In-depth Reviews

SEAT Exeo saloon (2008-2013)

"Under the skin, the smart looking SEAT Exeo is a previous generation Audi A4. A SEAT makeover and competitive pricing brings it up to date."

Carbuyer Rating

2.5 out of 5

Owners Rating

4.3 out of 5

Read owner reviews


  • Loads of equipment and low prices
  • Good diesel engines with low running costs
  • Plenty of safety gear


  • Ride could be better
  • Tight rear legroom
  • Resale values could be higher

The Exeo is basically an old Audi A4 with a new face. That means it wasn’t the most advanced car out there when it launched, let alone now, but it also means that it's really well constructed and the SEAT price point results in you getting a lot of equipment and accessories for your money. You only get two main engines to choose from - a 2.0-litre turbo petrol or a 2.0-litre diesel, tuned to produce three different levels of power and also includes a low emissions Ecomotive model. All are reliable and effective performers, and the Ecomotive has very low running costs. It goes to show how good the old A4 was that the Exeo still just about stands up against more modern competition.

MPG, running costs & CO2

Both petrol and diesel engines are economical

The Exeo is surprisingly economical given it’s age – the 2.0 TDI diesel Ecomotive returns 62.8mpg in combined fuel economy and emits 117g/km of CO2, while the more powerful diesel is still reasonably efficient, returning 52.3mpg and emitting 142g/km. The 2.0 TSI petrol isn't that bad either, returning 40.9mpg and emitting 159g/km, although it's only available in top-spec Sport models. Insurance groups range from 21 to 27, so, in general, running costs are pretty reasonable.

Engines, drive & performance

Excels as a motorway cruiser

The Exeo offers fairly precise steering and does have lots of grip when driving through corners, so it’s good to drive and also very comfortable. It’s certainly very much at home when making long motorway drives. The 2.0-litre TSI petrol engine is the only one available in Sport spec, while the 2.0-litre diesel is available in three different states of tune. Both engines have been tried and tested across the VW Group, so their performance is sound and they’re pretty reliable. The petrol gives the better performance, accelerating from 0-62mph in just 7.1 seconds but isn’t as suited to the car’s big, comfortable saloon dimensions, so we’d recommend going with the smoother, calmer diesel engines. The 141bhp diesel is very capable and accelerates from 0-62mph in 9.2 seconds, which is probably all the power most people will need. Interestingly, the steering may be accurate but it isn’t as good as the current A4 – which you’d expect as the Exeo’s based on the old model.

Interior & comfort

Quiet and generally composed

The Exeo’s suspension does get a bit bouncy when driven over some of the UK’s rough, uneven roads, but overall is reasonably comfortable if hardly top of its class. The Sport model is a bit more composed and does offer an improved ride, plus you do get added performance, but the trade-off is that it is a lot firmer. The Exeo’s interior is mostly fairly hushed, with only a small level of wind noise audible inside. However, the diesel engines may be smooth but they’re noisier than the equivalent engines in the rest of the VW Group range, so if you push them hard, you’re going to hear about it.

Practicality & boot space

Tight rear legroom but good luggage space

Using the previous Audi A4 as the basis for the Exeo has certainly helped it in many respects, but sadly practicality isn’t one of them. Space in the back is cramped, with poor leg and headroom that is definitely outdone by the likes of the Skoda Octavia and Ford Mondeo. There’s also a reasonable amount of storage inside the car, but nothing amazing, with some large front door pockets, map pockets on the back of the front seats and optional storage drawers beneath the front seats. The boot offers a decent 460 litres of space, but that is more than 100 litres less than the Octavia. However, access to the boot is good and the standard-fit, split-fold rear seats do fold down flat. Also, four chrome hooks means you can attach a cargo net to the boot floor.

Reliability & safety

Proven mechanicals should mean good reliability

You won’t find the Exeo in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey’s list of top 150 cars – in fact SEAT didn’t get one car in the top 100l. SEAT also dropped down three places in the survey’s manufacturers’ rankings to place27th out of 32, with reliability being one of the key complaints. But given that the Audi A4 it is based on proved to be a reliable car, there’s no reason to think that the Exeo won’t follow suit – it is essentially the same underneath and the fact it's been around for a long time means that any major problems will have been sorted. That age does mean that it only got a four-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, though, which places it behind the five-star performances of the likes of the Ford Mondeo and Volkswagen Passat. But the Exeo is packed with safety equipment, including six airbags, electronic stability control (ESP), active front headrests and ISOFIX child seat mountings all being fitted as standard, as are Top Tether seats, which keep child seats in place in the event of an impact.

Price, value for money & options

Cheap to buy and packed with standard kit

You won’t have to pay as much for the Exeo as many other more recognised saloon competitors, and you’ll get more equipment and accessories for your money. Base model S cars come with dual-zone climate control, electric windows and mirrors, front fog lights, cruise control, wheel-mounted stereo controls and a CD stereo with an MP3 connection fitted as standard, and all models get Bluetooth connectivity, too. Sadly, the SEAT doesn’t have a lot of badge value so you’re likely to lose more money than other models on any second-hand deal you make.

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