Seat Toledo makes a return to a saloon shape. It represents excellent value for money, but it’s a compromised option.

Our Verdict

The Seat Toledo makes a good case for itself as a no-nonsense family car, but don't expect any thrills

12 September 2012

What is it?: 

The fourth generation of the Seat Toledo, and sister car to the Skoda Rapid. Built on an extended version of the Ibiza’s modular platform (which in turn underpins the Polo and Fabia), the latest model marks a return to the original three-box saloon silhouette its reputation was originally built on.

Compact sedans are notoriously unpopular in the UK, but underneath its orthodox profile the car is actually a hatchback, and thanks to its elongated wheelbase (actually 24mm longer than the current Leon - a model it is supposed to sit below) the Toledo is blessed with generous rear legroom and an impressive 550-litre boot.

Meant to appeal to young families and bargain hunters, the range is destined to start from around £12,500 - slightly lower than the entry-level Skoda Rapid. For that you get a rather old-fashioned 73bhp 1.2-litre petrol engine and not much else.

For British buyers - and Seat admits it doesn’t expect there to be many - the 1.2-litre TSI, in 85bhp and 103bhp flavours is likely to form the real bottom line, and they kick off at around £15k for an S trim model.

A 120bhp 1.4-litre TSI mated to the seven-speed DSG is the range-topper, but for commuters with motorway miles to chew, the familiar 103bhp 1.6-litre TDI in SE spec is the headliner, and that’s the car we test here.

What's it like?: 

A bank robber’s dream. The Toledo is staggeringly bland to look at; so much so that it in silver it manages the unique trick of fading into the background of a car park populated solely by other Toledos. Possibly the blazing sun in central Spain did it no favours - in the shade or covered in dust, it’s possible to appreciate the clean lines of the ultra-conservative design - but it still seems desperately insipid after the ambitious swoops of Walter de Silva’s admittedly flawed third generation model.

The innocuous theme continues inside, where the Volkswagen Group’s most traditionalist dashboard design - usually found gracing a Skoda - is stretched across the Seat’s innards. A design award winner it is not, but its low-key attitude and basic robustness is actually a step up from the Spanish brand’s usual chintzy architecture.

In terms of the sheer space on offer, the Toledo is at an obvious advantage. Exactly like the Rapid (unsurprisingly) its extraordinary saloon length and routine supermini width offer just the right kind of family-friendly space. Adults are easily accommodated in the back, and the boot puts most hatchbacks to shame. It’s also conspicuously easy to navigate and park thanks to its comparative lack of girth.

Unfortunately, driver appeal is not a prerequisite part of an otherwise enterprising formula. As we found with the Skoda, the Toledo’s suspension has a tendency to fumble difficult road surfaces. The rear beam axle is liable to ricochet over relatively minor obstructions, and even on Spain’s marzipan smooth motorways, the car never seems to settle. It isn’t entirely at ease with spirited driving either, where the steering barely seems to take up the strain before considerable body lean turns quickly into whining steady-state understeer.

Nevertheless, the 1.6-litre TDI is well-mannered and earnestly economical. It rasps through its five-speed gearbox, but settles into an acceptable background hum when required. On the SE trim’s 16-inch alloys it is reputedly capable of 70.6mpg and emits just 106g/km of CO2. An even more frugal version is expected next year rated at a parsimonious 88bhp, but Seat says it is likely to remain above the UK tax threshold as it won’t get the automatic start/stop necessary to lower emissions beneath 100g/km.

Should I buy one?: 

If you really need the space, and are a sucker for extra value discount deals, you’ll find a lot to appreciate in the new Toledo. Certainly it’s no more exciting to drive than to look at, but for the right kind of customer, the manufacturer hardly needs it to be.

Thriftiness, resilience and real estate are its appealing features, and those are three compelling commodities at the moment. Unfortunately, as it often the way for Seat, the buyers occupying this particular niche are likely to be better acquainted with Skoda and may well decide that the model is more attractive in its alternative VW Group skin. 

Seat Toledo 1.6 TDI SE

Price £17,820; 0-62mph 10.6 seconds; Top speed 118mph; Economy 70.6mpg; CO2 106g/km; Kerbweight 1254kg; Engine Four cyls, 1598cc, turbocharged, diesel; Power 103bhp @ 4400rpm; Torque 184lb ft @ 1500rpm; Gearbox 5-spd manual

Join the debate

Comments
17

12 September 2012

I like this and the Rapid's honesty. Neither set the world alight, but they are probably the right car for the moment. 

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10 years of Smart ownership over, sensible car mode activated

12 September 2012

superstevie wrote:

I like this and the Rapid's honesty. 

Clean lines, big boot, hard wearing..... think you guys are being a bit hard on SEAT for this one, there's lots to recommend this for credit ravaged young Brit families... plus SEAT may be a championship side, but then so still are Skoda, despite JD Power trying to tell us otherwise.

Wise people should buy it. It's no more of a 'white good' than anything Japanese

12 September 2012

They say they expect young families to buy it. I think the likely purchasers will be OAPs. But when did a company ever tell us that old people will buy their car? 

If you can cope with a long narrow car it might appear good value, but i think its quite expensive given what it is underneath

A34

12 September 2012

artill wrote:

... I think the likely purchasers will be OAPs...

Agree. Targeting the last remaining generation who can Angel afford to retire and (b) retire with enough money to splash on a modest new car! Probably not meant to be a SEAT brand focus though...

12 September 2012

This, and its sister car, the Rapid, are two of the blandest cars I've ever seen. And they look out of date already! Morris Marina like in their lack of adventure.

13 September 2012

Jezza33 wrote:

This, and its sister car, the Rapid, are two of the blandest cars I've ever seen. And they look out of date already! Morris Marina like in their lack of adventure.

When will people wake up about the cynicism of the VW group?

12 September 2012

Given that the only thing differentiating this from the Skoda Rapid is the front and rear styling, the Toledo would get my vote every time. It's much prettier in my opinion.

12 September 2012

This is just non-design. Ideal for people with absolutely no interest in cars whatsoever.

12 September 2012

michael knight wrote:

This is just non-design. Ideal for people with absolutely no interest in cars whatsoever.

The latest Corolla saloon is a better resolved design than this Toledo.Drives better too

12 September 2012

With a bit of effort you can get a Focus Zetec TDCI  or a 1.0 ecoboost for similar money, a far better car in every respect.

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