Working out the recipe: 25 years of the SEAT Toledo

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The Skoda article this past weekend focused on the Octavia 1U, which was unveiled 20 years ago, after Volkswagen gradually took ownership of the Czech carmaker.
The Octavia was partly developed from the same parts, on the same floorpan as the later SEAT Toledo, but the Toledo was already a second-generation car by 1998. The initial, 1L body car went on sale in May 1991, or a quarter of a century ago. It’s pretty easy to see that Volkswagen Group really wanted to get the partsbin combination right.

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Underneath the Toledo was a Volkswagen Golf/Jetta Mk2 platform with corresponding engines. Like the later Octavia, it also had an enormous hatch, and the Giugiaro-penned lines are roughly similar, just edgier here and there.
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Side-on, you can see the short wheelbase and the long overhangs.
The car in these shots is the limited-edition Toledo BRM 180, with a sporty 180-horsepower development of the Passat’s 2.0-litre, 16-valve engine. It wasn’t done by British Racing Motors, but Brian Rickett Motorsport, and the 16″ Borbet wheels do suit it decently well. The engine got a port and valve polish and hotter cams, and the suspension was overhauled with Sachs items. Performance Car magazine found its dynamics worth the effort, just that the fit and finish of the rest of the car wasn’t really up to par – the Toledo still played in the ballpark of earlier SEATs and FIATs when it came to interior quality.
The Toledo was otherwise available with humdrum, smallish engines, with the 2.0-litre the sole bright spot, even in stock form. Along with the special 180-hp version available in the UK, the regular-issue 16-valve produced 150hp at best, with some versions getting 110hp.
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There were Supertouring versions, too, like with almost every 1990s saloon car.
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And the Toledo Marathon rally raid car was frankly awesome.

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  1. karonetwentyc Avatar
    karonetwentyc

    SEAT didn’t make a great deal of sense to me when they were cranking out licence-built Fiats, and they still don’t make sense to me now that they’re basically Volkswagen’s Spanish arm.
    I realise that they’re meant in some ways to be Volkswagen’s Alfa-Romeo… But they’ve never quite managed to convince me of that, and there’s never been a clear reason (to my mind) to buy one over, say, another car in the same segment.
    Can anyone clarify why a SEAT would be preferable to anything else, or if my confusion is due to a misperception on my part? I’m genuinely curious about this as I’ve just never really figured out what would prompt someone into ownership of one.

    1. JayP Avatar
      JayP

      That’s it- VWs Alfa in styling. Part of Piech’s plan to rule the world.
      But consider the engineering is done, some minor cosmetics would add a life to an aged platform. Easy money. Hell, I’d buy a MkII VW SEAT today.

      1. karonetwentyc Avatar
        karonetwentyc

        See, that’s the thing: I understand how they’re positioning SEAT – but I can’t see why I’d buy one over, say, an Alfa, and I’m saying that as a VW owner who likes our VW.
        Nothing against the cars at all; I just seem to be incapable of quite grasping them fully.

  2. Van_Sarockin Avatar
    Van_Sarockin

    Handsome, cheap cars. Like Skoda, SEAT was a value brand to diversify VW, with some pizzaz, and help VW migrate the core brand upmarket. So far, so good. I’m annoyed by Piech’s platform plethorazation, but it’s a wily, economical, quick strategy.

    1. karonetwentyc Avatar
      karonetwentyc

      And I’m 100% in agreement with you. But Skoda makes sense to me in a way that SEAT doesn’t quite.

      1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

        I quite agree. SEAT badly lacks an identity of its own. The previous shape Leon and Altea were at least marked out by styling too avant-garde to wear a VW badge, but that’s no longer the case. The whole range is just white noise. Having the Exeo, which is very obviously a rebadged old-gen Audi A4, really doesn’t help.
        It feels more and more like a cynical exercise in market share expansion. But, hey, that’s the whole point of being a car manufacturer.

        1. karonetwentyc Avatar
          karonetwentyc

          Once SEAT starts selling a locally-assembled Lexus RX300, the circle of cynicism will be fully-complete.
          Really, though, this is isn’t much different to how I remember pre-VW SEAT – buy a Marbella! Or just cut out the middleman and get the Panda it’s based on. How about an Ibiza? Treat it like a Marbella, but with Ritmos.
          The reasons for SEAT’s existence were at least understandable under Franco; car imports into Spain were taxed into near-oblivion, so local assembly made sense as Spain was essentially a closed market. But with Franco’s death and Spain’s later entry into the EC, new markets opened up for the cars – which weren’t offering anything not already on sale elsewhere in Europe. And that’s pretty much the position SEAT has been in for the last 30 years in one form or another.
          It’s going to be interesting to see what happens to SEAT over the next five years or so as VW looks to recoup some of the financial hit from having to pay out over the diesel scandal; selling SEAT off could recoup a decent percentage of that cost without really affecting VW’s sales in the long term. The only question is who would want to buy them.

        2. Van_Sarockin Avatar
          Van_Sarockin

          Great idea that SEAT needs to develop a strong brand identity. But I would posit that they couldn’t survive as a new SIATA, Alpine or Abarth. Not even an AMG or SRT. SEAT is an economy manufacturer, putting out nice looking, value based cars on old technology. That’s a perfectly fair proposition. And it can sustain more flair and differentiation.

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