You have to feel a little bit sorry for the Seat Leon X-Perience. Usually outscoring a previous overall champion would be enough to earn an award, but despite unseating the Nissan Qashqai, the Leon can’t quite match the new Volkswagen Passat.
It is a mighty fine tow car in its own right, though, and offers something different to the Passat. For one thing it’s four-wheel-drive, so if you like to stay at out-of-the-way campsites and tow in all weathers, you may prefer the X-Perience. It also has more poke than the VW, with the 181bhp and 280lb ft of torque. That’s serious muscle – no wonder the Leon towed from 30-60mph in just 10 seconds.
In terms of stability, the Seat runs the Volkswagen close. In the emergency lane-change the caravan moved around more than when pulled by the VW, but at the legal limit the Seat was unflappable. However, the X-Perience has a conventional handbrake rather than the Passat’s electronic parking brake, and it needed a firm pull to prevent car and caravan creeping backwards on a 1-in-6 slope. Otherwise, the Seat took the hill start in its stride.
Inside, the Leon’s cabin can’t match the plush finish of the VW Passat’s and there’s much less room for rear-seat passengers. That said, there’s plenty of space in the boot – our practicality judges found room for every last item of holiday luggage, and were also pleased to find a trailer stability system fitted. It’s permissible to tow with the space-saver spare, which further boosts the Seat Leon X-Perience’s practicality score.