A guide to Seat cars

Seat is a Spanish manufacturer currently making quite drastic inroads into the UK market, both privately and in the fleet market.

The success of the Leon hatchback and Ibiza family car are no coincidence; Seat is well established as a manufacturer of exciting, style-conscious cars often featuring go-kart handling and willing, sporty engines.

Seat has a car to suit all needs, from the low-CO2 Ecomotive range to the fiery Leon Cupra R, Seat’s most powerful and fastest car ever to go on sale in the UK.

Seat is owned by the Volkswagen Group and while the exciting exterior styling is noticeably Spanish, it is matched to the quality and precision of German engineering under the bonnet. Some would say it’s the perfect match.

Seat Leon

Looking for a sporty family car with responsive handling and plenty of space? You can stop looking now. The Seat Leon is often overlooked for the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra – two excellent cars – but in reality, the sporty alternative is a match for two of the best-selling UK models.

Seat uses parts from the Volkswagen Golf to deliver superb grip and handling from the three- or five-door hatchback and you’ll be the subject of admiring glances as well, because the Leon is a very good looking car with sporty styling and a number of eye-catching body colours.

Inside, the cabin is spacious and comfortable. It is also generously equipped and kitted out the high quality plastics and upholstery.

There’s even a sub-100g/km version which will keep motoring costs down by falling in the zero road tax band.

There’s a Seat Leon for everyone. From the eco-version to the high-performance Seat Leon Cupra R – which along with go-kart handling, also has the honour of being the fastest and most powerful Seat model to ever power onto UK shores.

The Cupra R version features a 240PS 2.0-litre capable of powering the Leon from 0-62mph in 6.4 seconds and to a top speed of 153mph where it is permitted.

Seat Ibiza

The Seat Ibiza is a supermini built to cover all the bases. It is cheap to buy and run, offers a range of eco-friendly engines as well as sporty supercharged versions, is well built and above all else, is fun to drive.

Ibiza is nimble and responsive when driven – another nod to Seat’s Volkswagen Group owners – and the suspension is capable of dealing with the bumpy UK roads without creating too much body roll.

Available in estate, three- and five-door formats, the Ibiza looks great in all three iterations. If you’re looking for something to stand out from the crowd when you’re cruising the city streets this is the car for you.

As expected from a Seat car under the stewardship of the VW Group, the build is excellent with good-quality materials used throughout.

Where the Seat Ibiza supermini really stands out from its illustrious rivals is in practicality. There is plenty of boot space for luggage but not at the expense of passenger space. The Estate version is particularly spacious, with an easy load area and a boot capacity of 430-litres.

If you’re looking to buy a used Seat Ibiza, there are plenty of bargains out there. Further savings are sure to be made thanks to the frugal engines and low running costs.

Seat Exeo

The Seat design team is well known for striking, evocative designs on their cars. So much so, that it has often been referred to as the Spanish Alfa, in recognition of Alfa Romeo’s stunning range of cars both now and in the past.

The Seat Exeo certainly fits the bill nicely. The simple, sleek design looks superb in both five-seat saloon and five-door estate body styles, making the executive-style saloon a good choice for somebody who appreciates style and aesthetics in a saloon car.

Excellent for cruising down the motorway, the suspension set up and range of competent and efficient engines make for a smooth and comfortable ride and the interior is well kitted out to provide a classy and comfortable cabin with plenty of room.

As popular with fleet customers as it is with private buyers, the Seat Exeo is the first car to be released in the segment by Seat, but the Spanish manufacturer found its feet quicker than most by borrowing heavily from executive heavyweight Audi and the impressive A4 saloon.

It isn’t as spacious as the class leading Ford Mondeo, but it provides good looks, a comfortable ride and tempting prices, making it a serious alternative to the Blue Oval model.

Seat Altea

The Seat Altea is a five-seat MPV designed to be spacious and practical like all good MPVs should be. However, it resisted the urge to compete with seven seat MPVs – there’s a Seat Altea XL for that – and instead combines all the usual MPV attributes with excellent handling and drivability.

Heavily influenced by the Leon, the Altea makes use of its compact dimensions to look much better than boxy seven-seat offerings as well.

Although first released in 2006, the Altea has recently found a new niche market as the downsizing trend continues. The Altea offers much more space than a conventional hatchback but retains the smaller shape.

It’s also relatively cheap to run with a collection of engines delivering low insurance ratings and an Ecomotive model offering superb CO2 emissions and subsequent road tax rates.

The Altea is becoming more relevant thanks to the need for downsizing, and it offers an intruiging and capable alternative to some of the Japanese crossovers and supermini-MPVs.

Seat Altea XL

The Seat Altea wasn’t designed to compete with seven-seat MPVs, but the longer Altea XL was created for just that purpose.

Looks-wise, it is every bit as distinctive and attractive as the Altea XL, with the added bonus of a much vaster load space. This means plenty of leg and head room for the seven passengers and 532 litres of boot space when needed.

The seats can be split and folded and slid forward to create even more space in the people carrier and there are the usual extras such as cup holders thrown in for good measure.

The Altea XL is reliable and generously equipped and comes with a five-star EuroNCAP safety rating.

The real reason to consider it as your next MPV however, is the ride. Cornering is excellent with little body role and the car handles as well as the smaller Altea. It is comfortable for both driver and passengers and handles the bumps and divets of UK roads well.

It’s also good value compared to perhaps more well-known rivals and running costs can be lowered thanks to the availability of an Ecomotive model.

If you’re after something different that ticks all the right boxes and adds throws in some attractive styling, the Seat Altea XL is for you.

Coming soon… Seat Alhambra

In late 2010, Seat will introduce the Seat Alhambra MPV. Boasting sliding doors, the seven-seater is expected to be practical and stylish in equal measure.

The entry system is expected to make the Alhambra much easier to get into and out of and the seats will be capable of several configurations to maximise space.

Plus, a low-CO2 version is in the pipeline, with excellent emissions levels of just 143g/km being touted by the Spanish manufacturer. The VW Group model will be fully kitted out with the latest technology and specifications and will include a panoramic glass sunroof, climate control and a DSG twin-clutch transmission.

It will arrive in the UK in Autumn 2010.