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