Review and road test of the SEAT Exeo (2009 - 2013)
SEAT'S EX AUDI
By Andy Enright
We're always being asked to recycle but it seems that car companies are guilty of failing to recycle great designs that still have a lot of life left in them. Rather than devote huge resource to developing its own family saloon and estate, SEAT instead did something very smart. Audi was in the process of launching a new A4 and SEAT took the old car, made some minor branding changes and relaunched it as the Exeo. While some sniffed at this tactic, many took it to their hearts. Here's how to track down a used bargain.
4dr saloon, 5 dr estate (2.0 petrol, 2.0 diesel [S, SE, Sport, SE Lux, SE Tech, Sport Tech])
SEAT's Exeo took quite a few of us by surprise. After all, it wasn't really the done thing to latch onto another company's cast-offs. This was the sort of tactic adopted by companies in India and the old Eastern Europe but so rapid are product life cycles now that even an outgoing Audi A4 was still a far better car than many of its rivals. SEAT realised this and rebadged the A4 with a few minor tweaks to become the Exeo, the car first appearing at the 2008 Paris Show. Now you might feel a little wary of buying a car that first appeared in Audi dealers in 2004 but the Exeo still feels a class act. The saloon model was launched with a choice of 120, 143 or 170bhp 2.0-litre TDI diesel engines or a 200bhp TSI petrol. The Exeo ST estates arrived shortly after and the most significant changes since then were the introduction of a CVT gearbox for the 143bhp diesel in 2010 and the realignment of the trim structure, slotting high value SE Tech and Sport Tech models into the range in May 2010.
Late 2011 saw revisions to the car's styling, with bi-xenon headlights and LED daytime running lights, plus the interior materials were improved and there were incremental changes to reduce the Exeo's carbon dioxide emissions. Stop/Start and Ecomotive models are the big news for 2012. There's life in this old stager yet.
What to Look For
You'll do well to find anything notable here. Corrosion is simply not an issue with Exeos and another reason why resale values are high. Look for a fully stamped up service history and look for uneven tyre wear on the powerful petrol models.
(approx based on a 2009 Exeo 2.0 TSI) A clutch assembly kit will be around £205 and an exhaust system (without catalyst) will be about £250. An alternator should be close to £120 and a radiator around £160. Front brake pads are around £75, rear brake pads will be £50.
On the Road
Under the bonnet, most Exeo buyers choose a common rail 2.0-litre TDI diesel, offered in 120, 143 or 170PS guises. Though a little noisy at idling or low speeds, this unit is otherwise pretty outstanding. Pulling power in almost any gear is superb and sixty from rest in the 143PS version that most opt for takes just 9.2s, quicker than the identically-engined MK3 Audi A4 that once cost £4,000 more. Such is the price of badge equity. The 2.0 TDI 143 variant also gets the option of a continuously variable multitronic gearbox. For dynamic drivers, it offers both a Sport programme that results in gear shifts at higher revs, and a Manual mode controlled via steering wheel-mounted shift paddles.
If you want outright pace, then you might be one of the minority who could end up opting for the petrol 2.0 TSI model, which has a Golf GTI-derived engine good enough to get you to sixty in well under eight seconds on the way to a maximum speed of nearly 150mph. Unlike the old Audi version of this design, buyers don't get a 4WD option, but otherwise, the best bits of the old A4 have all been retained and improved upon. The advanced multi-link suspension for example, has been tweaked so that buyers can choose from either 'Comfort' or 'Sport' settings and Sport-trimmed models get offer the option of lowered ride height and stiffer suspension. Go for the stiff set-up and you get a well controlled driving experience but one that can be fidgety over poor surfaces at low speeds. At the helm, the Audi Servotronic steering system has been re-programmed for a sharper feel on the road.
Recycling has rarely seemed such a good idea than when you're behind the wheel of a SEAT Exeo. It's not often that a car that's a bargain form new works so well as a nearly-new used purchase but the Exeo is a case in point. After this long in production all the bugs have been thoroughly ironed out and it feels absolutely bulletproof. There's life in this one yet.
SEAT Exeo (2009 - 2013) review by Andy Enright