BY ANDY ENRIGHT
Fed up with boring family hatches and bland looking mini-MPVs? If that's the case and you don't want to shell out a fortune, the MK3 SEAT Toledo could well be the ticket. If you've never heard of it, you're excused, for the '05-onwards Toledo didn't really create too much of an impact with British customers who saw it as a rather curious oddity sitting between the rather similar looking Altea and Leon models in SEAT's product portfolio. Used buyers can take advantage of this perceived lack of image by picking up Toledos for a song.
Models Covered: (5 dr mini-MPV, 1,6, 2.0 petrol, 1.9, 2.0 TDI diesel [Reference, Stylance, Sport])
The raison d'etre for the SEAT Toledo is not instantly apparent. Whereas its predecessor was the saloon version of the popular Leon and cornered a small niche following, this model ditched the boot in favour of a hatchback and in so doing muddied the waters a little. First shown at the Madrid Motor Show as the Toledo Prototipo in May 2004, the Toledo followed hot on the heels of the Altea. Sales in the UK were rather slow, the public confused by SEAT's sudden lookalike policy and the transformation from the Volkswagen Group's sporting brand to one that seemed to produce a lot of cars that looked like mini-MPVs.
What You Get
At 4.50 metres long and 1.77 metres wide, the Toledo is longer but narrower than the crop of proper mini-MPVs but features many of their attributes. A two-level luggage compartment boasts a hefty 500 litre capacity - more than enough for a week away. The parcel shelf can be configured in a couple of positions to offer added versatility. In high position, it houses a hidden compartment while if set low, you can create a hidden floor. Although its durability may be called into question, it's a good way of keeping your valuables away from prying eyes. Side compartments with elasticated nets provide easy and safe storage for fragile items. SEAT worked hard to make the Toledo as innovative as possible and one such development was the fitment of Bluetooth technology. This allows a wireless connection between a mobile phone and the car itself. The multi-function steering wheel features buttons whereby calls can be accepted or disconnected and voice recognition. When using this function, the driver can verbally place a call to a number or name or save names and numbers to the phone book, all the while keeping both hands on the wheel. The audio system is fully integrated into the centre console of the dashboard and features a slot for standard or MP3 format discs. The interior is nicely detailed, if not quite so radical as the exterior. The instruments sit in deep cowls and are trimmed in satin aluminium effect material, this trim extending to the high level centre console. Twinned with the three spoke steering wheel and figure-hugging seats, it gives a rather sporting feel that seems at odds with the elevated seating position. The switches and minor controls feel up to the usual Volkswagen Group standard and it's possible to specify a very effective satellite navigation system with colour LCD screen. The dash top is trimmed in a dimpled rubberised material and the whole of the upper dash is supported on Audi TT-style metallic struts that in turn frame a neatly chunky gear stick. The windscreen pillars are a little too chunky for my personal taste but otherwise visibility is good.
What You Pay
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What to Look For
Tried and tested engines, the VW-standard quality auditing and an inherent feeling of solidity all bode well for the Toledo's reliability. No major faults have emerged, but watch out for neglected ex-hire cars. The Toledo is a car where the price differences between good and bad examples aren't too great, so be fussy. Look for a fully stamped up service history and reject anything that looks in any way tatty, grubby or vaguely dog-eared.
(approx based on an Toledo 2.0 TDI DSG ex VAT) SEAT spares are reasonably priced, with a replacement Toledo headlamp costing £111. A replacement alternator unit retails at around £185 with an exchange starter motor setting you back just under £120. Opt for a new alternator and starter motor and the prices stack up at £370 and £226 respectively, so even if the old one is a steaming basket case, you'll save by getting an exchange unit. Front brake pads are £50 with rears a tad under £30 per pair. Many parts are a little cheaper for the 1.6-litre petrol models.
On the Road
As well as offering traction control, emergency brake assist and anti-lock brakes, the Toledo features a Bosch ESP stability control package. Six airbags are fitted as standard, comprising driver and passenger, side and head bags. There are also three-point seatbelts for all five seats with pyrotechnic pretensioners at the front and the ISOFIX child seat fixing system in the back. Electro-mechanical power steering and the SEAT-developed Agile Chassis combine with a multi-link rear axle to offer driving characteristics that are a cut above the usual mini-MPV fare. Four engines are available. The petrol powerplant is a budget 102bhp 1.6-litre, while diesel buyers can choose from either a 140bhp 2.0-litre TDI or the entry-level 105bhp 1.9. The 2.0-litre engine is offered with a six-speed manual gearbox or the option of the twin-clutch DSG 6-speed 'box.
Although its unconventional looks, vague market positioning and lack of image conspired against it first time round, used buyers who are now getting used to the SEAT family look can snap up a bargain. The Toledo is big, safe, good to drive and markedly undervalued. If that sounds what you're looking for, you know what to do.