Until recently the SEAT Toledo was a bit of a mystery to me; despite being very fond of the Spanish companys wares I dont quite get the need for the Toledo. It isnt especially sporty in execution or dynamics and is more forgettable than just about anything else in the range.
But Id never driven one, so thought it was about time to remedy that. SEAT, ever helpful, sent one to come and live with me for a week to try and help me uncover its charms. This is how I got on with the John Major of the range
Dont be misled by saloon-like appearance; the Toledo is every inch a hatchback, with all the practicality we have come to love from our favourite body-style. Other than that it is a neat, unobtrusive and, dare we say, slightly boring design.
Sure, it ticks all the current SEAT corporate themes, but it must be one of the most anonymous cars on the road today. That might be plus for the more conservative among you, but Id rather drive something a bit more distinctive.
The Toledo feels much bigger inside than youd imagine and if the design is a little bit uninspiring the quality of the materials used is impressively high.
The seating position is very good, with everything exactly where youd expect to find it. Im tall, yet even with the front seat set quite far back there was more than enough room for my twelve-year-old son to sit behind me.
Standard equipment extends to body-coloured exterior trim, heated door mirrors, tinted windows, height-adjustable drivers and passengers seats, split folding rear seats, air conditioning, a height and reach adjustable steering wheel, Bluetooth, 16-inch alloy wheels, and a leather steering wheel and gear knob. Thats enough for a cheap-ish family hatchback, surely?
However, there are some bits that look like afterthoughts: the USB input, for example, is an ugly box that has been screwed into a cubby hole underneath the heater controls and the foldaway armrest gets in the way of changing gear and is, therefore, essentially useless, but thats nit-picking. And its big in there. Have I mentioned that?
The Toledo drives like every other medium-sized member of the VW/Audi/Skoda/SEAT quartet. Thats not compliment, not a slight, because I tend to take their competence for granted. As a result Im always pleasantly surprised with just how nailed theyve got the whole driving malarkey.
The suspension is decently tolerant of our imperfect roads and although it can start to feel a bit jittery when things get really bad underfoot I never found enough to complain about.
Body roll is there, and understeer is abundant, and while there is nothing to get your heart racing it is enjoyable enough to punt along a deserted country road.
It stops and goes well enough too and cruises very well at high speeds with barely noticeable levels of wind noise and tyre roar. The five-speed manual gearbox is light and snappy enough in its action to render an auto box redundant, even for diehard fans like me.
The 1.6-litre TDI engine fitted to my car develops 104 bhp and 184 lb/ft of torque, enough for a 10.4 second sprint to 62 mph and a top speed of 118 mph. Those figures arent exactly earth-shattering but are sprightly enough for the sort of use to which the Toledo is likely to be put.
Mid-range torque is much better than the figures might suggest, which youd probably expect from the VW Groups lovely little TDI engine, and it almost feels muscular when youre overtaking slower traffic.
Im a big fan of the smaller capacity, higher revving petrol TSI engines but I suspect that the extra heft and bulk of the Toledo over its smaller siblings makes the diesel engine a better, more natural fit.
Fuel consumption will be spectacularly good if youre careful; mid-60s should be very easy to achieve, short of the official 70.6 mpg but still amazing. CO2 emissions are 106 g/km, placing it into VED class B.
Value for Money
The Toledo is, no matter what its faults, great value. My test car came with only a few extras, all of which were remarkably good value for money. How does 350 for the Winter Pack comprising heated front seats and washer nozzles plus a headlight washing system sound? Or 50 (yes, 50!) for hill hold control and tyre pressure monitoring?
With these fitted plus a 620 tow bar and electrics and 175 for Bila White paint the total cost of my car as tested was a very reasonable 19,035. For the space and performance you get that is remarkable value for money.
If thats still too much you could pay as little as 12,500 for a basic 1.2-litre petrol.
Despite the Toledos anonymity and timidity of design it drives well, is cheap to run, and provides more space than just about anything in its class and for families on a tight budget that might just be all they need to know.