Motoring: Road Test - Germans turn Seat around

The Toledo combines Latin brio with VW quality

Had BMW sorted out Rover as decisively as VW did its Spanish subsidiary Seat (and Skoda, its Czech one), Munich's British wing might not now be haemorrhaging quite so badly. There are surely lessons for BMW in the elevation to international respectability, via German intervention, of VW's once downtrodden, down-market underlings.

Not so long ago, Seat (once in bed with Fiat) was struggling to establish a brand image. Things have changed. Seat now knows where it is going, and how to get there.

The swap of corporate colour from blue (cool, conservative, soothing) to red (bright, dashing, in-your-face) indicates the new direction. So does its big-budget attack on international rallying.

It would have you believe, with some justification, that the Toledo unites the brio of an Italian Alfa Romeo with the quality and dependability of a German VW. Let's face it: that is an appealing union. And it has been achieved at prices which uphold the old notion that you get a good deal with a Seat, especially when generous equipment and a three-year, unlimited-mileage warranty are taken into account.

It is hardly necessary to drive the new Golf/Bora-based Toledo to appreciate that it stacks up pretty well on most counts against rival four-door, medium-size saloons. On price, safety, warranty and running costs - never mind on build quality, style and panache - it is at the very least competitive.

Even on depreciation, once a Seat bugbear, the new Toledo is looking good, according to independent forecasts. In a table of resale values issued by Seat, only the BMW 318, Audi A4 and Honda Accord - classy cars, all - are ahead of the Toledo 1.8. The big-selling Ford Mondeo and Vauxhall Vectra are well-beaten.

Prices range from pounds 14,295 for the 1.6S to pounds 17,595 for the 2.3 V5 (yes, that's VW's oddball five-cylinder engine) - the first Seat to get more than 2.0 litres and four cylinders. The two most popular models, however, are expected to be the petrol 1.8 and the diesel 1.9Tdi. I drove both.

Although it goes briskly and is frugal, I was disappointed with the diesel's refinement. It sounded gruff (more so than the Golf Tdi with the same engine) and felt tingly, especially through the pedals. Apart from this flaw and poor rear leg-room (some of it sacrificed, it seems, for a whopping boot), the Tdi is a pleasant, even entertaining family hack that steers responsively, handles well and rides the bumps smoothly. It has a nice cabin ambience and the sort of finish you would expect of a car from the VW group. I liked it.

The 1.8 petrol is quieter and sweeter than the 1.9 diesel but barely quicker - in fact not even as quick when high-gear lugging: the diesel's turbo-charged muscle then really shows. At SE level, you would not have to drive very far to justify the pounds 100 premium for the diesel, which is capable of over 50mpg.

This is the car that will spearhead Seat's attack on the lucrative business sector.

Specifications

Rivals

Make and model: Model: Seat Toledo 1.8S

Price: pounds 14,995 (pounds 15,995 for SE)

Engine: 1781cc four-cylinder 20-valve petrol

Transmission: five-speed manual, front-wheel drive

Performance: max speed 124mph, 0-60mph in 10.2sec, fuel consumption 33.6mpg combined cycles

Alfa Romeo 156 1.8, pounds 17,997 Quick, refined and desirable. Price and performance compete with pounds 17,595 Toledo V5.

Ford Mondeo 1.8LX, pounds 15,680 Lacks sparkle but not ability. No-joke Ford is even better to drive after revamp. A refined, easy-to-own family saloon/hatchback. Pay extra for 2.0.

Nissan Primera 2.0GX,pounds 15,725 Though revised in 1996, still under-rated. Bland looks camouflage well-made, good-handling British-made car with no major weaknesses.

Rover 400 2.0i, pounds 15,545

Last of the Honda-based Rovers is pleasant, smooth-riding and refined. Trouble is, it's over-priced for a Focus-sized car.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    SQL Developer (TSQL, SSRS, SSAS) Fund Manager - London

    £45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Harrington Starr: SQL Developer (TSQL, S...

    Software Developer (JavaScript, TDD, Jasmine, Angular.JS)

    Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Software Developer (JavaScript, TDD, Jasmine, An...

    Front-End UI/UX Developer (HTML5, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, Ang

    £45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front-End UI/U...

    C#.NET Server Side Developer (C#, XML, WCF, Unit Testing,SQL)

    £30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C#.NET ...

    Day In a Page

    All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
    What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

    What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

    Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
    Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

    Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

    Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
    Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

    Radio 1’s new top ten

    The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
    Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

    Florence Knight's perfect picnic

    Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
    Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

    Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

    The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
    Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

    Mark Hix's summery soups

    Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
    Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

    Tim Sherwood column

    I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
    Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

    Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

    The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition