide/tilt) £615.00

About Simon Ford

Owner and Co-Founder, of SimonsCarSpots.com Host & face of our Twitter based Sunday Guest Night 9PM Gmt @SimonsCarSpots for your Car Spots or Advertising Needs ##Not on Twitter, Don't miss out, Send your car spots into Simon@simonscarspots.com## ** Any and all photos in my category on SimonsCarSpots.com are copyright to me, all rights reserved **
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