Now the ‘old’ A4 was one of the most sought after compact executive saloons of its era. So it makes a decent starting point for the new ‘quality and value’ image of the Exeo. Built at Martorell, in the hills above Barcelona, it is already taking on a Spanish mask.
The elegant and almost timeless Audi design takes on a SEAT face with that expressive frontal treatment. It still looks fresh and LED ‘fairy’ lights at the rear help to make it look current. Inside, you get twin-zone climate control and multi-speaker sound as you might expect in its new Mediterranean homeland.
I was driving the latest version of the Exeo, with a very businesslike 2.0-litre turbo diesel engine and Multitronic automatic transmission. Why not the excellent DSG auto found in other VW models, you may ask? Seems it does not fit into this bodyshell.
The Multitronic is what used to be called a continuously variable transmission. In automatic mode, there are simply no gears as such. The gearing constantly adjusts to the driving conditions. Press down the throttle suddenly and the engine revs shoot up only to subside as the transmission adjusts. It sounds a bit strange at first, but it works. For drivers who want to forget about gear changing, it just gets on with the job.
But for enthusiastic pilots who like to feel they are in control, SEAT offers a ‘manual’ model which is stepped into seven ‘gears’ or bands. This lets you play tunes with the engine using either the gear stick or paddles on the steering wheel. Depending on your mood, you can select either mode and the car will get on with it.
There is a slight penalty for the convenience of auto. The Multitronic returns 48.5mpg on average compared with 54mpg for the manual. Performance is fairly similar with 0-62mph taking 9.3 seconds.
On the road, the Exeo steering feels a tad heavy at low speeds but is sharp once you get under way. This is a pleasing car to drive with tidy handling and good ride comfort. The controls all work with precision that flatters the driver.
There are saloon and ST estate versions. As often is the case, the longer lines of the ST make it look more striking and handsome as well as being a great load carrier. The saloon also has a bigger than average boot.
Inside, the buttons and minor controls are familiar from the A4 and there is a quality ambiance. Another useful improvement is an extra 44mm of rear legroom – gained by some clever reshaping of the front seat backs and the rear cushion – every little helps.
Priced from £23,000 in saloon form, the Exeo Multitronic looks good value against its obvious friends and rivals…
SEAT Exeo TDI Multitronic
ENGINE – 2.0-litre turbo diesel developing 143bhp
PERFORMANCE – 0-62mph in 9.3 seconds, 128mph top speed.
ECONOMY – 48.7mpg
EMISSIONS – 153g/km carbon dioxide
PRICE – from £23,000 (estimated)