Debut: 2009
Maker: SEAT
Predecessor: no

Old Audi was resurrected from grave and given a new badge...

Scanning through the sales figures in our updated manufacturer pages, you will find Volkswagen group is in the rise. All its brands, no matter Volkswagen, Audi, Skoda, Bentley, Lamborghini or even Bugatti, recorded sales rise in the past few years. The only exception was SEAT. The Spanish subsidiary saw its sales slid from 460,000 units in 2003 to 411,000 units in 2007, even though the overall market was growing during the same period. SEAT is facing a lot of challenges in the market place. At the lower end, its B and C-segment small cars are facing unprecedented competition from the Far East as well as existing European rivals. At the upper end, it lacks a big family car to sell in D-segment.

Developing a D-segment car is costly, because it requires much higher technology and quality than small cars. Even though part of the cost can be shared through platform strategy, it could present a risk too high to the struggling Spanish company. Fortunately, SEAT found a cheaper solution – remember the last generation Audi A4 (2001-07) ? When it retired a couple of years ago, it was still a handsome, high-quality and sophisticated junior executive car. Even today it remains largely competitive against mainstream family cars. Instead of wasting such a good material, SEAT resurrected it from the grave, transferred its production toolings to Spain and re-engineered it into its very own Exeo.


70 percent components are shared with old A4. The remaining is largely down to new engines...

Externally, the Exeo looks exactly as a badge-engineered version of old A4, especially its side view and rear view. Only the nose gets its own design, yet this is partly driven by the new pedestrian safety law that the old car was not subjected to. Nevertheless, to look like an Audi is by no means a disadvantage. On the contrary, it may help Exeo to get credibility from consumers, easing their worry about build quality.

Open the doors, you will find the interior also comes from Audi – this time A4 Cabriolet. Its elegant dashboard with 5 chromed circular vents, expensive plastic (except the hard one at lower dash) and solid switchgears is the best yet appeared in a SEAT. On the down side, it shares with the old Audi a cramped rear seat which is short of legroom and shoulder room to rival its larger competitors, such as Ford Mondeo or Skoda Superb.

Exeo shares about 70 percent components with the old A4. The remaining 30 percent new parts are largely down to the two new engines – 143hp 2.0TDI common-rail direct-injection turbo diesel and 200hp 2.0TSI direct-injection turbo petrol. As you already know from other Volkswagen group cars, both are remarkable powertrains no matter in terms of punch or refinement. Not so great are the two older engines – the long-serving 150hp 1.8-liter 20V turbo and 102hp 1.6-liter 8V, which are budget choices.

The interior also comes from Audi – this time A4 Cabriolet.

Apart from new engines, Exeo also improved on the A4 chassis. The old car used to pitch a lot over undulations or under braking due to its nose heaviness – remember, it had its engine installed longitudinally before the front axle. Exeo cannot escape from the same inherent weakness, of course, but it tried to address the problem with Sport suspension. The firmer setup tightens its body control noticeably, but sadly it leads to a harsh ride on less than smooth roads. Cars in standard suspension behave on the contrary – better ride and poorer handling. When it comes to chassis dynamics, it can’t worry Ford Mondeo or Mazda 6.

In many ways, you can see SEAT Exeo as a polished version of the old Audi A4 – better engines and better handling in particular. You can also see it as a cut-price Audi. However, the world is progressing rapidly these days. Yesterday’s Audi is only today’s Hyundai. I doubt if Exeo could turnaround the fortune of SEAT. For sure, more has to be done.
The above report was last updated on 21 May 2009. All Rights Reserved.


General remarks

Exeo 1.8T
Exeo 2.0TDI
Exeo 2.0TSI Sport
Front-engined, FWD
Front-engined, FWD Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Steel monocoque Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
Mainly steel Mainly steel
Length / width / height 4661 / 1772 / 1430 mm 4661 / 1772 / 1430 mm 4661 / 1772 / 1430 mm
Wheelbase 2642 mm 2642 mm 2642 mm
Inline-4, diesel
1781 cc
1968 cc 1984 cc
Valve gears
DOHC 20 valves
DOHC 16 valves DOHC 16 valves, VVT
VTG turbo
Turbo, VIM
Other engine features
Max power
150 hp / 5500 rpm 143 hp / 4200 rpm 200 hp / 6000 rpm
Max torque
162 lbft / 2000 rpm 236 lbft / 1750-2500 rpm 206 lbft / 1800-5000 rpm
5-speed manual
6-speed manual 6-speed manual
Suspension layout
F: 4-link
R: multi-link
F: 4-link
R: multi-link
F: 4-link
R: multi-link
Suspension features
- -
Tyres front/rear
Kerb weight
1400 kg
1430 kg
1430 kg
Top speed
135 mph (c)
133 mph (c)
150 mph (c)
0-60 mph (sec)
8.7 (c)
8.5 (c)
6.9 (c)
0-100 mph (sec)
Performance tested by: -

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