£17,195 - £19,995 Price range
57 - 83 MPG
SEAT has long been positioned as the sporty yet accessible arm of the Volkswagen empire, reflected in the unique styling and great value performance of cars like the Leon and Ibiza Cupra. So what’s it doing selling a budget saloon, with very little flair, in the shape of the Toledo?
That’s a question many reviewers have been asking themselves, and it’s a question a few are struggling to answer. It’s also reflected in the Toledo’s so-so score.
Cheapest to buy: 1.2-litre Style petrol
Cheapest to run: 1.4-litre SE diesel
Fastest model: 1.6-litre SE diesel
Most popular: 1.2-litre Style petrol
In terms of practicality there’s a lot to like about the Toledo, for the same reasons you’ll like its near-identical sibling, the Skoda Rapid. The interior architecture is simple and the controls easy to fathom, while there’s acres of space front and rear – and an enormous boot.
Drivers comment on “impressive build quality” and “sensible design”, though others have chosen “old fashioned” and “built to a price” – they’re both right.
Everything feels solid though and there are plenty of spaces to store odds and ends. Really it’s the interior space, decent equipment levels and huge boot that will attract buyers.
The word “unremarkable” comes up more than once in reviews – don’t expect this SEAT to offer the same thrills as its Cupra cousins. Refinement is good – whether in town or on the motorway, wind and tyre noise are kept to a minimum. Ride quality is less well liked. Some feel it’s a little “jittery” at lower speeds but settles at higher ones, while others say that “even on Spain’s marzipan smooth motorways, the car never seems to settle.”
There’s not much joy to be had in the handling department either. In fairness, the Toledo isn’t designed to be a fun car to drive, but it still seems to do everything to the bare minimum. In corners, “considerable body lean turns into whining steady-state understeer”, while others say the diesel feels even worse, with a heavier feel to the car. The steering is slightly better – “superior in feedback to budget rivals from Dacia, Kia and Hyundai.”
The Toledo comes with a wide range of engines. These start with a 74hp 1.2 three-cylinder petrol, through a 1.2 TSI petrol with 84 or 104hp, and a 1.4 TSI petrol with 120hp. There is also a diesel: a 1.6-litre unit producing 104hp. Petrols get a six-speed manual transmission, the diesel a five-speed manual, and a seven-speed twin-clutch auto is available on the top petrol and diesel.
The 1.2 TSI petrol is the nicest engine to use, with smooth performance, a slight rasp to the exhaust note, and a slick transmission. Most popular will be the diesel, on which opinions are mixed. While it will be economical (if not quite able to match its official 70-plus miles to the gallon), it’s described as both “never underpowered” by one reviewer and “plodding” by another. There’s some diesel clatter when accelerating, but settles nicely on the motorway.
We’ve seen this engine before in dozens of other Volkswagen group products, and its installation here differs little. It’s reasonably refined when sitting at tickover and on the motorway, but a little rattly when accelerating hard. Performance is adequate through the rev range but hardly entertaining, and one reviewer goes as far as saying it feels “plodding”. Another is a little kinder, saying “it won’t get your heart racing, but never feels underpowered”.
It’s difficult to fault the Toledo’s safety credentials. For a car in this price bracket, it has all of the features that you’d hope for. Front, side and curtain airbags are standard throughout the range, and the majority of the range is fitted with stability control for when things get a little bit tricky.
Nothing revolutionary, but it does all the basics very well.
Value is the Toledo’s raison d’être, and with starting prices undercutting the deliberately value-led Skoda Rapid it seems to be well-judged. The Toledo also offers a good level of standard equipment.
It’s main benefit, for the money, is its space – as one tester points out, it offers 200 litres more boot space than the Leon, and starts from around £4,000 less. At the same time, SEAT expects to sell far more Leons than it does Toledos, so the space mismatch shouldn’t harm Leon sales.
The Toledo offers plenty of virtues, such as space, affordability, good build quality and comprehensive equipment levels, but in the context of SEAT’s sporty image the Toledo is often judged as overwhelmingly bland.
If you think this is an unfair assessment it may well be the ideal car for you – the Toledo is to cars as a ham sandwich is to fine dining. And sometimes, all you need is a ham sandwich, nothing more, nothing less.