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Driven: SEAT Leon X-Perience. Image by SEAT.

Driven: SEAT Leon X-Perience
SEAT's first four-wheel drive vehicle is the off-roading Leon X-Perience estate.

 



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SEAT Leon X-Perience

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Good points: great looks, an interior that stands out from the norm, superb ride, practicality and running costs, 4x4 traction

Not so good: some of the Leon ST's sharpness has been lost in translation

Key Facts

Model tested: SEAT Leon X-Perience SE Technology 2.0 TDI 150 manual
Price: from 24,920; SE Technology 150 from 26,905, car as tested 28,710
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Transmission: four-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: five-door estate
CO2 emissions: 129g/km (Band D, 0 VED first 12 months, 110 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 57.6mpg
Top speed: 129mph
0-62mph: 8.7 seconds
Power: 150hp at 3,500- to 4,000rpm
Torque: 340Nm at 1,750- to 3,000rpm

Our view:

SEAT and Skoda, of the mainstream Volkswagen Group brands, have been behind the curve when it comes to off-roaders, the Spanish firm more so than the Czechs. While Skoda has at least had the Yeti - and Scout versions of the Roomster and Octavia too - for some time, SEAT has been left out in the cold. But with a three-strong SUV line-up on the way, SEAT finally got hold of the Haldex four-wheel drive system and so completed its ST estate line-up with the off-roading version, called the X-Perience.

For now, it's still the only 4x4 SEAT you can buy in the UK. SEAT has branded the system 4Drive, although it runs in front-wheel drive most of the time, only sending up to 50 per cent of torque to the rear axle if it detects slip or a load of weight in the boot. Like a couple of muddy, wet Labradors, for example.

When it comes to these sort of off-road type vehicles, you always have to square a couple of questions in your mind before recommending them: the first being, is it worth the premium over the standard estate it is based on; and the second, is there already a four-wheel drive version in the range that doesn't wear an Asian factory-load of black plastic cladding? For example, the Octavia Scout isn't quite so clearly defined in the Skoda range, as you can get a normal, 'low-riding' Octavia estate with all-wheel drive.

The Leon, though, is a different beast and the X-Perience is the only way you'll get four-wheel drive. So then we have to address the first question, which is a bit tougher. The X-Perience has a two-model selection, both 2.0-litre TDIs with either 150- or 184hp. Opt for the latter and you get a six-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic gearbox as standard, plus it only comes in top-spec SE Technology trim. The 150hp motor, as tested here, is manual-only, but there are two specifications: SE and SE Technology. The premium required for this step up is 1,985 yet we think it's probably worth the outlay, because - to the X-Perience's already lengthy standard kit list - SE Technology brings a full array of LED lights outside, folding door mirrors, sports seats in the front, the Convenience Pack (comprising rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlights and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror), SEAT's four-mode Drive Profile software, larger 18-inch alloys and the 3D Navigation System. You'd pay a lot more than two grand to spec those things up individually.

One thing the X-Perience does well is constantly telegraph its superiority to a regular Leon ST through visuals alone and that's not something these off-road variants always achieve; see the now-discontinued Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer for details. The outside is fine, because the ST is a fine-looking creation anyway and it carries off rugged alloys, roof rails and, er... Adventure Brown metallic paint (575) well.

It's the inside - as capacious and comfortable as any other Leon ST's - that wins the major plaudits, though, because as well as orange stitching, plenty of X-Perience badging, a 4Drive logo on the gearstick, extra screens in the console display and seats that you wouldn't find in any other Leon, SEAT slathers the dun-coloured Alcantara all over the door cards and adds an earthy inlay around the air vents, touchscreen and instrument cluster. True, this won't win universal acclaim - The Wife got into the X-Perience and proclaimed that it had 'brown Dralon' everywhere, presumably not the look SEAT was going for - but this distinctive cabin is precisely what persuades vacillating estate buyers to shell out more money on the crossover version in the showroom; it's the feeling that they are buying into a car that's a little different from the suburban norm. Well done, SEAT, for realising that and capitalising fully with this excellent interior.

With just a 15mm hike in the suspension and 27mm extra ground clearance over your regular or garden ST, you certainly won't notice the X-Perience's prowess from ride height alone. Yet what SEAT has done brilliantly is clearly define these special estate Leons' purpose in life. Where an ST Cupra feels markedly sharper than even an FR model, the X-Perience goes in the opposite direction and is much softer in its suspension settings. That does mean you have to sacrifice some of the sharpness of the SEAT's chassis, which is one of the reasons we love the regular Leon ST, but with four-wheel drive compensating in part by adding more traction, it's a price worth paying.

Because this is the most comfortable SEAT we've ever driven. Its ride is phenomenally good at all times and although body roll is pronounced, it's not comically overbearing so the X-Perience flows well down a country road. Ironically, for all its protective cladding on the exterior and 4Drive technology, where it truly excels is as far from the wilderness as it is humanly possible to get in a car: a motorway. Little else in the Volkswagen Group powers up and down the three-lane drudgery of the M1 better than the X-Perience. What a pity that we only had a brief motorway sojourn in the 4WD Leon, instead spending most of our time in the car pottering about country lanes.

Go for the 184hp TDI if you must, so that you can say you've got the Golf GTD engine under your muddy-coloured bonnet, but the 150hp is all the motor you'll need in the X-Perience. It's reasonably quiet, if not the group's best powerplant on this score, plenty muscular enough (being only 40Nm down on the 184) and better on fuel. A 48.8mpg real-world economy figure in driving conditions that involved lots of acceleration and braking is remarkably good. And dynamically, the major controls are all superb - the steering's nice and sharp, the brakes are powerful and the six-speed manual gearbox is clean and accurate of throw.

All things considered, we feel that the Leon X-Perience is perhaps one of the best of all of the rough 'n' tumble estates, mainly because it fits more neatly into its parent marque's existing wagon line-up than competitor vehicles do. There's no AWD Leon elsewhere (for now) and there's no comparably priced/sized SEAT SUV to tempt you away from the X-Perience... yet. It therefore satisfies that biggie we posed earlier on: yes, the X-Perience is, just about, worth the (gulp) 3,000 premium over a similarly-engined Leon ST. Its sumptuous ride, plethora of toys and alternative exterior/interior styling couple with the security of four-wheel drive to make it our favourite SEAT Leon estate. Right after the Leon ST Cupra, that is...

Alternatives:

Peugeot 508 RXH: yes, there's an off-road-styled Peugeot estate, although we'd forgive you if you're currently gaping at your computer screen in disbelief. Technically from the D-segment above the C-segment Leon, hence a starting price of 28,495.

Skoda Octavia Scout 2.0 TDI 150: the SEAT's long-lost brother. Same engines, same hardware, similar great value-for-money... but we say the SEAT looks nicer and it's also slightly cheaper model-for-model, too.

Subaru Outback 2.0d SE manual: you forgot this was even in production, didn't you? Well, unless you're a farmer living in Shropshire, we suppose. Starts at 27,995 and has nothing like the poise or refinement of the Leon X-Perience.


Matt Robinson - 28 Sep 2015









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2015 SEAT Leon X-Perience. Image by SEAT.2015 SEAT Leon X-Perience. Image by SEAT.2015 SEAT Leon X-Perience. Image by SEAT.2015 SEAT Leon X-Perience. Image by SEAT.2015 SEAT Leon X-Perience. Image by SEAT.

2015 SEAT Leon X-Perience. Image by SEAT.2015 SEAT Leon X-Perience. Image by SEAT.2015 SEAT Leon X-Perience. Image by SEAT.2015 SEAT Leon X-Perience. Image by SEAT.2015 SEAT Leon X-Perience. Image by SEAT.



2015 SEAT Leon X-Perience. Image by SEAT.
 

2015 SEAT Leon X-Perience. Image by SEAT.
 

2015 SEAT Leon X-Perience. Image by SEAT.
 

2015 SEAT Leon X-Perience. Image by SEAT.
 

2015 SEAT Leon X-Perience. Image by SEAT.
 

2015 SEAT Leon X-Perience. Image by SEAT.
 

2015 SEAT Leon X-Perience. Image by SEAT.
 

2015 SEAT Leon X-Perience. Image by SEAT.
 

2015 SEAT Leon X-Perience. Image by SEAT.
 

2015 SEAT Leon X-Perience. Image by SEAT.
 






 

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