Seat’s new old-Audi-A4-based Exeo flagship, on sale here in the UK from 2 April, enters what the company is calling “a sliver of space” between the sub-premium cars like the Honda Accord and VW Passat and the volume cars such as Ford Mondeo, Peugeot 407 and Vauxhall Insignia.


It doesn’t have to be a very big gap because sales targets are modest at between 1,500 and 2,000 a year. That’s effectively one unit a month for each UK dealer.


Exeo does two things for Seat. It gives them a car for loyal customers to grow into as they progress through Ibiza and Leon. And it gives them a genuine contender to catch those forced to look for a cost-effective alternative to more expensive Audis, BMWs and Mercs.


Seat is positioning Exeo in what it calls left field: an alternative to the Mazda 6, Citroën C5 and Renault Laguna.


Prices start at GBP17,735 and the car maximises its VW Group heritage – in this case previous generation A4 underpinnings and the A4 cabriolet’s dashboard.


Anyone expecting the Exeo to feel like an A4 will be surprised. Tweaks to the suspension and steering give the car a more sporty feel.


There are enough exterior styling changes, especially to the front which has the Spanish brand’s trademark arrow design nose, to avoid confusion with any other in the VW family. Inside, generous standard equipment includes Bluetooth, a first in this class. Seats are all-new and particularly comfortable and supportive.


Exeo marks the Seat debut of common-rail diesel engines expected to dominate sales. At launch, there is a choice of 143PS or 170PS two-litre TDI or a two-litre 200PS TSI petrol engine. A third 120PS two-litre TDI arrives later this year. All engines are turbocharged and mated to a six-speed manual transmission. An automatic for the petrol engine only is scheduled for the end of the year; surprising in view of the wide range of diesel auto combinations available for VW and Audi models.


The Exeo will be sold in saloon and estate versions.


Its launch, achieved in just 18 months, is part of Seat’s strategy under current president Erich Schmitt to double global sales to 800,000 by 2018.


Options include a ‘solar sunroof’ which helps ventilate the car by powering an air vent system. Just like Mazda had in an early 90s 929 model not sold here.