- Looks good
- Decent drive
- Well-equipped and reasonably priced
- Limited engine and trim range
- Leon ST a better buy
Take one look at any estate car brochure and you’ll soon realise just how big business jacked-up lifestyle estates like the SEAT Leon X-PERIENCE really are; the glossy pages are filled with images of couples pursuing the Great Outdoors from the comfort of their family-orientated estates like they white water raft every Wednesday.
Which is why the SEAT has to face competition from the likes of the Skoda Octavia Scout, Volvo V40 Cross Country and even Peugeot 508 RXH; not to mention conventional family crossovers like the Nissan Qashqai and Ford Kuga.
Off-road ability, everyday practicality
The new Leon X-PERIENCE is based on the capable and capacious Leon ST estate model, and benefits from that car’s impressive 587-litre boot (1,470 litres with rear seats folded) but adds 28mm to the ride height along with chunky plastic body cladding.
It also features four-wheel drive, which channels power to whichever of the four wheels possesses the most grip at any given point, though in normal driving conditions it uses front-wheel drive to improve efficiency.
Without a dedicated off-road mode or hill-descent control, it’s not a true off-roader but it can cope with heavily rutted roads and provides reassurance of the extra traction if affords in wet, muddy, wintery, or just plain miserable conditions.
Engine and trim choice
There’s currently only one engine with two different outputs coming to the UK – a potential further pairing, with less power and only front-wheel drive are under discussion. The 148bhp model is only available with a six-speed manual gearbox, the excellent six-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic only found on the more powerful 181bhp example, but it feels brisk enough and arguably smoother than its gutsier brother.
Both emit the same CO2, rated at 129g/km, so there’s no penalty in VED car tax rates should you require the extra 40Nm of torque found in the 181bhp version – the extra pulling power ideal for towing. The same applies to economy, with official figures pegged at 57.6mpg, though in reality that’s likely to be sub-50mpg.
Likewise there’s only two trims to choose from, though even the base SE model is well-equipped as standard, benefitting from dual zone climate control, cloth sports seats (front), cruise control, 17-inch alloy wheels, rear parking sensors, Bluetooth and a touchscreen infotainment system.
If you can stretch to it then the SE Technology trim is the one to have though, as while it adds a further £1,985 to the SE’s list price it adds a further £3,500 of standard kit including useful items such as sat-nav, DAB radio, auto headlights, SEAT Drive Profile, LED headlights and 18-inch alloy wheels.
The standard sports seats up front offer an ideal mix of support, comfort and adjustability while being available in cloth, Alcantara and simulated leather or plain leather coverings. A smattering of X-PERIENCE badges feature throughout and rear seat passengers enjoy ample leg and headroom.
Debuting on the X-PERIENCE is the optionally available 6.5-inch high-res touch-screen sat-nav (previously only the 5.8-inch unit was fitted) which vastly improves the looks, reactions and some functionality of the smaller unit. Now multiple phones, rather than a single unit, can be paired with the device, and a 10GB hard drive to store music lives behind the bright and crisp screen.
In the boot you’ll find the same split-level load floor as in other Leon ST models, and size remains the same thanks to clever packaging of the four-wheel drive system. Swapping from the 577-litre space to the maximum 1,470-litre capacity is only the flick of a lever away too, thanks to remote backrest releases in the sidewalls of the boot.
For most, the standard Leon ST will suffice, after all most buyers - despite what the brochure might depict – will spend more time at the DIY store than the Great Outdoors. But for the select few who are happy to pay extra, want the X-PERIENCE’s rugged looks and go-anywhere image, or genuinely require the extra functionality and reassuring ability of the four-wheel drive, it’s a great choice.
If you think it’s the car for you, read the full SEAT Leon X-PERIENCE review that follows to find out why you should put down your deposit.