SEAT Exeo 2.0TDI

Sport

SEAT Exeo, side
SEAT Exeo saloon
SEAT Exeo, interior
SEAT Exeo, rear

THE chap in the supermarket car park stood admiringly weighing up the bright red saloon I was about to get into.

"Is that the new Audi?" he asked. He couldn't have been more wrong - in fact he was looking at a SEAT Exeo, which in fact is based on the last shape A4 Audi.

But I can understand his mistake, because the SEAT incarnation of the four door saloon is clean, uncluttered and certainly doesn't appear old fashioned.

With price tags starting at just under the £20,000 mark, the product from this branch of the VW Group is more than £3,000 cheaper than the A4.

I decided to try out one of the top end Exeo having already established that the cheaper 141bhp diesel is sound enough.

At £23,695, the 2.0 TDI Sport with a tweaked 168bhp turbodiesel provides a happy balance between strong performance and good common sense economy - it also packs plenty of mid-range grunt for overtaking.

Sixty-two comes up in 8.4 seconds and it tops out at a more than adequate 142mph. Perhaps more impressive than the figures themselves are the saloon's poise and general composure.

The 2.0-litre diesel engine that is seen throughout VW's products is seriously frugal as well as lusty.

In the Exeo it averaged 45mpg giving a usefully long range of well over 600 miles. CO2 emissions work out at 142g/km, about 10 per cent greater than the less powerful 2.0-litre TDI.

There's a spot of diesel clatter at low speeds but this soon evens out and the unit's installation has banished most traces of harshness.

It comes as a surprise to find the steering is more informative than that of the A4.

Fine tuning to the suspension has also benefited the ride which is pliant enough over undulations but sufficiently firm to allow the cornering to be exploited. It's more family saloon than sports car but the set up encourages you to enjoy driving.

Characteristics tend to be typical front drive with just a trace of understeer when pressing on through bends.

The cabin is a shade smaller and narrower than direct rivals with driver and front passengers sitting fairly close together.

Legroom is slightly tight in the rear but there's space for three making it a genuine five-seater when required.

The boot can carry 460 litres of luggage which is fine for the class.

It is a conventional four-door without a hatchback variant although a more spacious estate, called the Sport Tourer, is offered.

Those who like the Audi facia won't be disappointed with the Exeo which has air vents similar to those in the last A4 Cabriolet.

Standard equipment includes Bluetooth, parking sensors, climate control and MP3 connectivity.

Obviously, the technology and design of the Exeo isn't in its first flush of youth, but in terms of value, buyers get a lot for their money, and it feels like prestige product.

FAST FACTS

SEAT Exeo 2.0TDI Sport

Price: £23,695

Mechanical: 168bhp, 1,998cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving front wheels via a 6-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 142mph

0-62mph: 8.4 seconds

Combined MPG: 49.6

Insurance Group: 27

C02 emissions: 142g/km

Bik rating: 22%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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