While the suspension hardware front and rear is carried over from the A4, Seat has tweaked the spring, damper and anti-roll bar settings in an effort to give the Exeo a character of its own. Furthermore, Exeos in Sport trim offer lowered ride height and stiffer suspension as a non-cost option, while the 168bhp diesel and the single petrol model get Audi’s Servotronic speed-dependent power steering.
If you’d asked us to name the potential downsides of a recycled Audi A4 before we’d driven the Exeo, compromised ride and handling would have topped the list. Although it did improve during its life cycle, the old A4 was consistently bugged by its longitudinally arranged forward-set engine, producing nose-heavy handling and an unsettled ride. While Seat hasn’t exactly effected a complete transformation, the changes it has made to the suspension settings have improved matters considerably. The primary driving characteristics are still recognisable as that of an Audi, but one with fewer concessions.
Exeos come with a range of wheel sizes, from 16in to 18in, and on two different chassis settings. In line with Seat’s positioning as the sports brand within the VW roster, we selected an Exeo in Sport trim, meaning a lowered, stiffer suspension and 18in wheels as standard. At town speeds the ride is relatively firm, with road scars and ironwork causing displacement not only in the wheel but also in the vehicle body, and while things improve with speed, there remains unwanted movement over disturbances such as motorway expansion joints.
What rescues the Exeo is that this movement is sufficiently damped to avoid becoming harsh or unsettling and, crucially, the Exeo doesn’t suffer from the A4’s high-speed vertical bobbing.
Although the Exeo’s enthusiasm for corners doesn’t match that of the class-leading Mondeo, it is well controlled and keener to turn in than we remember it being in Audi guise. There is grip and composure, and the hydraulic (non-Servotronic) steering’s accuracy and consistent weighting (another surprise, given its origin) makes it easy to place the car.
Does this make it the ‘sporty’ car that Seat would like to have us believe? Not really. Instead the Exeo is easy and intuitive to drive, stable at speed and, for the most part, comfy.
We also tried an SE model and although the ride was improved, it wasn’t significantly better, and the trade-off was noticeably less composure at speed.