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The Honest John Road Test  

SEAT Toledo 2012 Road Test

After a few years absence, the SEAT Toledo is back. The model survived a midlife crisis when it turned into the ugly cousin of the Altea, but now it's slimmed down and once again is very much its own model. SEAT has gone back to a traditional saloon shape - like the popular second generation model - and the Toledo is all the better for it.

It's no secret that the Toledo is the sister car to the Skoda Rapid, but the two look considerably different with the SEAT getting its own front and rear styling. This is the new SEAT family look which we've seen on the revised Ibiza but will really come into its own on the forthcoming Leon. The Toledo is a neat looking car and while it's not the most exciting of designs, that probably says more about SEAT's recent design history. We've become used to distinctively different cars like the current Leon and Altea.

Sitting between the Ibiza and the Leon in the SEAT range, the Toledo is based on the same platform as the Ibiza, albeit a stretched one, but is a much bigger car. In fact the photographs are quite deceptive because at a smidge under 4.5 metres it's almost as big as a Skoda Octavia and actually longer than a Ford C-MAX. Sounds good so far. So you'd think the one big fly in the tapas would be the fact it's a small saloon. Never a popular choice in the UK.

Luckily this SEAT has a few tricks up its sleeve. Because while it might look like a saloon, it's actually a hatchback with a large opening boot with a whopping 550 litres of space. That's more carrying space than a Ford Mondeo and not far short of a BMW 5 Series Touring. The pictures here don't quite do it justice but basically it's huge, making the Toledo ideal as a family motor.

SEAT Toledo 2012 (2)

The second surprise is how much room there is inside. From the front the Toledo looks very much like an Ibiza but inside it's far more spacious with plenty of shoulder room. It's even more impressive in the back. With the front seats slid all the way back there is still enough leg room for those sitting behind while getting in and out is easy thanks to wide opening doors. It's far better than your everyday hatchback.

Interior quality is good too while the simple layout of the cabin means it's easy to work out what all the buttons do. The driving position could do with being a touch lower and some of the plastics on the dashtop and doors are hard rather than soft touch, but aside from that it's all spot on as a family car. It feels well built and hardwearing, there's plenty of storage including a big glovebox plus there's good all round visibility, even with the high boot, so parking isn't a problem.

The engine line-up includes all the familiar SEAT units from the Ibiza. The cheapest model is the 1.2-litre 16V petrol with 75PS but the turbocharged 1.2 TSI with either 86PS or 105PS looks a better bet and is more economical too. The top petrol is the 1.4 TSI with 122PS that gets a seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox as standard. It's a real gem of an engine that's fitted in several cars including the Audi A1 and it's just as good in the Toledo with a 0-62mph time of 9.5 seconds. There are rumours of an FR version in the pipeline which would get a more powerful version of the same engine.

However, our choice would be the diesel. The 1.6 TDI unit has 105PS with a five-speed manual gearbox and returns a claimed 72.4mpg in S trim with steel wheels. Go for the SE with alloys and it still manages 70.6mpg. Emissions under 110g/km mean it's band B for VED, currently only £20 a year.

With 250Nm of torque, the common rail diesel pulls well in-gear and at 70mph it's barely breaking sweat at just over 2000rpm, making for relaxed motorway progress. Thanks to the light weight of the Toledo - the diesel is around 1250kg - it never feels underpowered either and providing you don't rev it too hard, it's quiet and unobtrusive. It suits the Toledo perfectly.

SEAT Toledo 2012 (3)

The Toledo feels very settled at motorway speeds and it's impressively refined with very little wind or road noise. Take it onto more demanding roads and it's still very capable with good steering and nice positive gear changes from both the five and six-speed 'boxes. The ride can be fairly unsettled and bouncy on poor quality roads but the handling is reassuringly safe.

It may not look like a conventional hatchback but the Toledo offers everything you'd get from a family five-door plus a whole lot more. Okay, so the looks are far from exciting and it's fairly ordinary to drive but it still has plenty going for it. It's impressively practical and surprisingly spacious given its modest size, while the cabin is well finished even if some of the plastics are a touch on the hard side. It's also well equipped, cheap to run and refined on the motorway.

But the best bit is the price. Starting at around £12,500 it looks exceptional value for money while the 1.6 TDI Ecomotive starts at £16,640, very competitive with the likes of the Hyundai i30. It may not be an obvious choice for many buyers but the Toledo is quite a revelation. It's certainly a car that offers a lot more than at first meets the eye. Maybe that midlife crisis wasn't such a bad thing after all...

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