Seat 4x4: the lowdown
Seat is preparing to stretch its sporty/spacious Mediterranean brand into new segments – with the Spanish firm’s first proper SUV on the drawing board, CAR Online has learned. The donor car is the Tiguan, under development by Seat parent Volkswagen and recently shown in these officially sanctioned ‘spy shots’ released by Wolfsburg. Although no timeline is known yet, Seat is likely to launch its 4x4 within 24 months of the Tiguan. That would mean it is scheduled for sale by late 2009.
What do we know about Seat’s Tiguan?
We can paint a decent picture of Seat’s 4x4 by looking at what we know of the VW Tiguan donor car. Volkswagen’s strategy is to offer family engines across different brands, so we can expect three petrols and two diesels stretching from 138bhp to a turbocharged 197bhp. The four-wheel drive system is based on the VW Group’s Haldex system, which sends torque to the front wheels under normal conditions, employing a fast-acting centre diff to send drive rearwards only when the front axle is struggling for traction. Like most compact 4x4s, it will be capable of scrambling across muddy fields, but not much further afield - whatever these official shots of prototypes testing on rocky tracks suggest...
Why is Seat getting into an unfashionable segment like 4x4s?
It’s true that emissions are becoming a political hot potato in Europe and car bosses are becoming nervous about a backlash against visibly profligate cars like 4x4s in some markets, most notably the UK. However, the domestic Spanish market (by far Seat’s biggest) is less hung up on CO2. And the compact SUV sector is still growing at a considerable rate. Seat’s sales and marketing vice-president Berthold Krueger told CAR Online that the segment Seat was eyeing was worth 200,000 units in Europe today – climbing to a forecast of 500,000 within two years. ‘Volkswagen is developing the Tiguan and we are considering a similar version, but sportier,’ he said. It’s not the only new Seat on the drawing board, as the brand aims to double sales to 800,000 by 2018. This year it will launch the Altea Freetrack soft-roader, followed next year by the new Ibiza supermini and, in 2009, its new Mondeo rival and the replacement for the Alhambra people carrier.