SEAT Leon X-Perience – Review
By Liam Bird
“Please bring your boots or wellies and some warm winter clothes.” So read the invitation from the SEAT Press office. What, I wondered, were they planning?
It turned out that the Spanish manufacturer’s UK PRs really did know their target market when it came to launching their new, range-topping Leon X-Perience. The setting for its UK launch was a collection of very nicely appointed, thankfully under-floor/log-burner heated and even hot-tub equipped Centre Parc-esque log-cabins in the Forest of Dean. (I hasten to add, reader, I didn’t indulge a bubbly–dip, but I can firmly recommend said luxo-huts and hope I’ve added enough clues as to their identity without resorting to blatant advertising). Not only that, but at nearly 42, yours truly falls right into the core demographic at which SEAT are aiming their new four-wheel drive sports-tourer.
Well, I say that. The truth is the Leon X-Perience is, SEAT say, aimed at adventurous and young spirited, married with children predominately (80%) male buyers who enjoy outdoor activities such as mountain biking, triathlons and, judging by the canoes, kite-buggies, climbing gear and tents gathered that were simply begging to be tossed into the Leon’s generous (1470 litres with seats down) boot, a whole host of other out-doorsy sports and such like too. I, on the other hand, have always preferred a duvet, a good film come Sunday afternoon and nice mug of tea; children too I find are somewhat an acquired taste.
“Reliable and refined”
Needless to say then, despite my Meindls and Parka doing their best to make me look like an extra from Fortitude, it was glaringly obvious come driving time that, with its raised ride height, twin tail-pipes, chunky plastic wheel-arches, aluminium rear diffuser and underbody protection, plus standard fit roof-rails, compass and altimeter incorporating sat-nav, and its fifth generation Haldex diff four-wheel drive system, the Leon X-Perience has been designed and equipped for far more rugged and family orientated activities than I perhaps ever was. The creases in its bodywork are also far tighter and tauter sadly than they are in mine too; it is a handsome looking thing.
It’s also surprisingly agile. Not only does it come equipped with the ability to scramble up a slippery forest road, a snowy driveway or wet grassy field without ever becoming flustered, the snappily titled 4Drive system is deployed automatically and apportions up to 50% of the drive to the rear wheels if required. This soft-roader’s tarmac manners are also admirable.
Where once was the time that SEATs rode with all the finesse of a tea-tray on a cobbled street, under-pinnings and oily-bits courtesy of parent company VW – by which I mean engines, gearboxes, suspension and the ever versatile MQB platform, the same one as used on Octavia, Golf, TT… the list goes on, and on – ensure they’re both reassuringly reliable and surprisingly refined.
“Priced to compete”
I sampled a fully-loaded SE Technology 2.0 litre TDi packing 184bhp and 6-speed DSG. Despite the gearbox’s sometimes slow reactions I’d have gladly driven said Leon the 140-miles home and back again in a bid to try to match SEAT’s claims of 0-62mph in 7.1 seconds and 57.6 mpg (combined). If only time had been on my side. I left in no doubt that on a long trip it would indeed make a worthy, comfy and neither too thirsty, nor too demanding ally. And, fleet buyers take note: With CO2 figures of 129g/km (in 150bhp form) the Leon X-Perience is the greenest car in its class. There’s also an option of a built-in eco-trainer to encourage the leaden of foot to go easy.
And the price for such an X-Perience? SEAT say their latest Leon is a worthy adversary to Volvo’s V40 Cross Country, Vauxhall’s Insignia Country Tourer, and Renualt’s Scenic X-MOD. They were careful not to mention the very similar (and sister VW product) Skoda Octavia Scout. At £24,385 upwards, The Leon X-Perience is priced to compete alongside all four. In the case of all but the latter it offers more all-important boot-space (get it?) than them all.
SEAT LEON X-PERIENCE SE Tech Lux Pack 6-speed DSG
Engine: 1968cc, 4Cyl, 16V Turbo-diesel
Transmission: 6 speed DSG Auto. Four wheel Drive (with Haldex Diff)
Power: 184 bhp @ 3500 – 4000 rpm
Torque: 280 lbft @ 1750 – 3250 rpm
0-62mph: 7.1 sec
Max Speed: 139 mph
MPG: 57.6 combined
Price: from £28,870 (as tested £33,710)