Context. We present the results from a study of the X-ray variability and the near-IR to X-ray spectral energy distribution of four low-luminosity, Seyfert 1 galaxies.Aims. We compared their variability amplitude and broad band spectrum with those of more luminous AGN in order to investigate whether accretion in low-luminosity AGN operates as in their luminous counterparts.Methods. We used archival XMM-Newton and, in two cases, ASCA data to estimate their X-ray variability amplitude and determine their X-ray spectral shape and luminosity. We also used archival HST data to measure their optical nuclear luminosity, and near-IR measurements from the literature, in order to construct their near-IR to X-ray spectra.Results. The X-ray variability amplitude of the four Seyferts is what one would expect, given their black hole masses. Their near-IR to X-ray spectrum has the same shape as the spectrum of quasars that are 102-105 times more luminous.Conclusions. The objects in our sample are optically classified as Seyfert 1-1.5. This implies that they host a relatively unobscured AGN-like nucleus. They are also of low luminosity and accrete at a low rate. They are therefore good candidates to detect radiation from an inefficient accretion process. However, our results suggest that they are similar to AGN that are 102-105 times more luminous. The combination of a "radiative efficient accretion disc plus an X-ray producing hot corona" may persist at low accretion rates as well.
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