Good: hugely spacious boot and rear seats, economical
Not so good: don't go for the larger wheels, as they detract from the comfort
Let's get something very clear from the off: we don't believe that the Toledo best represents what it is that the Volkswagen Group intends to do with its Spanish arm, SEAT. However, once you realise that the Toledo is not designed first and foremost to either make you more attractive to members of the opposite sex, or help you live out your Lewis Hamilton dreams, it can be seen as one of the best cars currently sold by the brand in Ireland.
The reasons for that boil down to its inherent strengths. Its pricing, specification and the inclusion of a three-year warranty (plus roadside assistance and servicing for the same period) are all pretty good, but what has endeared this car to us is its sensibility. Here's where this review turns a little personal so feel free to skip to the final paragraphs. Basically, my family and I (myself, two small kids and a working mum) have had 'ownership' of a Toledo for a couple of months now and few people in the country know the car as well as we do.
When the Toledo was launched, we were told that it sits on the platform of a Volkswagen Polo. While accepting that said platform has been stretched, it's (literally) difficult to fathom just how SEAT has created so much space. That saloon-like rear end hides a more useful hatchback door, which opens wide access to a 550-litre boot. Not sure what that means? It's bigger than a Ford Mondeo Estate's... And seeing how much stuff we regularly fit in, I believe it.
Yet the rear of the cabin is far from small. Even sat in chunky child seats our little darlings rarely manage to kick the back rests of our own seats - and that's not something you can say of the latest Golf or Focus. Up front the Toledo's foundations are more obvious, but it's still a neat piece of design, and while hard plastics reveal where some of the cost saving has gone on, at least they're textured surfaces and the whole thing feels well screwed together. This Style model features a leather steering wheel and gear shift too, so at least they feel tactile to the touch.
Our car is powered by the venerable 105hp 1.6-litre TDI engine, and it's probably the default choice for many buyers, but we'd urge those that drive less than say 20,000 kilometres a year to consider going for the impressive 1.2-litre TSI version instead. It's quieter, virtually as fast (there are 85- and 105hp options) and cheaper to buy. Drive further and you'll reap the rewards of the efficient diesel engine, naturally. Like many such diesel cars it takes an awful long time to warm up at this time of year though!
Full to the brim with passengers and luggage the Toledo is a stable, composed cruiser. It's not the most refined at speed, though we suspect that's partially down to the (optional) 17-inch alloys fitted to our test car. The lower profile tyres amplify road noise and detract from ride comfort around town as well. Try to get a test drive in models with and without these to determine for yourself whether their obvious aesthetic benefit outweighs the compromises.
That aside, there's a lot to like in the new SEAT Toledo. It's very much a 'now' car for the Irish market, with low road tax, low running costs and big space in a compact package. Its sexier big brother, the all-new SEAT Leon, arrives shortly, but until it does, this is the pick of the Spanish company's line-up.
Ford Focus saloon 1.6 TDCi 95: high quality and residuals, but quite slow.
Toyota Corolla 1.4 D-4D 90: bombproof reliability and residuals, but relatively poor efficiency.
Skoda Rapid: the Toledo's sister car and its biggest rival.