The SEAT Toledo performance stats tell you this model is neither superior nor inferior to rivals and are all much of a muchness. The petrol line-up starts with a 1.2-litre with 74bhp and then there’s 84bhp and 104bhp versions, with the more powerful 120bhp 1.4-litre topping the range. The 84bhp 1.2-litre petrol engine we tested with a five-speed manual gearbox offers a surprising level of zippiness thanks largely to the turbocharger and it will complete the benchmark 0-62mph sprint in 11.8.seconds with a top speed of 114mph. The 104bhp version with a six-speed wasn't that much different but the stats tell you it has much more go with 0-62mph completed in 10.4 seconds and a top speed of 121mph. Both lower-powered versions are great in urban areas and they also cruise along quite nicely on the motorway. Yes, you have to drop a gear when going up steep inclines and when you are overtaking, but for 90% of the time they are perfectly adequate. If you really want a bit more poke you can go for the 1.4-litre model with the seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox. This means you can change gear with the paddles behind the steering wheel and it is lovely system that’s effortless and smooth. If diesel is your thing you can opt for the 1.6-litre with 104bhp that can be mated to a five-speed manual. This will get from zero to 62mph in 10.6 seconds and will go on to 118mph but with 250Nm of pulling power overtaking slower traffic on single-lane carriageways is easily done.
Obviously the 1.6-litre diesel is the best in terms of performance but it'll cost a lot more and you'll have to make a up a lot of miles to make it worth the extra outlay. Go for the 84bhp - it's good enough for the job and you won't feel shortchanged in terms of power. The 1.4-litre is a pricey luxury that only the performance junkies will need.
The cars to beat in this category are the Ford Focus and the VW Golf and both are pretty imperious. The SEAT Toledo is adequate in terms of handling but it just doesn’t have the same grip levels in corners as its rivals. Body lean in both the diesel and the petrol offerings has been well contained though, and for a hatchback with a sizeable boot, it’s surprisingly composed when you take bends at speed.
If you really are too enthusiastic the back does tend to unsettle the car, but you do have to be driving like a hooligan to make this happen. The Toledo's steering is pretty numb and uninspiring but it's decently weighted. The reality is Toledo is most at home when you are cruising comfortably on the motorway or pottering around town. Brakes are rock-solid and the gear change is among the best in class.