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Seat is joining the crossover party
Seat is grabbing some of the rapidly expanding Nissan Qashqai-flavoured pie, by launching a mid-sized SUV crossover next year. And after that it also wants to build a smaller one too. The company’s boss Jürgen Stackmann has been telling us about it. “We are in the process of feasibility. Yes we are keen on getting it done.”
We’ve known about the mid-sized one for some months - they even announced the production location, a Skoda plant in the Czech republic. But Stackmann says it would be logical to go smaller too. “It’s a segment purpose-made for Seat: function with emotion. People like sitting high above the road, and the versatility. But they think [small] MPVs are boring. SUVs are a way of getting some emotion.”
The mid-size crossover is due in mid-2016. The smaller one is already being designed, but it would be impossible for dealers to cope with two new cars within a year so we’re talking about at least 2017.
It would make this report easier to write - and to read - if Stackmann would only tell us their names. But he won’t, although he doesn’t demur at the suggestion there are still plenty of Spanish town names remaining unused. For now he just uses internal VW size categories: A0 (Polo and Ibiza size) and A (Golf and Leon size). So he’s calling them A0-SUV and A-SUV.
The mid-size one is roughly the same size as the Leon, and uses the same VW Group MQB platform. It will also use much of the Leon’s design direction. Stackmann says the Leon does exactly the job Seat wanted it to do. “It took a long time for us to understand what the brand is. But the Leon is it: function with emotion, a crispness and sportiness. In design, continuity is the key to success. Customers need to understand you. The Leon is unique so why change the formula? You can add new elements but you have to keep the direction.”
That said, we understand the new mid-size crossover will look quite a bit more SUV-ish than the 2011 IBX concept (pictured) but that was more similar to the Leon than the actual production car will be. Even the jacked-up Leon 4WD, the X-Perience, has plastic arches and rufty tufty body kitting.
Interestingly, although the Seat is the same size as the current VW Tiguan, the next-generation Tiguan will go up a size, so there ought to be a clear space in the Group portfolio for this Seat.
Underneath it will use a similar engine range to the Leon, majoring on 2.0 diesels. Stackmann says plug-ins and electric cars are some way off for Seat. “Our customers usually have just one car in the household, and we are about value. Sure we could quickly implement that technology because we’re in the Group, but for the moment I’d like use to stay focussed.”
There will be a 4WD option on the A-SUV. “About 80 per cent of that market is front-drive, but 20 per cent is 4WD.”
However, the projected smaller crossover will be FWD only. That’s despite the fact there is the technical capability to do 4WD, as it sits on the small version of the MQB platform, and Audi will build Quattro versions of its next-generation A1 and the new Q2. But, says Stackmann, “In the A0-SUV we won’t put the extra price of €2000 [£1600] into something people don’t want. The success of the Renault Captur and Peugeot 2008 shows the way.”
Listening to Stackmann, there’s no doubt that both the mid-size crossover and the expected smaller one will be smack in the middle of their segments, rather than in-between sizes or have any left-field body forms - they won’t be quasi-coupes or carry any MPV genes. “They need to be a very Seat execution, but I believe people think in segments and want to be able to decode a car. Otherwise they get confused crossing categories.”
What does a Seat execution mean? Apart from the design which he discussed, it’s also about putting in the relevant, visible tech from the Group’s portfolio - but not the stuff people won’t pay for in a value brand. Hence no 4WD on the littler of the two crossovers, and no plug-in version of either of them. But there will be Seat staples such as DSG, LED headlights, high-value nav systems and loud stereos.