With apologies to anyone who expected something else when Googling the term “Wholly Toledo”. I just wanted an amusing play on words so I could make this fake magazine cover:
The Seat Toledo. How often does this name come up? Answer: not very much. Yet since 1991, SEAT have been selling something tagged as such. Right now it’s a quite conservatively styled medium-small car with the neat conceit of looking like a saloon but actually being a hatchback. Haven’t we heard this before?
Regular readers here will know what prompted this line of inquiry, the recent launch of Fiat’s Æegea which in turn led me to ask if anyone could remember a small Daihatsu saloon. The answer was the Applause which was a small five door car that looked like a saloon. What do you know but the concept is alive and well. I had a closer look at a Toledo and noticed that it has a rather neatly disguised fifth door. Apart from the second generation (1998-2002), all of them have been hatches but even then, these cars have been very different from one another. Let’s take a short look back.
ItalDesign styled the first Toledo which VAG’s engineers based on the Mk 2 Golf. Looking for a USP to distance it from the Jetta, SEAT made the Toledo a hatchback though it did not look like one. ItalDesign seemed to have a hard time with the styling as it really doesn’t look like very much. There wasn’t much to go on, of course, but ItalDesign didn’t go out of their way to give the vehicle much identity: bland, about sums it up. But spacious and blessed with a big boot. The engines ranged from 1.6 to 2.0 via 1.8; a diesel could be had as well. Was it popular? No, not very, though Car magazine liked it for its blend of good value and easy performance.
For the second generation, ItalDesign tried to give the car a more corporate VW look. In fact, the design is so immaculately neat one wonders how much of an input ItalDesign really had. It shared major components with the VW Bora and Skoda Octavia; allegedly the Toledo had a sporting role in this incarnation since SEAT had been charged with going after Alfa Romeo or at least being a Spanish sporty car. Really, all three cars are about as sporty as one another, which is either a bit sporty by dint of their handy size or not very sporty at all.
The car did however have VW five-cylinder 2.3 litre engine to give it some credibility and for that we must give it a little respect. Sales remained a bit slow. The boot size on this version lost 50 litres compared to the Mark 1 and the dashboard borrowed bits from the Audi A3.
With Walter da Silva poached from Alfa Romeo (1999), the natural thing to do was not perhaps to throw out all the athletic pretensions of the Mk2 yet this is what they did. The 2005-2009 Toledo got on the bandwagon that started rolling with the Renault Vel Satis (2002) and crashed with it. It depends on how you look at this matter: brave or stupid? The Vel Satis has a distinctive and huge rear screen which moves in one piece, while the Toledo has a pretty standard hatchback and a reverse-rake c-pillar in the style of the Mercedes A-class, Toyota Picnic and later Peugeot 407 SW. The real point is that the Toledo now looked like a hatchback and was a hatchback. The five cylinder engine vanished from the line-up. The boot volume stayed the same despite the upright shape and generally puffed-up appearance. There was little substance to the style and the performance aspect evaporated.
In 2009 production of the Toledo ended and VAG took a while to think of what else to do with the name.
More to follow….