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SEAT Leon X-Perience review

Sophisticated car, daft name

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What is it?
The SEAT Leon X-Perience is an all-wheel-drive version of the Leon ST (estate).

Key features
All-wheel-drive powertrain, upmarket interior.

Our view
Sophisticated car, daft name

The SEAT Leon has in its latest incarnation attracted widely favourable comments, not least from The Car Expert.

Conceived as a family, the three and five-door Leon’s soon gained an estate sister, the ST. And with SEAT’s aspirations for growth targeting a wider selection of rivals, it is perhaps no surprise that the Leon ST range can now offer an all-wheel-drive model in the less-than-pleasingly named Leon X-Perience.

Dubbed by its makers “a lifestyle estate” and assuming the role of Leon range-topper alongside the Cupra performance model, the X-Perience offers a potentially attractive alternative to cars such as Skoda’s Octavia Scout and the Volvo V40 Cross Country. It might even appear on the radar of those who would previously have bought the Allroad from SEAT’s more upmarket sister brand Audi.

The Leon X-Perience also has another task, however. It introduces both SEAT’s dealers and the brand’s customer base to the concept of all-wheel-drive, ahead of the brand launching a ‘proper’ SUV, which will be unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show in March 2016.

From the outside the X-Perience is distinguishable from its ST sisters, firstly by means of its greater ground clearance, extended by 28mm over the stock Leon.

There are also the requisite ‘off-road’ styling touches of extra protective mouldings on the wheel arches and door sills, aluminium-look additions to the front and rear bumpers and twin tailpipes.

Inside the accent is centred on this being a range-topper, so the upgrades include leather and orange stitching while the door trims are bespoke.

The heart of this car is of course the all-wheel-drive transmission, which is combined with two powertrain options, both centring on the 2-litre diesel engine in either 148bhp and 181bhp outputs. The smaller one joins to a six-speed manual gearbox, the larger to a six-speed DSG auto.

Dubbed ‘Fourdrive’, the AWD is permanently on demand and electronically controlled, using a fifth generation of the Haldex clutch system to channel all the drive to the front wheels in normal driving, but to automatically divide propulsion between front and rear by up to half and half when conditions demand, such as in wet or icy weather, or on loose surfaces.

SEAT chose to demonstrate this on the launch drive with a couple of miles along Forestry Commission tracks, which heavy rain had made quite boggy in places. The Leon X-Perience is not and not intended to be an off-roader, but it copes well with difficult surfaces and will be appreciated particularly in winter by those living in rural environments, such as the author of this test.

That appeal is strengthened by the fact that the jacked-up ride height does not adversely affect the car’s progress where it will spend the vast majority of its time, on the road.

The X-Perience generally rides well – the extra weight, up by some 120kg, and the increased height is the more noticeable under heavy braking, cornering or over nasty bumps and potholes, but not to a degree that becomes uncomfortable. And despite all that extra mass to drag around, official fuel economy and CO2 emissions figures of plus-55mpg and 129g/km respectively are impressive.

It’s practical too, neat touches including the droppable boot floor, which extends the capacity available (with rear seats up) from 587 to 687 litres. Drop the seats flat, through a one-pull mechanism, and capacity mushrooms to 1,470 litres.

Getting the X-Perience will cost from £24,385, which buys the lower-powered version in SE trim. Standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, black roof rails, climate control and rear parking sensors.

Pay an extra £1,900 for the SE Technology version and according to SEAT the buyer gains more than £3,000 of extra equipment.

The wheels grow by an inch, electrically-folding mirrors are added as is Alcantara on the seats. The ‘Technology Pack’ of touchscreen-based DAB digital radio, navigation and LED headlights is fitted, along with the Convenience Pack of rain-sensing wipers, auto headlamps and auto-dimming rear view mirror.

Options include such niceties as a panoramic sunroof while a ‘Lux Pack’, costing £1,250, adds black leather upholstery, heated front seats with electric adjustment to the driver’s, chrome roof rails and a heated headlamp washer system.

The sat nav can also be upgraded to a ‘High’ version with a larger screen, an ‘off-road mode’, displaying compass views, angle of front wheels and such like, and an Eco trainer to help stretch the mileage.

All in all the Leon X-Perience is an impressive car, and perhaps the only serious black mark one can give it is the name. SEAT both aspires to and to a degree achieves an air of sophistication above the mainstream, but a name such as this does nothing to enhance that image…

SEAT Leon X-Perience – key specifications

Model tested: SEAT Leon X-Perience SE Technology 2.0 TDI 184 PS 6-speed DSG-auto
Range price: £24,385-£28,870
Insurance group: TBA
Engines: Diesel 2.0 x 2
Power (bhp): 148, 181
Torque (lb/ft): 250, 280
0-62mph (sec): 8.7, 7.1
Top speed (mph): 129, 139
Fuel economy (combined, mpg): 57.6, 57.6
CO2 emissions (g/km): 129, 129
Key rivals: Skoda Octavia Scout, Volvo V40 Cross-Country, Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer
Test Date: March 2015

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Andrew Charman
Andrew Charman
Andrew is a road test editor for The Car Expert. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars for more than 20 years. Today he is well known to senior personnel at the major car manufacturers and attends many new model launches each year.