Meet the Seat Leon X-Perience, the Spanish brand’s lifted all-wheel drive offering that’s essentially the same car as the VW SportWagen Alltrack America is getting next year. Here’s what you can expect from VW’s little off-road wagon.
[Full disclosure: I was supposed to get an e-Golf but something went south, so they offered me a Seat wagon instead for the weekend. I would never say no to a wagon, plus we never had a Seat before, so here we are.]
The problem with liking the Audi A6 allroad quattro but not having enough money to buy an Audi A6 allroad quattro has been troubling loyal VW Group buyers since the car’s debut in 1999. Volkswagen clearly had to give something to those folks.
While I’m generally against crossovers, VW’s budget all-wheel drive offerings aren’t crossing that imaginary line. These family cars weren’t really made to look bigger, they don’t ride sky high and I actually don’t mind the black wheel arch body moldings. Less paint to worry about.
These wagons are slightly beefed up all-rounders that should never be taken off-road while rolling on those sporty tires and fancy rims, but if you keep a set of smaller steelies with proper rubber in the garage for those hardcore country trips, they’ll go through mud and snow like a dream. You won’t have a problem up the hill with proper winter tires in the city either, and that’s the whole point of paying extra for all-wheel drive.
The Seat Leon X-Perience is built on the same MQB platform as all the Golfs and the Skoda Octavias as well. The 4x4 Octavia Scout seems to be the obvious choice of the bunch if you’re looking for an affordable wagon with all the outdoor goodies, but funny enough, the Seat costs almost exactly the same. Game on!
Seat is a weird brand. I used to say Skoda made the best Golf GTI, but nowadays the Spanish offer a Leon that’s not only way more fun than even a Golf R but is also the fastest front-wheel drive car this side of a hot Renault.
Fast Seats are very much a thing now as the Leon Cupra has 40 horsepower more than a Golf GTI for roughly the same price. That’s one side of the coin, but Volkswagen didn’t go all Alfa Romeo with the brand so the other is still full of budget cars giving you the option of choosing a Spanish car instead of a Czech if you can’t afford the German stuff.
Sufficient cargo space is a given either way.
I had the Leon X-Perience with a 2.0 TDI linked to a DSG. It’s the usual VW test car combo here, I had it in the Skoda Yeti Outdoor 4x4 last year and it works just fine.
What I like about these MQB wagons is their size. You jump into them, hit heavy traffic and their dimensions are very clear, visibility is great all around by modern car standards and the safety features take care of the rest of your problems. Key in, belt on, pedal down. That’s all it takes to get familiar.
The 2.0 TDI has 184 horsepower and all the torque just like in the Golf GTD if you go for the Direkt-Schalt-Getriebe. That power figure goes down to 150 if you choose the manual, which is VW trying to sell the DSG a bit too hard since the car would be best with a manual and all the power. But it’s the same engine, so a minor software upgrade should take care of the problem after the warranty is off.
Unfortunately, the start-stop system is utterly useless, meaning that it has zero flexibility and will switch off the diesel even if it is dead cold the moment you stop, which can’t be good for those sophisticated turbos.
Inside, things would have been rather spartan with black plastics all over the cabin if I didn’t have the optional Alcantara package which together with the also optional panoramic sunroof turned this basic VW interior into a place which shows some thought and care.
The infotainment system obviously isn’t the one you get in the latest Audis, but it was easy enough to use with the combination of the touchscreen and the knobs, plus it has sensors to know when you’re going to hit the screen with your fingers and get those hidden tabs out in advance. Good thinking right there.
The DSG has (very short) flappy paddles and there’s also a sport button that ruins everything, just like how a sport button ruins any car that has one. Also, Lap Timer in a TDI wagon? Right!
Since the sound system was decent and the orange stitching was a nice touch on the steering wheel and the handbrake, overall, I thought it was a good mix of simplicity, practicality and durability versus fancy artificial leather.
You really have to spend that extra bit for the glass roof though. Yes, it will get dirty all the time, but the light makes all the difference, and the kids will love it.
There’s not much to dislike here. This Seat seems to be a good workhorse that’s attractive, fast and comfortable enough to satisfy everybody in the family.
If it also turns out to reliable enough, I’m sure the Volkwagen SportWagen Alltrack will be a hit too, because that’s going to use the same technology but with a better interior at a lower price thanks to it being a Volkswagen sold in America instead of being a Seat sold in Europe.
Knowing this, are you excited to see such a Golf hitting your shores next year?
Photo credit: Máté Petrány/Jalopnik
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