Seat’s performance in the UK has often outshone its sales elsewhere in Europe. It has grown every year since 2009, while in UK fleet, the brand posted an 11% improvement in 2014. There could be more to come as the range expands.
Seat will launch a small SUV next year, similar in size to the Audi Q3, and at the Geneva motor show in March it showed the 20V20 SUV concept, which is larger and is likely to go up against cars such as the Range Rover Evoque around 2020.
Between those two launches, there is expected to be a Nissan Juke-sized Seat SUV. The SUV and crossover sector is the fastest growing in Europe, so it makes sense for Seat to have models that appeal, where previously there were none.
Whetting our appetites is the new Seat Leon X-Perience, its devil-may-care attitude to spelling indicative of the freedom its ability might give to people driving it.
Based on the Leon ST, the X-Perience has all-wheel drive and rides 30 millimetres higher than the standard estate model. Using identical technology to the Škoda Octavia Scout and the forthcoming Volkswagen Golf Alltrack, Seat executives were keen to suggest other alternatives as rivals, to protect products from within the Volkswagen Group. Instead, we were told cars such as the Volvo V40 Cross Country (which doesn’t come as a four-wheel drive model) and the Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer would be competitors.
Customers can choose from two versions of the 2.0-litre diesel engine found in the Leon: 150hp and 184hp variants, both quoting the same fuel consumption on the combined cycle of 57.6mpg, and the same CO2 emissions of 129g/km.
The higher-power engine comes only with a six-speed DSG automatic transmission, while Seat expects the most popular variant will be the manual 150hp SE Tech. The Tech adds front fog lamps and full LED headlamps, 18-inch wheels, sat-nav plus upgraded audio/media system with extra speakers, leather and Alcantara seats. The interior door panels also have matching Alcantara trim, and the Leon’s cabin feels upmarket, if a little lacking in character.
On the road, the X-Perience doesn’t feel far removed from driving the Leon ST, with strong responses from the smooth diesel engine, and sure-footed handling. The test route also included some off-road driving on a Forestry Commission road, but nothing that troubled the car’s ability. We know from trying the same technology in the Škoda Octavia Scout, that it does a decent job in slippery conditions.
Seat believes the X-Perience will take an 8% share of Leon ST sales, of which around 4,000 were registered in 2014 (although admittedly not quite a full year of sales). It translates to maybe around 800 examples a year in total, with a decent share of those on fleets. But, of course, this is just a flavour of what’s to come from Seat over the next few years. A fully-fledged SUV could sell many more.