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Saturday 3 December 2016

X-cellent drive

Tee-rrific experience as SEAT's new 4x4 stands out at the Irish Open, writes Ian Mallon

OVER the holiday weekend I managed to put the Seat Leon X-perience through the most rigorous of driving tests - the two extremes of motoring mayhem.

First, I used it for a boys' break away at the golf, and then when I returned home I packed up the family and used it for a weekend away.

First stop was the Irish Open where I joined thousands of other like-minded folk and made my way, with thirsty friend in tow, to the beautiful Royal County Down Golf Club.

Family and work commitments aside, golf and cars are my main obsessions in life, and this trip would surely define the virtues or otherwise of the latest member of the Leon family.

Visitors to any major golfing occasion will know it's not just about watching young millionaires hitting golf balls into holes - it's truly an occasion.

Well-dressed middle-aged codgers load up their luxury cars and gather for one of the more sophisticated middle-class pursuits.

ELEGANCE

A glance around the car park at any big golfing event throws up a veritable feast of good taste and elegance.

BMW are a main sponsor, and those travelling in their German luxury wagons have their own car park right beside the 18th green.

This was the perfect place to suss out the public perception of a car that most people would not have seen before.

And if the approving glances of all we passed were anything to go by, this stand-out 4x4 seemed to grab plenty of attention.

It is a defining moment in the evolution of Seat as a brand - a once unremark- able car from Spain that has pushed its way on to the design and performance radars of auto obsessives.

This was a Seat that reminded me of something more substantial, not too far off the high bar set by Audi Allroad or BMW Touring.

The X-perience is a tourer's dream, a sophisticated sporty estate with all the practicalities of a car built to lug loads of kids and lots of baggage.

Two models are available - a 148bhp six-speed manual, and the one I had, a twin-clutch automatic which knocks out an impressive 182bhp. This is a cross-over that will appeal to an increasingly eager SUV audience, which is growing and evolving with our return from austerity.

They, like I, will be impressed by the space inside, which following the golf trip was made full use of during my family excursion to the south of the country.

Passengers had tons of leg room and three mid-sized bodies had plenty of space in the back, while behind them there were acres on offer for all the luggage.

There are lovely two tone suede-like seats, arm rest for the driver, practical stereo and a lag-free performance from the automatic box.

I had read criticism of a "too plasticy" interior, and that it felt quite cheap inside, but I didn't find that - maybe a couple of chrome trimmings might have been in order, but now we're just getting picky.

The open road was especially pleasing, with great performance despite a full and heavy load.

There are obvious comparisons with the Skoda Octavia Scout, which has almost the same diesel engine.

Take-off was quite nippy, 0-100kph in seven seconds, suspension was excellent and road handling quite poised.

So back to the golf, and as I returned to the car park following a day in the dunes the X-perience managed to stand out in a field of other impressive motors.

The Seat Leon X-perience costs €32,495.

SEAT are kicking off the 152 plate with a 0pc PCP offer on any Leon and Ibiza ordered before June 30. They'll even throw in a threeyear service plan for €199.

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