The Seat Leon X-Perience is an off-road oriented version of the Seat Leon ST estate, which goes into battle against other jacked up estate cars, such as the closely related Volkswagen Golf Alltrack and the Skoda Octavia Scout, with its four-wheel drive and increased ground clearance.
The X-Perience also takes on off-roader style models such as the Nissan Qashqai and Kia Sportage. Unlike most rivals though, this Seat boasts sharp-edged car-like styling with the subtle off-road modifications making it appear more biased towards on-road driving than out-and-out all-terrain ability.
Unsurprisingly, the Leon X-Perience is practically identical to the standard Leon ST both inside and out. However, thanks to the addition of a four-wheel drive system, it does offer greater off-road credentials than many rivals. Two 2.0-litre diesel models are available – the 148bhp manual version, which we tested – and the 182bhp ‘DSG’ automatic range-topper.
Prices stand at £24,385 for the manual SE model, £26,370 for the well-specified SE Technology version and a substantial £28,870 for the top-of-the-range SE Technology automatic car. Standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, unique body styling, front sports seats, dual-zone climate control, cruise control and rear parking sensors plus suspension which has been raised by 15mm for added ground clearance.
SE Technology trim, meanwhile, adds 18-inch alloy wheels, electric folding wing mirrors, powerful LED headlights, a touchscreen 5.8-inch media system with sat nav and a digital radio and automatic headlights and wipers.
Due to the mild increase in ride height over the standard car, the Leon X-Perience doesn’t offer the off-roader style high driving position of some models, such as the Subaru Outback. Instead, with its comfortable driver’s seat, clear dials and the only slightly raised driving position, the X-Perience feels like a conventional estate car.
This sensation continues when you pull off. With a punchy diesel engine under the bonnet, easy-to-judge pedals and good forward visibility, the X-Perience is very simple to drive. Unlike most off-roaders, however, this model seems to ride less smoothly than it could, failing to isolate occupants from the road surface as well as the standard Leon ST. The gearchange is also a little notchy, not shifting into gear as smoothly as some rivals.
Well-weighted steering, competent handling and effective brakes mean that there is little penalty in having this model over the standard car though – barring the firm ride. Acceleration from the diesel engine is relatively strong – with the car sprinting to 62mph in a reasonable 8.7 seconds – and refinement levels are high, provided you don’t work the engine too hard, at which point it becomes a little more audible than some buyers would want. Wind noise and road noise levels are subdued, however.
Again, it’s a very similar story to the Leon ST in the cabin. Our model featured brown interior trim and unique seats, which did differentiate it from the standard model, but the overall layout of the interior feels very similar to other Leons. The glass roof in our test car did make the cabin feel much more upmarket, however, letting much more light in.
The dashboard feels solid and easy enough to navigate, but the sat nav system, which has a small 5.8-inch screen, is not as intuitive as some rival systems, with the small touchscreen display being hard to decipher on the move. The system in pricier VW Golfs is far superior in comparison.
With a large boot and a reasonable amount of room in the rear seats, the X-Perience should be more than practical enough for most families. However, the tallest of drivers may lack a little room in the driver’s seat, while legroom in the rear seats is tight with the front seats all the way back.
Provided the front seats aren’t slid back, though, all three rear seats are very usable, with plenty of headroom for those sat in the middle. Foot room is a little tight, though, due to the larger transmission tunnel needed for this four-wheel drive model.
Volume in the boot is generous, with a hidden storage area underneath the boot floor. Our test car even had a spare tyre below this.
The Leon X-Perience offers a similar spread of attributes to the VW Golf Alltrack and Skoda Octavia Scout. However, most buyers would be better served with the cheaper, more economical and faster Leon ST. As the X-Perience doesn’t offer much added off-road style – or ability, with a mere 15mm added to the ride height – the Leon ST is a much more sensible purchase, provided you can live without four-wheel drive.
Throw into the mix the slightly jarring ride – something that we didn’t notice in the standard model – and fuel economy which tumbles by more than 10mpg and the X-Perience is hard to recommend in light of its cheaper sibling. However, in isolation the Leon X-Perience is an appealing car for those who have to have an estate with (slightly) raised ride height and four-wheel drive.
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Seat Leon X-Perience 2.0 TDI 150 SE Technology
Engine: 2.0-litre, turbocharged four cylinder, diesel
Top speed: 129mph
0-62mph: 8.7 seconds
Fuel economy: 47.9mpg (urban), 64.2mpg (extra-urban) 57.6mpg (combined)
Emissions: 129g/km CO2
Euro NCAP rating: Five-star
April 30, 2015