A photo for Thursday: SEAT Toledo VR5

Mentioned previously in dispatches, a particularly nice, if fading example of my favourite variant of VAG’s fecund PQ34 platform. 

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I’ve found some pictures taken last year, but it seems to have disappeared from my neighbourhood. The DVLA Vehicle Check information suggests it is set fair for its sixteenth year. Pale beige leather complements the gold exterior. It was registered in Edinburgh, traditionally a place where wealth showed a discreet face. This fits nicely with a well-optioned car from a less than top-tier manufacturer.

I’ve already mentioned the leather. I’m convinced it was also an automatic, but research suggests that no such option was offered. I don’t believe anything I read in the car comics, or on the internet, and VAG offered the VW 09A (aka Jatco JF506E) automatic with five staggered cylinders on the equivalent Golf and Jetta, so it’s at least a technical possibility.

This Toledo was registered on 30 January 2001.  I don’t have pricing data to hand for that date but in July 1999 the V5 was listed at £17,595. A Bora V5 cost £19,060.  A Polo-engined Audi A4 1.6 cost £17,996, while £17,860 got you into a Mondeo 2.0 Ghia. If nothing else, these numbers demonstrate VAG’s confusion about what to do with their “Spanish Patient”. The well-appointed, Giugiaro-styled compact saloon with a curious engine configuration was probably not high on the list of brand paradigms.

The Toledo name endures. It started on a useful half hatch, half saloon on the Golf Mk.2 platform. That car now looks like an Octavia development hack. After the paragon presented above, the name transferred to a most odd bustle-backed MPV, before settling on the Czech-built, made for minicabbing, Rapedo.

All of which reinforces my point about VAG’s problem of finding an identity for SEAT. Recent history suggests that rivals such as Ford, GM, and BMW would long ago have sold it, shut it down, or merged it into their manufacturing and distribution infrastructure.  Is it time for VAG to give up their SEAT?

15 thoughts on “A photo for Thursday: SEAT Toledo VR5”

  1. VAG has large scale manufacturing facilities in Spain, making hundreds of thousands of profitable Audis and VWs every year. Who knows how their profits are allocated across the group? Audi is obviously the big success story on paper, but it clearly couldn’t make all those premium hatchbacks and crossovers without the shared technology.

    SEAT is the reverse – often cast as the problem child, but contributing volume through its own brand engineered versions of VAG models. I imagine it will continue to tick along much as it is – the dream of becoming ‘the Spanish Alfa Romeo’ was always fanciful (SEAT really have nothing note worthy in the back catalogue to justify such an association), but it is part of Europe’s biggest car maker.

    1. ‘SEAT really have nothing note worthy in the back catalogue to justify such an association’

      It wasn’t an association, it was an aspiration. So in that context the back catalogue is irrelevant.But it would have required a well thought-out and cleverly executed plan to develop the range and position the brand where they (allegedly) wanted it. Which wouldn’t have been entirely impossible considering the choice of platform and engine they had at their disposal. But clearly it was never a priority within VAG, unlike getting Skoda where it is now.

  2. “the Czech-built, made for minicabbing, Rapedo.”

    I take it you mean Skoda Rapid?

    1. Both work, but in the current case, Torpid is a good deal more apt.

    1. After a surprisingly satisfactory time with a rented VW Vento (first edition) in the late 90s, I too thought that a Toledo might have all its virtues in a more attractive body.

  3. SEATs sell well in Spain, just like Lancia was still doing in Italy up until a few years ago. down there, they do what Skoda does in most of Europe, and they are also the brand of choice for taxis and other fleets. it shouldn’t be enough to keep a brand alive, but hey, they’re still around. the dream of SEAT being a Spanish Alfa Romeo is… well, a dream.

    I loved your neighbour’s Toledo, Robertas. in my books, only a similar-spec’d 1st gen Leon would fare better.

    1. Sergio might well wish that Alfa Romeo was the Italian SEAT, if all that mattered was sales. SEAT sold six times as many cars in 2015. What price heritage?

      I’m also a fan of the Leon of that generation, with its Alfasud-manque tail end. There’s a taint of oafisness about the hatch which makes me incline towards the saloon. It’s a civilised thing, the car the Rover 400 and Lancia Dedra should have been, but weren’t.

  4. Seat´s problem is, no one is buying a Seat because it is a Seat often they are buying a car from spain although it is a Seat (but they actually are dreaming of an Audi).
    Taking a look at the sales numbers of a Seat Mii, an Exeo or the new Toledo it seems they have nearly not a single loyal customer at all. Their cars have to be more attractive and cheaper than a VW and even then a Skoda to find buyers. Not the best circumstances for being successful….

    1. Skoda’s success is undeniable, yet I find they’ve somewhat lost their way since Thomas Ingenlath was sent to Potsdam for no apparent reason. The current range is certainly sharp, but not what I’ve come to expect from a Skoda. In a sense, these cars are a bit too sophisticated for their own good, and certainly too clinical next to cars like the Roomster or Yeti.

      SEAT, on the other hand, seems to be profiting quite a bit from the leadership of Jürgen Stackmann (who was managing director until a short while ago) and chief designer Alejandro González Iñárritu, who’s come up with a far more convincing look for SEAT than de’ Silva or Donkerwolcke before him.

    2. “chief designer Alejandro González Iñárritu”

      The film director?

    3. That was supposed to be a joke, Laurent. Forgive me, I’m German – we don’t know any better.

      (The señor’s real name is Alejandro Mesonero-Romanos, which I’m finding exceedingly hard to remember.)

  5. Kris – I like the cut of your jib. Tonight I’m in Hameln with some jolly and marvellously politically incorrect Germans. They have an impressive knowledge of the cultural sensitivities of the British, and use it to devastating effect.

    Returning to the core matter, I’d expect VAG’s atonement to lead to more Up! / Citigo / Meh exercises for the ‘fighting’ brands. Looks like the fine Yeti will be replaced by a lightly re-worked Tiguan / Ateca, and the Roomster / Praktik by a re-badged Caddy.

    So not so much German Leyland, more German BMC.

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