Seat has become the latest member of the Volkswagen family to unveil a stylised off-road version of a small estate car with the introduction of its new Leon X-Perience, coming to showrooms in 2015.
Based on the existing Leon ST, the X-Perience is perhaps better thought of as a trim level more than an entirely new model. In essence, it’s Seat’s answer to the Audi Allroad.
What makes the Seat Leon X-perience stand out?
Apart from the year-round practicality of all-wheel drive, this car is all about style. The exterior isn’t much different from the treatment meted out to the Skoda Octavia Scout we saw unveiled at the 2014 Geneva motor show. Large plastic bumpers and a dash of aluminium here and there give the X-perience that almost traditional Volkswagen group ‘soft-roader’ look we’ve all become accustomed to. In this instance, pulling on wellie boots onto an already-pretty shape has worked reasonably well.
New materials are used in the soft-roader Leon’s cabin, including the unusual option of brown alcantara seating with orange stitching. Don’t worry if you’re not quite that outgoing; there’s still black or grey cloth, as well as black leather available as an optional extra.
Seat X-perience: engines and spec
There certainly isn’t much that’s new under the bonnet of the Leon X-perience. The four-wheel drive set-up is slightly revised thanks to the arrival of the marginally lighter fifth-generation Haldex system, but apart from that you won’t find many new mechanical parts.
The Leon X-perience will come with a choice of three diesel engines, the pick of which is the 181bhp 2.0-litre TDI, one of our favourite diesel engines within the price bracket. You can also have the same 2.0 diesel slightly detuned to 148bhp or a 1.6 TDI with 109bhp.
Just one petrol engine is offered with the Leon X-perience, the latest version of the 1.8 TSI, producing 178bhp. Both the most powerful petrol and diesel engines come with the VW group’s established, fast-changing DSG gearbox, complete with paddle shifters, as standard.
Drivers can toggle the Leon’s driving modes between Normal, Eco, Sport and Individual, adjusting the characteristics of throttle control, DSG transmission and power steering. It’s telling there’s no Mud setting, however, belying the X-perience’s true purpose.
Who will actually buy the Seat Leon X-perience?
Good question. The Volkswagen group simply can’t get enough of ‘offroad’ versions of its estates, and have even begun to dabble in offroad coupes with the beefed-up TT and VW Beetle Dune concepts.
It’s ironic that while SUVs are increasingly being offered in 2wd guise, regular humdrum estate cars are going the other way – offering a 4wd wannabe look. At the heart of this paradox is one truism: drivers today want to stand out from the crowd.