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Seat Exeo: Test Drive

Date: 10 November 2008   |   Author:

Category: Upper medium
P11D price: £20,000 (est.)
Key rival: Mazda 6

This is partnership taken to its logical extreme.

In order to make a quick entry into the market's third biggest sector, Seat has nabbed big brother Audi's last A4, lobbed a version of the new Ibiza's grille on the front and called it the Exeo.

Obviously there's more to it than that, but on the surface Seat's new Mazda 6 or Peugeot 407 rival owes it all to fellow VW-owned brand Audi. There have been chassis tweaks but the body and classy interior come directly from the A4.

Seat Exeo_Page 19.gif

Arriving in the UK as a saloon next April, with an estate following in the summer, the Exeo will initially land with two diesel engines and one petrol. The former are the excellent 143PS and 170PS 2.0-litre units also in the new Audi A4, while the 200PS turbo petrol is the green pump option.

The Exeo will be heavily specced in a bid to attract corporate drivers in particular. Though final kit-count is yet to be confirmed, expect cruise control, climate control and alloys to feature across the range.

The interior is of predictable and probably class-leading quality, given that it's switch-for-switch the same as the Audi A4 Cabriolet. Literally, the only change is swapping the Audi badge for the Seat logo on the steering wheel, and that's the only part of the interior that looks sub-premium. However, drivers used to volume corporate brands will see the whole interior as a serious step up.

On the road, the 170PS diesel available at the exclusive early preview drive event is as excellent as can be expected from the latest VW Group diesels. Also used in models including the VW Passat, Audi TT, A4 and A6, it's powerful and sporty, although refinement, while good, was not quite up with the other applications in these very early pre-production cars. We're assured the final models we'll test next spring will be quieter, although it was already as good as many in the class.

The Exeo's appeal, particularly in the corporate sector, will all come down to pricing. If it lands at a well-kitted out sub-£20,000, and the residual values stack up, the appeal of an attractive, very well built model that's a bit different to the typical mainstream choices could be considerable.

Some might see it as cynical badge engineering, but when the end result's a car like this as a rival to the volume brands, it seems churlish to complain