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The previous generation Audi A4 is reborn

Our Verdict

Seat Exeo 2009-2013

It's less expensive than the car on which it is based, but underneath, is the Seat Exeo anything more than a reheated Audi A4? Time to find out

  • First Drive

    Seat Exeo Sport 2.0 TDI

    It’s still an endearing, capable and well equipped option that’s worth giving serious consideration to
  • First Drive

    Seat Exeo 2.0 TDI Multitronic

    Adding an automatic gearbox makes the Exeo easier to drive at only a small cost to performance and economy
4 November 2008
Seat Exeo 2.0 TDI 170 SE

What is it?

It’s the new Seat Exeo, which is also the previous-generation Audi A4.

The speed at which the Exeo has been created from the 2004 Audi A4 is reflected in its external make-up - the whole A4 production line was lifted from Germany and re-installed in Spain.

Aside from the new bonnet and boot lid, the front and rear light clusters are new, as are the bumpers and wheel designs.

Seat-sourced mirrors are now fitted to the door skin and the rear number plate is mounted in the rear bumper rather than the boot lid.

Inside, it’s pure Audi cabriolet, aside from the steering wheel’s centre boss and the grilles covering the speakers. The bolstered seats get new trim materials, but otherwise, it’s the familiar, beautifully restrained and solidly constructed old-school Audi cabin.

There’s a pretty sophisticated chassis – including four-link front suspension - under the skin. But its main weakness is also the reason why Audi abandoned this chassis: the longitudinally mounted engine is mounted ahead of the front wheels.

The Spanish claim that around 30 percent of the Exeo’s components have been ‘changed or adapted’, including fitting a new-generation common-rail diesel engine in 143 and 170hp forms.

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The re-worked suspension (modified springs, dampers and anti-roll bars) comes in both standard and Sport settings and the software for the Servotronic power steering has been re-written.

What’s it like?

It’s a nice place to sit, certainly. And there’s much feel-good factor attached to sitting in a truly premium cockpit.

On the road, and running at no more than a brisk pace, the Exeo does seem to have more spring in its step than its leaden Audi forebear.

Our 170hp diesel was running on ‘comfort’ suspension (which seemed to live up to its billing). In quickish bends, healthy side-forces built up giving the driver something to work against when turning into a corner.

The steering also seemed to have a stronger self-centering, which also helps give the car a more quick-witted feel in bends.

But Seat engineers, like Audi’s, will have struggled to contain the nose-heaviness inherent to the longitudinal engine layout.

In the Sport-suspended 200bhp 2.0 TSI turbo petrol version – and driving more quickly - the car lost composure on long-wave undulations.

In very fast bends, the Exeo Sport could be pointed with reasonable accuracy, but the feel at the wheel rim is rather mushy and indistinct.

However, the new 170hp diesel is also refined and very punchy. Real-world overtaking pace is impressive and this is undoubtedly the choice engine in the range.

And the Exeo’s standard of construction was first-rate. There’s little evidence of cost cutting in the interior materials.

Should I buy one?

With prices set between £17 and £20k, the finalised production Exeo could make a case for itself in a Seat-defined slot between the mainstream Insignia and ‘sub premium’ Passat and Accord.

This is an intriguing car of undoubted premium construction with potentially impressive mile-munching ability. A 170hp diesel Exeo ST estate looks set to be a tempting proposition.

In any case, don’t dismiss the Exeo project. With the car industry set for much greater integration, this kind of re-cycling of high-quality platforms will become far more common, if not so obvious.

Join the debate


5 November 2008

I think fundamentally this is a good car.

The biggest issue is going to be with customer perception, down mainly to the "recycled" looks of this car.

That said, from SEAT's point of view it is a cheap and relatively easy way to make a car, and at the moment, this is what the motoring manufacturer need.

5 November 2008

A classic own goal for the Volkswagen group? A decent car at a much cheaper price (perhaps?) than the lumpen succesor. Now we are all broke is having an Audi badge over a SEAT one really worth it when you can get a thoroughly good car built on an ex Audi production line. How will this affect A4 (and Passat) sales one wonders.

5 November 2008

I think that this is a car that should not have been built and that is because of what it signals. European cars enjoy their specific high status because of their high level of sophistication, build quality and design (!). That is what is separating them from the "four wheel washing machines" manufacturers. And I think that we are able to make these great cars because of our rich history and specific mentality. And this is what we should continue doing and further develop. What this car is is something not very different from the Kia Ceed my friend bought. It may be well built and sophisticated but the Kia is not far away (tried and tested) and its gaining pace. If I look back in history there were a couple of manufacturers who started building certain models like the one above and they all said that they need a more conservative design for a broader spectre of people (Fiat Stilo and Vauxhall Vectra) but all of those cars did not sell well. Seat developed the stunning Altea and sold it well for a high price and that is the only way euro brands can survive.

5 November 2008

Markusmorelli, I agree with your view of a European way of doing things. We aspire to more than washing machine makers and bland functionality. However, Seat is the sick child of VW Group. VW may sell it or close it down. Maybe unthinkable, given the 10%+ unemployment in Spain and the backlash by Spaniards against VW/German products/Germany. By the way, there was a school of thought that the lousy performance put up by the German football team against Spain in Euro2008 was part of a clever/necessary plan to stop the implosion of the Spainish economy/Spain itself, by buoying up morale and national pride as there was and is so much money at stake in the Spanish bubble property sector which if it all fails will in the end fall into the lap of Europe's larger banks, the European Central Bank and ultimately the German taxpayer, to bail it all out, and quite possibly the collapse of the whole euro project.

5 November 2008

Fantastic! -- isn't this what Daewoo used to do? buy up the entire tooling line of a past its sell-by date car, reskin it and sell it cheap? (saving the odd 50 million development costs)

This will really massage the already well fed Audi drivers ego, like seeing a tramp in the street wearing a once smart but now worn out jacket and shouting for all to hear

'I gave him that! poor beggar!'

Society aside, its a pretty decent car but for the sake of all the X-Type drivers that have suffered so much over the years with the "just a tarted up Mondeo innit?" persecution - should the Germans or Spanish be allowed to get away with it? I say for Queen and country no!

5 November 2008

2nd thought.. why didn't the Chinese offer a good price for the line? ship it to Longbridge, slip on a classy Rover shell and knock em out cheap - ladies and gentlemen the classy, the quality, the affordable - Rover 900

5 November 2008

[quote The Apprentice]

Fantastic! -- isn't this what Daewoo used to do? buy up the entire tooling line of a past its sell-by date car, reskin it and sell it cheap? (saving the odd 50 million development costs)


Surely they, Daewoo, didn't buy anything. Weren't they owned by General Motors? and wasn't it an old version of the GM Europe Opel Kadett they assembled?

As to the Chinese setting up defunct model production lines at Longbridge, they seem to have their hands full with the ancient MG TF. The Chinese it would appear often prefer just to go ahead and copy, plagiarise, invariably German current models in China, like the Smart and X5. The whole Longbridge Rover/Chinese takeover has been and is a disaster. The promised volume car-making will never happen and the 1000+ acre site owner, property devlopment shark St.Modwen, have just announced they would rather sit on the land bank, so to speak, rather than sell it off at the current depressed values for housebuilding and redevelopment, in the vain hope that the prices will recover back to the 2007 bubble levels. Poor St. Modwen and its greedy backers. They're looking at multi-million pound losses and not an earthly of prices recovering. Ha ha ha!

5 November 2008

I don't know what all the fuss is about...SEAT has never been anything other than a badge engineering firm. As for AUDI, if there are actually Audi owners out there who have the nerve to be affronted by such an obvious piece of badge engineering, perhaps someone should point out to them that you can already buy half the AUDI range with a Skoda badge on the front at half the price. Audi's have been little more than rebodied Veedubs for decades. Did you people not know that?

5 November 2008

While it is true that some Audis - the A3 and upcoming A1 - are based on VW front-drive platforms, the A4, A6 and A8 and various coupes and cabriolets over decades have always been built on Audi's unique and somewhat eccentric steel and aluminium platforms. The reason that the Exeo is interesting is that it's an Audi platform being used for the first time by a lower-rank maker. One thing I forgot to ask the SEAT bosses yesterday was what would have happened to old A4 line if it hadn't been shipped to Seat. Would it have been melted down? Mr Cart - you are quite right about the Spanish economy. My analyst contact assures me that sometime next year Seat will need a very major injection of cash....

5 November 2008

For me this car is a mix of both good and bad....

Firstly - the good. SEAT dealers desperately need a broader product range to get enough volume to be viable. This car contributes to that. And it's a quality car, which pushes SEAT into a slightly more upmarket area where margins perhaps are a little more generous that flogging Ibizas

And now, the bad. I think it really devalues the brand. Over the last 6 years, SEAT's cars have become distinctively styled, and have started to develop an image which is more than "VWs sold cheaper with slightly less soft-feel plastics". Unless you were a car nut and could recognise VW parts bin stuff such as the cruise control switch etc. there is very little about a new Ibiza or Leon/Altea that gives the game away. This really starts building a unique brand identity and value. Sadly the Exeo undermines this significantly as being clearly an A4 with a nose and tail job (plus new steering wheel). Hence the launch of this car may be an expedient decision, but not one that is in the best long term interests of the brand (assuming the brand has a long term future, which is, perhaps, another question....)


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