The Freelander heads to Eastnor for a real test of its off-road ability
SEAT Exeo ST: final report
SEAT Exeo ST 2.0 TDI 143 Sport
On fleet since: January 2010
Official combined mpg: 49.6mpg
Our average economy: 51.9mpg
Performance: 0-62mph in 9.6secs/128mph top speed
Power/Torque: 143hp/236lb ft
Insurance group: 12
List price: £22,255
Options fitted: sat-nav (£1,775), Winter Pack (£270), iPod connection (£60), Bi-Xenon headlights with adaptive front lighting (£730)
Price as tested: £25,090
Pros: Build quality, value, self-healing ability,
Cons: Grumbles over practicality and sat-nav logic
Where have we been?
I promise, I was off to the SEAT dealer. To cure once and for all the on-off dramatics of the stall-induced glowing emissions warning light. Indeed, the very day before I was due to drop in, I started my usual plug up the M1. It was only as I came to a halt in the Bedfordshire roadworks that I noticed.
Yup, the light had gone off. And, since then, has remained off for good. The brilliance of self-diagnostics! This meant no trip to the dealer after all, and no need to hand the Exeo back to SEAT with ominous glowing orange lights on the dashboard. Yup, we're nearing the end of our time with the much-loved Exeo.
It's been a real surprise, this car. We were expecting something similar to the old Audi A4 we drove back in the day (indeed, on our first day with the company, back in 2001). Instead, SEAT has given us something rather more - a honed, polished Audi, done as it should have been from the off.
Particularly with Sport trim, and the Sport suspension option, it both handles without roll but, even more surprisingly, rides with taut comfort as well. The common-rail engine is smart, it looks OK, it's great on long distances and the cabin reeks of class. All for £22k? Yup, it's a bit of a bargain, too.
What we like
This is the most grown-up, mature car SEAT makes. It really does give dealers a whole new proposition - those thinking of trading from a Ford Mondeo or Vauxhall Insignia will be most impressed with the premium vibes it gives off; we've been enjoying these for half a year now.
The gearchange has loosened up nicely, steering is crisp and accurate, and as we've said time and again, the ride quality really does impress with its composure and lack of harshness. Against expectations, we are delighted we went for the sport-pack suspension.
Ash cloud fallout left the paint covered in grime for a week; with tree sap and sunlight baking on quite a concoction, we feared for the health of the body. SEAT clearly uses Audi's paint standards, though; a wash and a polish later, and it was restored back to full health.
Same goes for the interior: it feels as quality and integrity-deep now as it did the day we took delivery. We particularly appreciate the Sport-specific seats, with good, firm bolstering and ample support on our many long journeys. Oh, and the Porsche Cayman-style gearknob remains divine!
What we don't like
There's not been much to criticise with the SEAT. After driving other more modern cars, it's noticeable how weighty the steering is at speed, and more recent motors also highlight the button-laden climate control panel. Not being able to see mpg with the sat-nav on is madness, and we continually cursed the handbrake-obstructing centre armrest.
But really, it's the practicalities where the Exeo ST suffers. Ironic, given that it's a touring estate? Well, not really: just remember this is an older car than many of its rivals, so simply doesn't have the footprint of, say, a Ford Mondeo. It's also not intended to be a load-lugger. It's more of a lifestyle thang.
Even so, it would be nice not to find yourself shoving the driver's seat forward in order to give more legroom for those in the back. This was something you did on your first old banger, not your £22k businessman express. As I previously mentioned, SEAT reckons it's cured this: but how well?
I did come to like the sat-nav, though. I've never really got on with Audi's MMI interface, finding it still unnecessarily button-dependent. Learn the shortcuts, though, and it works better than I thought. I still prefer the simplicity of BMW's latest iDrive, mind...
What next for the SEAT?
Well, it's back to SEAT for the SEAT. Indeed, it's already been replaced, by another VW Group car: this time, one more modern and fuel-efficient.
What is it? Well, you've already seen it if you're an MSN Cars regular; a VW Golf Bluemotion. How will this compare? Find out soon...
Report 1: SEAT Exeo ST arrival
Report 2: SEAT Exeo ST month one
Report 3: SEAT Exeo ST month two
Report 4: SEAT Exeo ST month three
Report 5: SEAT Exeo ST final report (this report)
Compare Exeo's rivals side-by-side with Car Guide
Review: SEAT Exeo
Video: SEAT Exeo
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