SEAT Exeo SE 2.0 TDI CR Multitronic
Handsome SEAT face sits well with Audi-derived shape
- Clean cut, if conservative design
- Good balance between handling and ride
- Excellent equipment levels
- Slick automatic gearbox
- Clear links with last generation Audi A4
- Not as spacious as some rivals
- Limited engine range
- Efficiency penalty with automatic transmissions
Seat's first D-segment contender gave the Spanish firm a crucial foothold in a market that has always been fiercely competitive in the UK. By using the still-capable basic template of the last-generation Audi A4, Seat has been able to fast-track the development of the Exeo. Now there are further options for the Exeo by adopting the CVT Multitronic gearbox also from the outgoing A4.
Seat has never had a model to compete in the highly competitive UK D-segment, an area where other manufacturers place a great deal of emphasis. With potential to attract private buyers, company car drivers and fleet managers using its value for money ethos, the Spanish manufacturer has introduced a model to do just that by starting with the last generation Audi A4.
Although the body shape is clearly very similar, Seat has attempted to distinguish the model by adding some distinctive Seat styling cues to the Exeo. The saloon model utilises Seat's 'arrow design' as best as possible, with the front end boasting new headlights and the familiar Seat grille with lines that continue over the bonnet. This latest-model Exeo can't be classified as facelifted, although LED rear lights do appear on the higher-specification models for the first time.
Three engines are available as the Exeo first goes on sale; high and low power versions of the same two-litre diesel and a powerful two-litre petrol unit. All three engines are available with a six-speed manual transmission geared for sporty driving but with a higher ratio top gear for refined cruising. Rather than plump for the more sporty DSG gearbox, Seat has now added the option of the CVT Multitronic transmission, mated solely to the 2.0-litre TDI common rail diesel unit.
There are a handful of minor changes inside the cabin too. Most notably, rear seat legroom has been increased by 44mm by a rearrangement of the rear seat back and more sculpting on the rear of the front seats, while entry to the rear has been improved by subtle changes to the base of the B-pillar. There is also now a wider choice of interior trims, including an attractive two-tone leather option.
Our verdict on the SEAT Exeo SE 2.0 TDI CR Multitronic
The Exeo with the Multitronic gearbox fitted may not be the first choice of many buyers but it plugs an important gap in the range. The proven combination of the diesel unit and self-shifting gearbox makes for easy driving in traffic, and the manual mode is surprisingly sporty. Although there is a penalty in terms of emissions and economy, many drivers will feel the ease of use is worth the sacrifice.
As with the rest of Seat's range, the Exeo is deliberately priced to offer value for money within the segment. The quality has already been proven so owners can be assured of reasonable maintenance costs, although buyers plumping for the Multitronic option must also take into account higher fuel consumption and increased emissions.
Space and practicality
The Exeo suffers slightly in terms of space and practicality due to the last-generation architecture, although the slight increase in rear room has helped this. Passengers front and rear have respectable head and legroom while the boot space is generous.
Controls and display
The main instrument binnacle has been borrowed from elsewhere in the Audi range, meaning it's a pre-proven design that is no less appealing in the Exeo. The central screen for the trip computer is a little smaller than in some models but is very clear. Switchgear is laid out in a sensible fashion with no surprises and is robust.
Despite its sporty aspirations, the Exeo still manages to offer a refined ride, an integral part of the model's inherent comfort. Interior noise is kept to a minimum with double-glazed side windows while sculpted seats, an area to which Seat paid a great deal of attention, bolsters the model's comfort levels. Standard equipment includes dual zone climate control and on the options list is a sunroof with a solar panel to cool the interior in hot weather.
Naturally, the Exeo features remote central locking and deadlocks, but it also benefits from a volumetric alarm and tilt sensor. Time delayed headlights increase personal security while double-glazed windows are extremely difficult to break.
Driver, front passenger, front side and curtain airbags are all standard equipment. Active headrests, ESP and braking assist are all present too. Higher trim levels bring tyre pressure monitoring and Bi-Xenon headlights.
The Exeo is set up to deliver a sensible compromise between ride and handling, and it does this with a good deal of success. Even models fitted with sports suspension offer a comfortable ride on most surfaces, while challenging bends are negotiated without fuss. The Multitronic gearbox has an ideal partner in the 2.0-litre common rail diesel unit, delivering fuss-free acceleration. Occasionally there can be an extended period of high revs when accelerating, but refinement is sufficient that it barely disturbs the cabin. Switching the gearbox to manual mode also offers a convincing alternative, with virtual ratios giving the driver more control.
Family car appeal
The Exeo is easily capable of serving as a family car, making it a great choice for business drivers with families. The rear bench will accommodate three children with ease. The seats are primed with Isofix points in anticipation and a spacious boot will carry family paraphernalia without a fuss.
First car appeal
Despite being reasonably priced for the sector, the Exeo is still too expensive an option for the majority of young drivers. Executive saloons such as the Exeo are generally aimed at older drivers.
Quality and image
Building on a well established platform and using a recognisable body shape has both positive and negative repercussions. On the upside, the quality of the chassis, body and outsourced internals are not in doubt having been tried and tested on previous models. On the down side, the Exeo is instantly recognisable as a modified Audi A4, and so lacks the head-turning ability of a freshly designed model.
Accessibility has been improved slightly compared to the first examples of the Exeo. A modification to the base of the B-pillar widens the door aperture to give a little more room for those climbing into the rear seats, although to a degree it is slightly hampered by last-generation architecture.
Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)
Standard on the base model is a competent four speaker CD and radio system, although eight speakers are present from the SE trim level onward. Sound quality is more than acceptable regardless, and the addition of a USB port across the range increases the audio options. Both iPod integration and integrated sat-nav are available as options. Bluetooth is a useful standard fit addition for business drivers.
Colours and trim
Despite targeting the business driver with the Exeo, Seat has opted out of the usual array of bland silvers and blacks, instead offering a more vibrant range of exterior colours for the model. It looks particularly good in solid colours, which emphasise the details Seat's designers have used to distinguish the model from the Audi A4. Inside, the much of the equipment and trim is recognisable as from the Volkswagen group stable. Although quite plain inside, there are nice touches around the cabin area to make the interior feel more upmarket.
The Exeo boasts few issues in terms of parking with or without reversing sensors. A neatly proportioned body and respectable turning circle make it easy to manoeuvre. The only issue is the standard saloon problem of not being able to see the end of the car through the rear windscreen.
Full size steel spare fitted as standard.
Petrol engine options - 2.0-litre (197bhp). Diesel engine options - 2.0-litre (141bhp); 2.0-litre (167bhp). Transmission options: six-speed manual gearbox, constantly-variable automatic. Trim levels: S, SE, Sport, SE Lux.
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