Sep 12 2009 Edward Stephens
SEAT Exeo SE Lux 2.0 TDI CR
DRIVING along the motorway in a new SEAT Exeo it soon became obvious that I was getting a number of second glances from drivers of Audi A4s.
Most, presumably were trying to work out why a car which looked like theirs had a distinctive SEAT badge on the front and rear.
No doubt when they arrived home a few would have made enquires about the A4 look-alike - and probably been a bit sick about how much they would have saved had they opted for one instead of their present chariot.
True the nose and tail of the Exeo are SEAT rather than Audi but it's no real secret that when the Spanish car maker decided to embark on a change of direction by entering into the medium sized saloon market it turned to its sister company Audi for the basic body shape of its new model.
And it didn't stop with the outside. Take a seat behind the steering wheel and the interior that greets you is pure A4 cabrio - which would have made those A4 drivers turn an even whiter shade of pale.
Until now SEAT has made its reputation with sporty, smaller cars. The emergence of the Exeo offers its loyal customers who want to stay with the brand the chance to step up to something larger and more luxurious.
And luxurious it is. At least certainly in the case of my test car, the Exeo SE Lux, the flagship of the range.
With full leather upholstery, bi-xenon headlights with adapative front lighting to light up the road ahead as you go around bends, dual zone climate control, dark tinted rear privacy glass, cruise control, eight speaker MP3 compatible CD and AM/FM radio as well as Bluetooth - to mention just a few features - this car almost sells itself.
There are a few optional extras you can add on but the Lux comes with everything as standard that most motorists would want.
The arrival of the marque's first large saloon also sees the arrival to SEAT of common rail diesel engines. Beneath the bonnet of my car beat the heart of a 143bhp 2.0-litre TDI engine, which is ideally suited to this model.
Not only does it offer responsive, punchy power delivery but it also gives sensible economy and a money saving road tax level of £125.
SEAT claims the car will average more than 51 miles per gallon, and even though my average was nearer 45mpg it's still pretty good for such a large car.
In fact the Exeo is one of the few cars I have driven on which - with a full tank of fuel - its computer predicted that I had a range of a massive 660 miles.
The luggage space on this car is an impressive 460 litres, which in real terms means you will have no problem getting in all your holiday luggage and then some, although anyone trading up from a traditional SEAT hatchback might find the opening narrower than they would like.
One the road the Exeo is a smooth, comfortable saloon with excellent sound proofing and ideal for long distance journeys.
And even though it's unlike any previous SEAT model it still has the marque's sporting DNA, which means good mid-range performance, well mannered road holding with no nasty surprises and a very slick six-speed manual gearbox.
SEAT owners trading up will not be disappointed. And the car will certainly mean a boost for SEAT from the fleet market.
SEAT Exeo SE Lux 2.0 TDI CR
Mechanical: 143bhp, 1,968cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox
Max speed: 133mph
0-62mph: 9.2 seconds
Combined mpg: 53.3
Insurance group: 12
CO2 emissions: 139g/km
BIK rating: 15%
Warranty: 3yrs/ 60,000 miles