SEAT looking for Xperience to help drive better times
New models hold key to brand's future growth, writes Motoring Editor Eddie Cunningham
Now and again a car, however modest its initial sales pretensions, comes to symbolise a sort of new start.
That can be said of the SEAT Leon whose name now attaches to the bulk of the brand's increasing sales here - from 3dr hatch to hot-hatch Cupra to estate.
And it probably can be said of the latest addition, called the Xperience. While it too is based on the Leon, the ST estate to be precise, it marks a first foray into the world of 4x4 for the brand.
Essentially it is beefed-up in several ways and sits 30mm taller than the estate. It avails of every opportunity to clip on a panel or two to make it look more muscular.
The same goes for the cabin in terms of seating and steering wheel.
But the critical element is the 4x4 ability (thanks to the fifth-generation Haldex system). Of course it is not for serious off-roading but, as I say so often, the presence of 4x4 is an all-year round traction benefit.
It also gives the Xperience a significant towing capacity (2,000kg - not bad when you consider the giant VW Amarok's is 3,000kg). And they have a 'fit-and-play' tow-bar facility.
So, to state the obvious, the Xperience symbolises something of another new start for SEAT - it's a 4x4 of sorts at a time when everyone else seems to have an SUV or crossover.
By the way those looking at buying cars like this put the muscle looks top of their list, then 4x4 capability. There is no doubt SUVs/crossovers are a demand phenomenon for the foreseeable future. SEAT won't have a 'real' one until the end of next year so the Xperience will start and keep the ball rolling until then. It has a 2-litre diesel (150bhp 6spd manual; 184bhp DSG) and prices start from €32,495 ex-works. There's a high level of equipment. There will be a 1.6-litre two-wheel-drive version in July (€28,500).
The Xperience comes in at a good time: SEAT sales are well up, indeed reaching record levels. They admit they still have perception problems but are ploughing resources into after-sales especially to boost customer satisfaction.
There will be an Ibiza facelift this autumn as well as one for the Alhambra people carrier. But we will have to wait until late next year for that first SUV - and a new Ibiza the year after.
So, for now it falls to the Xperience, which by the way impressed during a drive here Monday, to bridge the gap to the future.