But it was the Toledo that gave the first indications back in 1999 that Seat had designs on becoming the sporty brand in the VW stable (Volkswagen, Audi, Seat and Skoda).
Sharing the basic underpinnings of the Golf, handling was sharp, the ride comfortable and road holding impressive. The engines, however, did not live up to the hype.
In November 2003, Seat sought to address that issue by adding a powerful 1.9-litre 150bhp TDI version to the range, priced £15,515. Diesels have been a feature of Seat cars over the past year – for a while the most powerful Ibiza was the 1.9 130bhp - and this unit does not disappoint.
Offering 148bhp and a 0-62mph sprint of 8.9 seconds, the paper figures are spot on, although the engine doesn’t have the refined, progressive acceleration of the latest diesel technology. Power is delivered with urgency, but that doesn’t mean the car isn’t efficient – we were regularly getting 50mpg-plus. Another plus is that the Toledo is easy to drive (fast). The gear change is fluid and steering nicely weighted – the ideal family runaround. VW’s brand differentiation seems to be working: the Toledo is a sportier family car than the old Skoda Octavia, although the new model launched in July runs it close.
Seat replaces the Toledo at the end of the year, and dealers should expect the car to widen the gap with its sister model.
Engine: 1.9-litre 148bhp TDI
Transmission: 5sp man
Performance: 0-62mph 8.9s; top speed 133mph
Efficiency: 52.3mpg comb fuel efficiency; 146g/km CO2 emissions
CAP RV (three-year/30,000 miles): 35%, £5,450
Rivals: Skoda Octavia, VW Passat, Ford Mondeo, Renault Laguna