Wholly Toledo II: the 2012 Seat Toledo

In the previous instalment we looked at the first three incarnations of the Seat Toledo. In this article we ask what, precisely is the difference between a Seat Toledo and Skoda Rapid. And maybe make a few other points as well.

2015 Seat Toledo. I hate these leafless yards that car adverys so adore. These have inspired people across Europe to rip out their plants and cover their front garden with asphalt or gravel. Image: SEAT UK.
2015 Seat Toledo. I hate these leafless yards that art directors so adore. These have inspired people across Europe to rip out their plants and cover their front garden with asphalt or gravel. Image: SEAT UK.

The current Toledo appeared in 2012 and replaced the unwelcomed Exeo. At the same time, Skoda launched their Rapid which shares all the main mechanicals and a good deal of the gross physical form. Both are made in the Skoda factory in Mlada Boleslav. The Toledo first: it’s a hatchback that looks like a saloon. You have to go up close to see the evidence, two small struts tucked into the c-pillar and a little piece of that special nylon string that one only ever sees holding up parcel shelves.

The engine range is rather different from the selection  of meaty 1.6, 18 and 2.0 litre units that saw service in the Mk 1. The world now revolves around stressy, small-bore engines: 1 .2 MPI 3-cylinder, a 1.2 TSI 4 cylinder, and our old friend the 1.4. TSA (all please chant: “VW 1.4 litre TSI engine problems”).  The largest capacity engine is the 1.6 TDI. What really matters is the power outputs: 75 PS, 85 PS, 105 PS and 122 PS respectively.

Dimensionally, the Rapid is 4,482 mm from nose to tail, 1,713 mm between the ears and 1,461 mm at its crown. Being a small saloony-looking car resulted in “Top Gear”, the British car-themed magazine programme,  judged it as one of the worst cars available in 2014. Car magazine condemn it as an OAP special and label it “Steer Clear” in their GBU section.

In contrast, Auto Express  considered it a good value if unsparkling proposition despite it being a development of the Fabia platform and not a member of the illustrious MQB group. It has a big boot, of course but also a jittery ride.  Autocar’s verdict view is worth quoting: “The new 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.”

Of particular interest to us at DTW is weight. The Rapid is a bantam, at 1100 kilos but its not that small, 4.5 metres, as we said a few lines up. What does it cost? £12,495 says Auto Express.

Here’s the interior:

2015 Seat Toledo interior. Image from Autocar.co.uk
2015 Seat Toledo interior. Image from Autocar.co.uk

Now let’s look at the Skoda Rapid.

Josef Kaban had the unenviable task of trying to make the Rapid look different from the Toledo while also adhering to VAG’s rather restrictive form language of the time. Like the Toledo, the Rapid is a liftback which I consider to be a be a strategic mistake. One of the two cars ought to have been a saloon and since the Toledo had hatchy heritage and Skodas are bought by cautious private customers, a boot would have been in order. Dimensions?

2015 Skoda Rapid. Good side views of this car are thin on the ground.
2015 Skoda Rapid. Good side views of this car are thin on the ground. This photo shows the car parked inside a featureless void.

4,483 mm from back to front; width: 1,706 mm across the beam; and the roof has an altitude of 1,461 mm. In case you are curious, that’s a 1mm, 7mm and 0mm of a difference between the cars. The engine line up is the same in gross terms and power outputs are the same too. How much do Skoda ask for all this distinction? £12,900 says Auto Express but £14,400 says Skoda UK as of today. So, the Skoda costs more than the Seat. What does it look like inside? It looks very like this…

...pretty much as above.
…pretty much as above.

And?

To conclude, there seems the two cars differ as much as the left and right sides of Cynthia Myers’ embonpoint – which at the very least gives me some justification for the title of this article. On one level the Toledapid is quite a useful vehicle that does a simple job well. Both of them are quite nicely styled and in all probability nicely put together.

What is troubling (in a small way, in a world of big and woeful real troubles) is that there is one car too many here. If one of these cars had a different configuration or engine range or driving style it might make some sense. But VAG have gone to all the trouble of making two moderately different cars and failed to give customers a reason to choose one over the other or over any other similarly priced and sized machines. This is a real waste of SEAT and Skoda’s brand characters. One can only wonder.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

12 thoughts on “Wholly Toledo II: the 2012 Seat Toledo”

  1. I stumbled over the picture of the Rapid you show, since I’d never seen one of these. Then I found out that this is the 2011 Rapid of Skoda India (!) tailored to the needs of emerging markets.

    Still, the European version isn’t all that different from the Toledo.

    1. It’s not only the headlamps. The European Rapid has exactly the same body as the Toledo, whereas the Indian one seems to be completely different (note the third side window or the mirror sail panel, for instance). Looking at the doors, the Indian Rapid seems to be derived from the Polo.

  2. The only Rapid you ever see in Switzerland is the shorter 2-box design. Toledo is non-existent. We don’t like small 3-boxers around here. (By the way, what’s that 2-box format called in English? In German, I’d call it a “Steilheck” which translates as “steep back” and basically designates everything with a near-vertical or only moderately inclined tailgate.)

    1. In English, a vehicle with a separate boot/trunk is a saloon or sedan. A hatchback refers to a vehicle with three or five doors. A fastback is a vehicle with an elongated roof and strongly inclined rear screen so that there are two main volumes, the engine volume and passenger volume.
      In the typical run of things all these can be blended with one another. For a start, is a two door saloon/sedan just that or is it a “coupe”? Call in the lawyers. I think a two door saloon should have the same wheelbase as the four-door. If the wheelbase is shorter it´s a coupe.
      Some hatchbacks are fastbacks: the Rover SD1 is one example.
      Some fastbacks were four door salons: the 1971 Lancia Beta or 1975 Citroen CX.
      Some hatchbacks have two main volumes but are not fastbacks. A 1988 Nissan Micra, for example, has a nearly vertical rear profile.

      That´s the way I see it. We enter a debate about prescriptive or descriptive approaches to language. I tend towards the prescriptive.

      Is a “Steilheck” something like a VW Golf or Alfa Romeo 145?

    2. Golfs (maybe except the first generation) or Alfa 145 are good examples for a Steilheck. A perfect one is the first Lancia Y10: vertical tailgate, no kink between the lower part and the window. But it’s not always that clear. Some hars have a marked kink, but the rear screen is still not inclined to make it a “Fließheck” or “Schrägheck” which both are close to your definition of “fastback”. Think of a Citroën AX or also the Micra you mentioned.
      I looked at many car rear ends yesterday and realised that with today’s rounded shapes and much less pronounced edges between the sied and the rear surface, it’s sometimes even more difficult to assign one of these categories to a car.

  3. I guess it’s either “hatchback” or “fastback”, but that entails the question for the non-native speaker whether there’s a distinction between the two.
    Same goes for the German distinction between “Steilheck” and “Fließheck”.

  4. I considered “hatchback”, but the 3-box version is one as well. So the distinction would have been missing. And hearing “fastback”, I think of sports cars or saloons with elegant, sweeping lines like a CX, but not of a compact car. It’s the same with “Fließheck” (“flowback”), which for me is a different thing than a “Steilheck”, although for some cars it’s not definitely clear to which of the two categories they belong.

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