I remember a time when collaborations between group manufacturers and joint ventures were often kept quiet, drivers everywhere were unaware that their engine may have had something to do with another brand, and still today some people are clueless about who actually built their car.
This wasn’t a bad thing, as each manufacturer got praise for some truly fantastic cars, and then Volkswagen decided to buy other brands (Audi, SEAT, Skoda, but to name a few). This was fantastic for the brands of course, especially Skoda who compared to the age-old belief, now make some really nice cars. Audi now have a car in almost every segment, practically making them a citrus fruit and Volkswagen are able to use (group owned) Bentley’s expertise to bring some great features to their cars. However when it came to SEAT, it seems that everyone was just a little bit too excited from the rest of the groups’ accolades to bother.
Enter stage left SEAT’s new Exeo, as you may have guessed from looking at it, it’s a saloon based on the 2007 Audi A4. In fact ‘based on’ would probably be the understatement of the month, that’s like saying Amy Winehouse has been a tad partial to a line of coke or two in the past. The Exeo is in fact just an A4, with a shiny new badge and some new lights. Which gets me, finding out that BMW worked on Peugeot’s new petrol engines is something that you can’t immediately see. When you drive Peugeot petrol you get a nice surprise. So when SEAT announced the Exeo, I almost felt disappointed, it’s so obviously an old A4, that it doesn’t hold any mystery about what to expect from a car that will inevitably be a fantastic seller for the Spanish company.
However, I never said that the Exeo was a failure, and in actual fact it’s a rather clever move for the group. The A4 of that year was a best seller for Audi and for SEAT to acquire such a brilliant car for themselves, will definitely see a lot more little ‘S’ badges on the road. Let’s talk aesthetics; yes it’s an A4 body, however with the new lights, grille and bumpers help bring this car into the here and now. The bonnet becomes scooped rather than raised in the middle, SEAT’s signature door mounted wing mirrors have been introduced and the overall appearance of the car becomes sleeker, and much more aerodynamic.
The interior is far from a similar story; simply covering the SEAT insignia would fool even the world’s biggest car snob, to thinking they were sat in an A4. Again, this isn’t a bad thing. SEAT has made subtle changes inside, that don’t ruin the successful layout of the A4. Simply upgrading the stereo to the current standard fit option brings life to the centre console, which helps separate the Exeo from the A4.
So it looks fantastic and promises so much for the Spanish manufacturer, but how does it drive? Well having owned a 2007 A4, I can confirm that SEAT seem to have been busy messing about underneath the car, and what they have messed with, has only improved on an already fantastic car. Tinkering under the bonnet has brought tighter steering; a ride more exciting than Sean William-Scott and handling as precise as his perfectly sculpted body.
Overall it’s a fantastic car that will respond when you want that sporting feel, but on the other hand it’s happy to sit and cruise around for a more family orientated journey. This is mainly due the fantastic engines available in the Exeo, I tested the 2.0 TDI CR DPF 140bhp mid-range engine, and it certainly had a lot of poke when you needed it. Not only great performance comes from the new Exeo however, fitted with a DPF (diesel particulate filter) means that the Exeo will perform fairly frugal if you want it to, returning nearly 50mpg and CO2 emissions of 153g/km, great for a sports saloon, which will be further improved upon, when SEAT announce the Exeo ECOMOTION (which is bound to be introduced!).
Lastly price, in 2007 the Audi A4 2.0L 140bhp TDI SE would have cost you £23,425 and here’s where the SEAT out shines it’s competition, ultimately the Audi A4 given the SEAT treatment will cost you under £20,000. Compare that to its competitors like the Insignia, Accord, 407 and Avensis, I know which I’d rather. In this instance it does highlight why you pay a premium for certain badges, but if you can put the snobbery aside and appreciate what you get for your money, you may have a different perspective about looking deeper than just a brand image.
Introducing the latest technologies from the group really shows in the Exeo, so much so, that it is in effect a brand new car, regardless of how it may have come to production. All I can say is in conclusion, I have found that without collaborations and cross pollination between the industry, we wouldn’t have some of the fantastic cars on the market today, Skoda would have forever been a memory of bad reliability and iconic greats like the MINI could never have happened.
The SEAT Exeo is a superb motor and well worth considering for those who want a fantastic sports saloon on a tighter budget.