When we got word that Seat was about to add all wheel drive to the Leon ST our ears certainly perked up. We recently tested the Skoda Scout and found it mighty impressive, but we were intrigued to see what its stable mate could do and more importantly for what price? The ST was launched this time last year and has already got off to an impressive start helping to contribute to the 824 Leon’s registered in 2014. In fact 24 percent of that number was made up of the ST, which is an excellent start for essentially a new model. This year Seat hope to sell 1,150 Leon’s with the addition of the new X-Perience. There will be a 1.6-litre two-wheel drive offering which will be priced under €30,000 or you can opt for the permanent all wheel drive 2.0-litre TDI 150bhp which costs €32,495 and the 2.0-litre TDI 184bhp DSG costing €35,495. All have ample space with 587 litres of boot storage but how do they drive?
Our test car at the Irish is the 2.0-litre TDI 150bhp variant. My time is set to be limited to 30 minutes with the car so I choose a demanding route around Macreddin Village in Wicklow and a trail route that leads me into the heart of a local forest. As always when testing cars that have been raised some 28mm you anticipate body roll through corners but it’s almost non-existent in the X-Perience. It corners confidently and the silent 2.0-litre 150bhp engine offers ample power right through the rev range. The suspension soaks up undulations and pesky potholes on the rough surface with ease, sending very little through the chassis but the biggest plus for me is the grip factor. With the permanent all wheel drive system, the standard 17-inch alloys are glued to the road inspiring real confidence. Even pushing on through twisty wet roads it feels planted. Why anyone would opt for the 2-wheel drive 1.6-litre alternative is beyond me. Surely a raised estate with all wheel drive security is the way to go!
Inside, the X-Perience is typical Seat, only aside from the regular dash layout you get some unique X- Perience upholstery along with a trendy leather steering wheel, gear knob and handbrake. It feels a little more rugged with some nice hardwearing materials in earthy colours. On the gadget front the X-Perience features a 5-inch colour touch screen with USB / SD / Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, rear park distance control, cruise control, and Seats renowned Drive Profile system, which provides the option of altering the steering and throttle response. Trailer owners will be delighted not just with the near 2,000kg towing capacity but also the trailer detection system that’s fitted as standard once Seat fit the towbar. After a 10-minute drive I left the asphalt and started to drive off-road on a mud strewn stony stretch leading me into the forest.
With little phone signal I was relying on the X-Perience to keep me safe and it never put a foot wrong. Using the fifth-generation VW Haldex system it makes wheel slippage a thing of the past. Further enhanced by an intelligent (EDS) dynamic control and an extended electronic differential lock (XDS) for better traction when cornering off road the X-Perience just gets you there even on road tyres! After taking a few snaps I returned to the roads to begin my return trip. Although my time was limited with the experience I beginning to think this will be the clever man’s lifestyle purchase of 2015. Seat’s 22 strong dealer network, fantastic PCP offerings meaning you could have this very car for €339 per month and fixed service pricing make it a no brainer. Few are stronger on the aftersales front than Seat right now and I’d make a bet that there conservative target of 1,150 Leon’s in 2015 will be far exceeded. More power to them!
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