Seat Exeo ST 2.0 TDI 143 SE
List price 21,865
Target Price 20,091
Run by Jim Holder, magazine editor
Why its on test? To find out if you really can get Audi quality for Seat money
Exeo translates from Latin as to go beyond, an apt name for a car that started out as the previous Audi A4 and has been given a new, rebadged lease of life as a Seat.
Its worth pointing out that this wasnt a straightforward bit of recycling by the VW Group (which owns both Audi and Seat), because the car also underwent significant modifications during its transformation. For starters, the entire production line was lifted from Germany to Spain, and numerous styling and mechanical improvements were engineered in. However, theres no getting away from the cars heritage: look hard enough and you can still find parts stamped with the four-ringed logo of its originator. Audi quality for Seat money is a great selling point.
Another appeal of the Exeos provenance was highlighted when colleague Alex Jenner-Fust took delivery of it from Spur Garage, Hampton Court, Middlesex
(020 8941 9848). She was so impressed by the cars Audi-esque qualities of style, layout and beautiful materials she likened the experience to getting designer clothes at a knockdown price.
This was helped by the generous spec of the SE-grade car, which includes cruise and climate controls, automatic lights and wipers, Bluetooth and steering wheel-mounted buttons to control the stereo, sat-nav and phone.
Even so, Alex added a few treats from the spec list, some of which proved their value over time and some of which we werent convinced by. Perhaps the biggest disappointment was the sat-nav, an essential given the amount of driving I do, but eye-wateringly expensive at 1775, especially given that it didnt use the latest technology.
In contrast, the storage pack, which includes elastic straps in the boot and a ski bag and hatch, was reasonable value at 95, as was the 60 iPod connection.
With time and miles behind the wheel, I soon learned its a mistake to dwell too much on the cars Audi origins, because it was some of the Seat revisions that impressed more. Chief among these was the new 141bhp 2.0-diesel engine, which proved highly capable, striking a good balance between performance and affordability.
Seat's cars tend to be fun to drive, but the Exeo's light and vague steering was far from inspiringI felt 44.9mpg was decent, given its predominantly town-based life, albeit short of the official average fuel economy of 51.4mpg. My only real complaint was that it could be a bit noisy, especially at start-up.
I was also a fan of the cars standard suspension set-up, although some colleagues felt it bounced over high-speed dips and crests too much. However, having tested it back to back against a model in Sport trim, which came on larger, 18-inch wheels, I still reckoned Alex had made the right choice when she ordered the car; the Sport models ride was overly firm for my liking.