Seat Toledo - First Drive

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Fourth-generation model has a lot of work to do to salvage the Spanish nameplate's prestige

Seat Toledo 1.6 TDI CR
Engine: 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo-charged diesel
Transmission: five-speed manual gearbox
Power: 105 PS
Torque: 250 Nm between 1,500 and 2,500 rpm
Fuel consumption (combined cycle): 72.4 mpg (steel wheels)
CO2 emissions: 104 g/km (steel wheels)
Top speed: 118 mph
Acceleration (0-62 mph): 10.6 seconds
Price: Seat Toledo prices will start at about £12,500, with 1.6 diesels from £16,640

*figures are for the Ecomotive version to be
sold in the UK, rather than the standard continental 1.6TDI driven

Seat’s Toledo is back – and this new fourth-generation model has a lot of work to do if it’s going to salvage the prestige of one of the Spanish manufacturer’s most famous nameplates. The UK sales figures tell the story. Seat shifted 22,310 examples of the first Toledo here between 1990 and 1998 but between 1998 and 2004 the second-generation model managed only 8,245 sales. The third-generation car fared even worse, with just 3,261 finding a home in Britain between 2004 and 2009.

But the new Toledo marks a return to the formula that made the original car such a success - and that formula is very simple. For the very first Toledo, Seat borrowed the platform of the Golf from its then-new parent, Volkswagen, but gave it a stretched tail. The resulting car was a hatchback, but one with a pronounced notchback shape that gave it the appearance of a saloon. Its luggage-carrying capacity was enormous. Skoda later followed an identical recipe for its own first all-new car under Volkswagen, the 1996 Octavia, except the Octavia used the Golf IV rather than the earlier Golf II as its base. Seat could convincingly have sold that car, or something like it, under its own badge as a successor to the first Toledo but instead chose to strike out in a completely different direction. The second-generation model was a straight saloon conversion of the Leon, its successor a dumpy, awkwardly-styled semi-MPV. Skoda, of course, stuck with the original plan, attracting hundreds of thousands of buyers who found budget pricing and Golf-class running gear and operating economics combined with almost Passat-class space impossible to resist.

Seat has now bowed to the inevitable and returned the Toledo to its roots, describing the new car as a three-volume, five-door lift-back, which is exactly what the original was. The only real difference is that the latest Toledo takes as its base Volkswagen’s Polo, rather than the larger Golf, although thanks to the general upward drift in cars’ external dimensions and the stretched notchback tail, the new model is actually the longest Toledo ever made.

The result is a car that is, in its particular way, one of the most exciting to hit the market in 2012. The excitement is not, it has to be said, the sort that grips road testers confronted by cars that are dynamically exceptional or outstandingly stylish; in fact, the new Toledo offers a fairly standard Volkswagen group experience in terms of the way it goes, stops and steers, and is conventionally handsome rather than being a true head-turner. Instead, the Toledo is going to cause a different sort of excitement, the sort that was probably felt by less wealthy car buyers when they started poking around the first Octavias in Skoda showrooms all those years ago and realised that very occasionally, there is such a thing as a free lunch, that sometimes there really isn’t a catch and that every now and then, something that at first looks too good to be true really does turn out to be that good.

That’s because, like the first Octavia, the new Toledo, by clever stretching of an established Volkswagen platform, appears to offer the buyer an off-the chart price/space/quality trade-off. Near-supermini pricing (the range is expected to start at about£12,500) is combined with an enormous rear passenger compartment and a vast 550 litre (seats-up) luggage space that many far bigger and pricier cars would find hard to match. Quality levels, too, appear to be extremely high, a credit to its makers at Mladá Boleslav in the Czech Republic, where the Toledo is assembled alongside the very similar new Skoda Rapid, even if some of the cabin materials appear to be slightly more basic than those you’ll find in cars from some of the more expensive Volkswagen group brands.

A wide choice of engines is offered, although there’s nothing really sporty at the top end. The petrol range starts with Volkswagen’s normally-aspirated 1.2-litre three-cylinder twelve-valve engine (75 PS) and also includes 1.2-litre turbocharged TSI power units with either 86 or 105 PS, as well as a 122 PS TSI for customers who want a DSG self-shifting gearbox. There’s just one diesel, Volkswagen’s smooth 105 PS 1.6-litre common-rail engine, although that will be joined by a 90 PS version in the middle of next year. Initially at least, the 105 PS diesels will all be fuel-saving Ecomotive versions with features such as stop/start, which is also present on the 1.2 TSI petrol.

Three trim levels, which follow those used for other Seat models, will be offered in the UK market. The entry-level car that’s expected to sell for about £12,500 will have the three-cylinder engine and basic “E” trim, which does without air conditioning. Most buyers will probably go for the better-equipped S and SE models. The S gets features such as air-con, Bluetooth, a split rear bench and electronic stability control, while the SE has 16-inch alloy wheels, climate control and a leather-trimmed steering wheel and gear knob. Touch-screen sat-nav, DAB radio and Bluetooth audio streaming are available on the SE as part of the optional Seat Media System package.

I drove the 105 PS diesel and this did its usual efficient, smooth and quiet work, just as it does in the millions of other Volkswagen group cars to which it is fitted. In this version, the Toledo falls slightly behind the competition in the spec-sheet wars by offering only a five-speed manual gearbox rather than the now more common six-speeder, but in real-world conditions, the extra gear is rarely missed.

Seat seems to be curiously downbeat about its new car’s prospects. It thinks it will sell only one Toledo for every five Leons, and is also playing down the likelihood that there will be more powerful engines or a sporty FR-badged model. Personally, I reckon it should start flying out of the showrooms as soon as recession-hit motorists begin to discover its value-for-money qualities. It’s one of the few cars I’ve driven recently that I would seriously consider buying with my own money – and that’s not something you catch people who review cars for a job saying very often. Its appeal for me? It feels very much like an updated take on the roomy, reliable, dependable Skoda Octavia I use as my day-to-day runabout, and it would make an ideal replacement.

That Octavia-lite appeal may go down a storm with other customers as well, but also presents a bit of a problem for Seat. Volkswagen’s Spanish arm now has a strong range of cars but still struggles a bit to communicate what it’s all about. That’s not helped by the fact that, good as they are, the Mii, Exeo, Alhambra and now the Toledo don’t differ much from models offered by other Volkswagen-owned brands and the burden of defining the Seat brand weighs heavily on the company’s core models, the Ibiza and Leon, where it has more scope to do its own thing. A new Leon is imminent, and for Seat’s sake, it needs to be a success. But however good it is, I can’t see it out-selling this solidly appealing new Toledo five to one.

Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
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

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

    £30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

    Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

    £34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

    Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

    Developer - WinForms, C#

    £280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

    Day In a Page

    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform