Motoring: Road Test: Seat's benchmark: A Volkswagen made in Spain and dressed by an Italian: Roger Bell greets the Seat Cordoba

Seat is on the verge of achieving a goal that once seemed beyond its grasp: to capture 1 per cent of the UK's car market. The Spanish wing of the Volkswagen empire (which also embraces Audi and Skoda) has struggled to establish brand awareness in Britain, where the name is short on both image and glamour.

Rising sales suggest that the message is getting through: some Seats are not bad, and some rather good. This is not surprisingly, since they are durable VWs made in low-cost Spain and wearing smart Italian clothes.

The latest in the Seat line is the Cordoba, a four-door saloon based on the Ibiza hatchback. As small, booted cars are not exactly fashionable (Vauxhall and VW dropped theirs), the Cordoba faces little direct competition.

To size the Cordoba up, look upon it as a cross between Seat's Ibiza and Toledo, or the VW Polo and Golf. There are several variants: prices range from pounds 9,095 for the base 1.6 to pounds 11,995 for the nifty 2.0 GTi.

There are also a couple of 1.9-litre diesels (including a super-green turbo that is far too noisy) and the 90bhp, petrol- engined 1.8. All use front-wheel-drive VW powertrains.

Extending the tail into a boot increases weight a little, but the consequent loss of performance is hardly noticeable. The 1.8 is a sweet, nippy car with a flexible engine that pulls eagerly in the mid-speed ranges.

Power-assisted steering, now more common on cheaper, lighter cars, makes the Cordoba undemanding to manoeuvre and park. Only in the sporting GTi is the loss of 'feel' likely to be a problem. Although the 1.8GLX seems a bit lurchy when cornered hard, it normally handles tidily and rides the bumps well.

By limiting rearward adjustment of the front seats, Seat has made the Cordoba seem passably roomy in the back. The wheelbase, a major influence on interior space, is the same as that of the 1biza hatchback; most of the car's extra length goes into a boot that, according to Seat, is bigger than that of a Ford Granada. It can be extended by folding the rear seats forward.

Step from a German Golf into a Spanish Cordoba and there is a strong sense of deja vu. The layout of the dashboard, the feel of the switchgear and the appearance of the instruments strongly reflect their Volkswagen ancestry. So do the comfortable driving position and firm seats. The cabin is characteristically sombre, too.

But the Cordoba is none the worse for reflecting the integrity and solidity of its parent company. Relate the price to the 1.8GLX's quality, ability and equipment (including alloy wheels, sunroof, electric windows), and Seat's aspirations do not seem ambitious.


Seat Cordoba 1.8GLX, pounds 10,895.

Engine: 1781cc, four cylinders, eight valves, 90bhp at 5500rpm. Five-speed manual gearbox, front-wheel drive. Performance: 0-60mph in 11.5 seconds, top speed 113mph; touring, 37mpg unleaded.


Citroen ZX 1.8 Aura, pounds 12,065.

Accomplished five-door hatchback, not available as saloon. A little roomier than the smaller Cordoba, performance similar. Pleasant and easy to drive. Sharp handling, strong grip. Recommended.

Fiat Tempra 1.6ie, pounds 10,550.

Four-door, booted version of Tipo hatchback. Better-equipped SX costs pounds 11,600. Roomy, well-packaged, but not as well made or finished as new Punto, which raises Fiat quality. Lively performance from vroomy engine.

Ford Escort 1.6LX, pounds 11,130.

This four-door Escort saloon costs the same as the five-door hatchback. Better than it was following facelift, but no front-runner in a class of high achievers.

Honda Civic 1.5LSi saloon, pounds 11,645.

Prettier, more accommodating car than the three-door hatchback, which costs pounds 650 less. The dullard of the Civic range, lacking the zap of more potent models. Pleasant, easy car to drive; performance roughly the same as Cordoba 1.8.

Rover 414Si, pounds 11,435.

Honda Concerto-based four-door saloon powered by Rover's K-series engine. Unremarkable performance, but mechanically sweet. Classy cabin a cut above Cordoba's.

(Photograph omitted)

Arts and Entertainment
The teaser trailer has provoked more questions than answers
filmBut what is Bond's 'secret' that Moneypenny is talking about?
football This was Kane’s night, even if he played just a small part of it
travel Dreamland Margate, Britain’s oldest amusement park, is set to reopen
Founders James Brown and Tim Southwell with a mock-up of the first ever ‘Loaded’ magazine in 1994
Threlfall says: 'I am a guardian of the reality keys. I think I drive directors nuts'
voices The group has just unveiled a billion dollar plan to help nurse the British countryside back to health
The Westgate, a gay pub in the centre of Gloucester which played host to drag queens, has closed
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

    £32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

    Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

    Day In a Page

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss