Seat Toledo Sport 2.0 TDi PD - The Verdict

The Seat Toledo is Spanish on the outside and German on the inside. It's an intriguing mix, but it needs more Latin flair, says David Wilkins

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Indy Lifestyle Online

SPECIFICATIONS
Price: £17,200
Engine: 2.0-litre diesel
Performance: 0 to 62mph in 10.0 seconds, 47.9mpg
CO2: 159g/km
Worth considering: Ford Focus C-Max, Seat Altea, Volkswagen Touran

Perhaps I'm showing my age here, but for me, a Toledo will always be an undistinguished 1970s Triumph saloon rather than the mid-range Seat tested by our readers this week. That apart, the company's policy of giving its models Spanish place names is probably a good one; if nothing else, calling Seats Cordoba or Ibiza gives northern European buyers a nice reminder of their last summer holiday every time they get into their cars.

These Spanish names are, of course, part of Seat's efforts to inject into its cars some badly needed Latin passion - what the company's advertising campaign calls auto emocion.

Seat may have been around for half a century but it lacks a distinctive design identity of its own. Now it is part of the Volkswagen empire, but for most of its history it built Fiats under licence.

At least in terms of looks, Seat has succeeded with this new Toledo; its dumpy rear end isn't my cup of tea - that's taza de te for any readers who work in Seat's advertising department - but the attractive front half is well executed. You may have difficulty distinguishing it from the very similar noses of Seat's own Altea and new Leon, but at least you won't mistake it for the products of any other car manufacturer.

Inside, there is a certain freshness of design as well; the interior features lots of curves and an intriguing seat fabric that has some unusual pimply rubbery stuff woven into it. That description makes it sound dreadful but it actually looks and feels very attractive; I suspect it would also be hard-wearing.

As soon as you set off in the Toledo, though, it is clear that what it offers is a completely standard Volkswagen Group driving experience. For the avoidance of doubt, that's not, in itself, a bad thing; the 2.0-litre diesel engine is smooth and strong, while the six speed transmission is slick and precise.

The Toledo's cornering is flat and secure. It's just that the auto emocion of the Seat experience doesn't differ very much from, say, the Vorsprung durch Technik of the Audi experience, which is hardly surprising when so many parts are shared between the two.

So the Toledo is a good car, but it hasn't quite got this Latin passion thing right. For all its use of Spanish place names, Seat has avoided calling a car after its own home city, which is, perhaps, the most fashionable in Europe.

That's hardly surprising; any car to bear the name of this achingly cool city will also carry an almost unbearable weight of expectation.

If the company ever dares to launch a Seat Barcelona, we'll know it's finally hit the mark.

Ed Stevens, 33, Agronomist from Faversham, Kent
USUAL CAR: LAND-ROVER FREELANDER COMMERCIAL TD4

The Toledo stands out, with a streamlined killer whale front, accentuated by the pillar-mounted wipers and crease line along the front doors. Its interior is well put together, with lots of imitation carbon fibre, trendy sunken dials and nice detailing. Handling was good, the gear change quick and positive and the engine economical. It was difficult to judge where the ends of the car were and rear visibility was poor, but was aided by the effective wing mirrors. There's a lot interior space, a large two-layer boot and plenty of cubbyholes. A good value, interesting alternative to a saloon like the 307 or small people-carrier.

Amarjit Dhaliwal, 37, Production engineer from Chatham, Kent
USUAL CAR: VOLVO V40 AND TOYOTA MR2

I loved the cute yet menacing front of the car but hated the back. I would recommend the 2litre TDI engine in any car of this size, along with the six-speed gearbox. It was a delight around town as well as being very comfortable and confident on the motorway. Rear passengers might find the seats upright and too firm on long journeys. The dash is clear and simple - I liked the black carbon fibre finish. The model supplied was top of the range and sporty and appealing from a driving sense, but I think a lesser model would be disappointing after this. Having seen the new Seat Leon, that is the one I would go for, purely on looks.

Andy Munn, 30, equity trader from Offham, Kent
USUAL CAR: HONDA CIVIC TYPE-R

"I was quite impressed; for a start, it's incredibly comfortable, with a high MPV-ish driving position. I also think it's good looking, although I'm not quite so sure about the rear end which looks a bit bulbous. I like the front, though. It isn't quite as spacious as it looks, especially in the back; in fact it doesn't feel that much bigger than my Civic. I'm not sure about the interior. There's a lot of plastic and it doesn't look like very expensive plastic. It's pleasant, but a little plain. The engine is really smooth, and pulls hard at the low end. Compared with an old Peugeot diesel I had, it's a lot less rough and ready. I think it would be ideal for commuting."

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