The Seat Toledo makes a good case for itself as a no-nonsense family car, but don't expect any thrills

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Are you a form-over-function person, or do you incline more towards substance than style?

If the former, there is nothing in this test of the new Seat Toledo that could possibly be of interest to you. If the latter, step this way: we have something to share.

Its chassis is safe but stodgy and lacking in the kind of finesse that will appeal

The Seat Toledo is sensible to the point of making Hermione Granger seem louche. About as visually interesting as the inside of your eyelids, it is the automotive equivalent of a Bosch dishwasher: well made, utterly functional and entirely devoid of character. It takes the notion of quality white goods for the road and re-invents it on a level shared only by its badge-engineered sister, the Skoda Rapid. Although having said that the Rapid Spaceback offers a modicum of style.

A hatchback cleverly concealed behind a conventional three-box design, it's based on an extended Volkswagen Polo platform. There was previously three 1.2-litre petrol specifications, with the least powerful having just three cylinders and mustering a mere 74bhp, appearing to exist only to allow Seat a sub-£12,500 entry point to the range. A facelift put pay to this approach and subsquently there is now only one 1.2-litre petrol in 108bhp four-cylinder form and the price point for the Toledo range is now north of £17,500.

The entry-level engine to the range comes in the shape of a 1.4-litre TDI equipped with 89bhp, but for most, the 1.6-litre diesel is probably the preferable choice. It has a bit more power than the 1.2-litre petrol with its 113bhp, but vastly more torque and, at 72.4mpg combined, truly impressive fuel consumption. Performance is good on paper (0-62mph in 10.4sec) and even better on the road thanks to the wide powerband's ability to mask gaps between the five-speed manual gearbox's ratios.

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But none of this makes the Toledo fun to drive. Lacking the sophisticated rear suspension of the Leon or Volkswagen Golf, body control is merely adequate and ride quality a little disappointing, proving rather too willing to let the presence of every-day lumps and bumps be felt in the cabin. Its chassis is safe but stodgy and lacking in the kind of finesse that will appeal to either you as a driver, or your friends and family as passengers.

Its static qualities are more impressive, especially if you believe big is beautiful. By extending the Volkswagen Polo wheelbase and attaching what amounts to a big box on the back, Seat has provided the Toledo with a spacious interior and a simply colossal boot. How large? Bigger than that of a Mercedes E-Class, Audi A6Jaguar XF or BMW 5 Series saloon. That notchback shape does limit things a little when loading truly bulky items, but if it's just the usual shopping and luggage, the Toledo is second to none in the class. Rear legroom is exceptional too.

Standard equipment isn't quite as generous as you would expect to find on the Leon, however there is three trims to choose from - SE, Style and Style Advanced.

Entry-level SE models come with steel wheels, air conditioning, all round electric windows, rear parking sensors and Bluetooth connectivity as standard, while upgrading gains you 16in alloy wheels, climate control, cruise control and a 6.5in touchscreen infotainment system complete with DAB radio and sat nav.

The range-topping Style Advanced models adorn the Toledo with a few more luxuries including 17in alloy wheels, LED rear lights, front parking sensors, and a leather and Alcantara upholstery.

As for the driving environment, the kindest thing to say is that at least it doesn't make any promises about the quality of the drive to come. The dashboard architecture is, like the rest of the car, definitively functional and dull.

Some people want no more from their wheels, in which case the affordable and effective Toledo may make a lot of sense. But to those who want and even expect just a little sparkle even from our affordable family transport, they'll be better off looking elsewhere.

What car new buying red 122

Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes. 

Seat Toledo 2012-2019 First drives