SEAT Exeo ST SE 120

SEAT Exeo ST, boot
SEAT Exeo ST side
SEAT Exeo ST front action
SEAT Exeo ST back

THE expression that ‘first impressions last' is good news for the SEAT Exeo ST as the Spanish brand's first appearance in the upper-medium estate car sector.

Unveiled last year and on sale in the UK for about a year, the Exeo ST is an eye-opening model in a sector where we have become conditioned to pay a lot for the country-life-style estate.

Essentially it is SEAT's take on the Audi A4 estate, which costs notably more, and it lines up against the similar semi-estates from BMW and Mercedes, which can be eye-wateringly dearer still.

SEAT has carefully analysed what buyers are choosing and has deliberately kept the Exeo ST range as a comparatively narrow 12-model range, nearly all diesel apart from a 211ps 2.0 petrol, and the majority are four trim levels powered by 120, 143 and 170ps diesels from under £19,800 to almost £24,300. That is about £1,200 more than the stablemate Exeo saloon series.

Our test car was one of the most popular in the range and attracts low BIK penalties for fleet users and comes with powered windows, cruise control, CD player and extensive safety equipment.

All versions share the sweeping tourer bodystyle which gives from 442 to 1354 litres capacity, will take five and tow over 1300kg of braked trailer.

The 2.0-litre, six-speed powertrain is a delight to use. It pulls away smartly, has a strong power band for overtaking and it cruises quietly and economically thanks to the flexibility and torque delivery.

Gearchanges are very light but positive and the clutch's progression is matched by that of the footbrake with an abundance of power to haul down speed in an undramatic and effortless way.

If you like precision you will also be a fan of the steering in the Exeo ST, which is very agile and pin sharp in town or on sweeping country roads. There is no vibration, no vagueness, and it turns quickly and easily.

All the secondary controls fall to hand without having to hunt for them and the instruments are simple but clearly displayed and backed by warning lights.

Heating and ventilation is similarly straightforward, works well with good output, direction and temperature control, backed by full electric windows, but you'll have to pay £600 for an electric sunroof.

There is plenty of oddments room in the cabin but it comprises a lot of small compartments in the front. The rear loadbed is easily reached through the back or side doors when the back seats are folded and it has a good shape and is of useful size.

The Exeo ST will seat four in comfort, five at a pinch, with good leg and headroom all round and the seats are particularly comfortable and supporting throughout. Adjustment range is good for tall people infront.

Visibility is excellent all round with slim pillars and low waistline, bright lights and good wipers front and back.

There is a sporty feel to the Exeo ST handling thanks to its responsiveness to throttle, steering and brakes, and it backs this up with confidence inspiring handling and a surprisingly smooth ride for a semi-estate.

Figure alone do not tell the whole story about what the Exeo ST is like to drive. It has good performance from standstill and through the gears and once you appreciate how the power is developed the gearbox can be appropriately used to make the most of what is underfoot.

You may be surprised by the comparatively low noise levels which emanate from the car even under load. For sure, you know it is a diesel at heart but that only becomes evident at really high revs. Keep within about three-quarters of the maximum revs. and it is very calm and composed.

FAST FACTS

SEAT Exeo ST SE 120

Price: £20,695

Mechanical: 120ps, 1,998cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 122mph

0-62mph: 10.9 seconds

Combined MPG: 53

Insurance Group: 9

C02 emissions: 139g/km

Bik rating: 19%

Warranty: 3yrs/ 60,000 miles

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