21 May 2013
For those who can get over the whole old Audi A4 thing, the Exeo has plenty to offer with a pinsharp executive feel and burly performance.
An old A4 it may be but that takes nothing away from what is a perky and eager engine. Hitting 62mph from a standstill in a dot more than 9 seconds, nothing feels dated about the 1968cc four-cylinder TDI diesel engine which pumps out 143PS @ 4000rpm of power with 320Nm @ 1750 of torque and a top speed of 129mph. The sport mode provides a notable boost to acceleration, although we found it best kept reserved for confident overtaking rather than general use; that extra bit of bite can munch away at your mpg. With four turbocharged engines to choose from (three diesel, one petrol), the most powerful option can deliver 170PS with the weakest (120PS) still proving plenty to play with.
With a performance this potent, it’s only fitting to have an equally commanding driver position. Handling is beefy and stern and drivers will only begin to wish for something lighter and more nimble in built-up urban areas. Squeezing into snug on-street parking or navigating tight city streets may not be its forte but the level-headed, assertive steering is convincing in most other situations. The smooth suspension makes light work of speed bumps and road crevices. This Exeo sees introduction of the Multitronic auto/sequential manual gearbox which offers both full auto mode and the option of sequential shifts via the sporty, steering wheel-mounted shift paddles. Getting giddy in the sport mode lightens the steering to almost nervy degree and over-enthusiastic drivers could feel the back-end wobble out a bit but this shows the Exeo can have a slightly mean streak too if needed.
SEAT goes as far to suggest this is their most impressive cabin yet and only the uber-picky would find much to complain about here. The Exeo retains much of the A4’s previous parts so a mid-life tune-up could only benefit what was already a fine and sturdy build. These tweaks made in the latter third of 2011 have delivered a classy feel in the cabin with new interior materials like the upgraded leather steering wheel and revised upholstery contributing to solid, well built, unflustered cabin with top quality materials laced throughout. Exterior enhancements introduce bi-xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, and new alloy wheel designs. No reliability index score is available at time of writing however SEAT insists it has built on the A4 to further improve build quality.
It may be the first Exeo to offer a two-stage front airbag but it was precisely in this area that led Euro NCAP to deny this Exeo a top safety rating, awarding just four stars back in 2010. During tests, the authority took issue with the driver and front passenger airbag, saying it had not performed effectively and structures in the dashboard were still considered to present a risk of injury to the knees and femurs. Mr Dummy’s rib indicated weak chest protection during the more severe side pole test and fell short in terms of pedestrian protection too. However, the Exeo is far from a disaster waiting to happen; this is still a four star car. There are anti-lock brakes, emergency brakes, and an electronic stability programme as well as front side airbags and curtain-type head airbags (two of each). The Exeo also bagged maximum points in the side barrier test and child protection test with marginal protection against whiplash injuries in a rear-end collision. Strategically-placed sensors line the exterior with side collision pressure sensors on the front doors and side collision acceleration sensors on the rear wheel arches.
Comfort is guaranteed with a spacious and roomy cabin; that is except for whichever poor soul pulled the short straw and subsequently got lumped with being piggy in the middle rear seat. It is probably best for all backseat passengers if that middle slot was kept as a foldable armrest with a cramped middle seat made all the more arduous with little in the way of headroom. Uncomplicated steering wheel-mounted controls ensure your hands are where they should be while an adjustable driver armrest comes in for steady journeys. Many drivers will struggle to remember the last time they had to insert a DVD to use an in-built sat-nav and this clunky and dated infotainment system is a rare reminder of the Exeo’s hand-me-down past. Using the sat-nav is awkward at best and good luck trying to find a place to stick your portable MP3 listening device. The deep 460-litre boot is impressive enough although loading bulkier items can be frustrating due to the narrow boot door. Another saloon trait that will upset some is the lack of rear wipers. None of the A4s came with them and finding a saloon with rear wipers is a task these days. It is one tiny improvement that would have definitely be welcomed. The automatic windows themselves are fine and the electric glass sunroof was just as delightful.
Those aforementioned improvements from last year also saw SEAT boost the Exeo’s fuel economy to 58.9mpg combined; our experience wasn’t far off the mark and those opting for the Ecomotive variant can expect even better. Tailpipe emissions of 146g/km land the Exeo in the F tax band, resulting in an annual tax disc costing £130. Again, taking the Ecomotive route snips CO2 to 120g/km and the price of 12 months tax to £30. For company car drivers, Benefit In Kind sits at 22%. Prices start from £19,285 for the 120PS S trim, topping out at £24,600 for the 170PS SportTech. All Exeos come with a three year/60,000 mile warranty, a 12 year anti-perforation warranty, three year paintwork warranty and roadside assistance for two years. The Exeo fairs well when placed against its rivals, undercutting the Citroen C5, Mazda6 and Honda Accord.
Submitted: 01/05/2012 10:12:21
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