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SEAT Exeo ST Sport 2.0 TDI CR

Click to view picture gallery“First UK drive of SEAT’s new station
  wagon, the Exeo ST — a smart,
  efficient and well-specced estate
...”

SEAT'S NEW EXEO ST STATION WAGON uses a revised version of the platform from the successful previous Audi A4 range, but fitted with the latest Volkswagen family 2.0-litre TSI direct injection petrol and 2.0-litre TDI common-rail diesel engines.

However, this is a tough market sector and the Exeo will have to compete against the established Ford Mondeo, Vauxhall Insignia, Honda Accord, Volkswagen Passat, Citroen C5, Peugeot 407, Toyota Avensis, Mazda6 and the Renault Laguna.

Value for money is where the Exeo ST scores heavily over the latest Audi A4 Avant but less so against the real volume and discounted models from larger manufacturers. Exeo ST prices carry a 1,000 premium over saloon versions, starting at 19,155. There are 118, 141 and 168bhp versions of the 2.0-litre TDI turbodiesel engine to choose from, and a 197bhp 2.0-litre TSI petrol unit.

Company car drivers in particular should like the relatively low Benefit-in-Kind tax rating the Exeo ST incurs: 19% for the majority; 21 and 24% for the 168/197bhp units. Road tax, too, is pretty low — 125 for the majority of them, and insurance ratings are relatively modest ranging from 9E to 14E. So, value for money and lower running and owning costs are all sound recommendations to buy this newcomer.

Although the Exeo ST five-door, five-seat estate is new, it cannot really be compared with a previous SEAT — all the latest SEAT models now benefit from exterior styling that is more sophisticated and less aggressive than was previously the case. In short, the Spanish brand appears to have grown up — SEAT has realised that not every buyer is impressed by motor sport success, and not every user wants a car with a suspension that is so hard and unforgiving it spoils the ownership experience.

The 'old' gloomy interiors, although still predominately trimmed in shades of black, have been improved with different texture materials — mostly soft-touch — and brightwork highlights. Not only do the cars generally look better built inside, but they're also more likely to appeal to, and impress, a more mature buying audience.

The ride quality and handling is still pin-sharp but nowhere near as harsh. The Exeo ST, happily, follows this new way forward.

Depending on which engine is chosen, the ST is available in S, SE, SE Lux and Sport trim. All are well equipped and have good levels of safety equipment as standard. For the price and style, it is a competitive package and generally it performs and drives well.

It is not as roomy as the latest generation of estates such as the Mondeo or new A4, but with a body length of 4,670mm the boot volume is 442 litres and can be expanded to 1,354 litres by folding down the rear seatback.

Standard equipment includes Bluetooth mobile 'phone connectivity, dual climate control, alloy wheels, one-touch electric windows, remote central door locking, twin halogen headlights, a good sound system with a minimum of four speakers and ABS and electronic stability control.

My test model, the Exeo ST Sport 2.0 TDI, will not be the main selling model but it illustrated just how efficient and smart the newcomer is. About the only criticism — more an observation, really — is that some other estates in this sector offer more rear seat and load space. However, reasons to buy include the executive specification, high safety kit and strong and responsive engine. The Exeo also seems well made and relatively comfortable, and it looks smart. — David Miles

SEAT Exeo ST Sport 2.0 TDI CR
| 22,455
Maximum speed: 139mph | 0-62mph: 8.6 seconds | Overall test MPG: 40.2mpg
Power: 168bhp | Torque: 258lb ft | CO2 153g/km | Insurance group 13