SEAT’s new Toledo is big on versatility and value making it a true bargain buy, says Matt Joy, PA motoring editor.

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SEAT Toledo 1.2 TSI S

Price: £14,120 (range £12,495 to £17,840)

Engine: 1.2-litre, 84bhp, four-cylinder turbo petrol

Transmission: Five-speed manual gearbox driving front wheels

Performance: 0-62mph 11.8 seconds; top speed 114mph

Economy: 55.4mpg combined

CO2 emissions: 119g/km

There are no bargains any more, at least conventional wisdom would have you believe. For whatever reason – maybe branding, possibly rules and regulations – the notion of a properly inexpensive product is loaded with the baggage of poverty. It seems idiotic that we consumers would pay more so we can feel better about ourselves.

But maybe the tide is beginning to turn. There’s a new SEAT that could represent the bargain of the year. We’ll talk about price later; in the meantime there are plenty of other reasons to give it a look.

This is the fourth-generation Toledo and in some ways follows on from the previous model in that it has the outward appearance of a saloon but actually hides the utility of a hatchback within its silhouette. If that sounds like a contrivance then don’t worry yourself – you get to park a solid and understatedly-handsome design on your driveway.

There’s an obvious family relationship with the Ibiza that is more than skin deep, but the Toledo is significantly longer than its supermini sister and, as well as adding space inside, it gives the car a little more presence and purpose. You’ll want to choose one of the higher-spec SE models that come with alloy wheels as standard for the best look, but S models and above have the body-coloured door handles and mirrors which make a big difference too.

On the inside the theme of affordable comfort continues. It’s a subtle thing, but the mixing of grey and light brown trim in the cabin gives it a classy feel, and being a SEAT you expect and get a certain standard of quality. There’s a balance to be struck between keeping the sticker price down and the ultimate in luxury, but in the Toledo you feel like that balance has been well-struck. It’s laid out with customary clarity and the precision of the switches, the instrument graphics and the way everything operates is very reassuring. There’s no hint of the bargain about it.

It’s only when you venture out of the driver’s seat that you begin to realise the Toledo’s ace card. The modest stretch in length has freed up some significant room for rear-seat passengers, making the Toledo a genuine car you can pile adults into the back of without getting any complaints. Behind that is the boot which, thanks to that hatch-like arrangement offers up 550 litres of space with the seats in place and 1,490 litres with them folded. To put that into context, that’s more than the Exeo ST and the Altea XL, only the latter beating the Toledo when measured with the seats down. It’s a vast space, well-shaped too and it’s hard to underestimate the value of packing this much space into such a compact car. Once you’ve had it you won’t want to go back.

The driving experience comes straight out of the standard SEAT textbook. With a mechanical legacy from the Ibiza it’s no surprise that the Toledo drives with the same slickness and composure.

There’s a broad choice of engines and although the 1.6-litre diesel might seem like the sensible default option there is that initial extra outlay to cover. On the other hand, you can have the 1.2-litre TSI unit in two outputs for significantly less. The 84bhp version tested here is a sweet little unit and with the turbocharger boosting the torque it feels more than sufficient.

The same can be said for the ride and handling. There’s no FR option for the Toledo so you get a more comfort-biased suspension set-up that suits its likely roles. For a car of this size it does a fine job of staying controlled over uneven road surfaces and occupants will only be disturbed by the worst bumps. The steering communicates well and there is more than enough grip to cope with what most drivers could ask of it.

There’s a chance that the svelte Ibiza and the larger, more glamorous new Leon could overshadow the Toledo, and that would be a shame because it offers so much versatility in a compact shell and does so at a remarkably low sticker price. Small estates and larger hatchbacks should watch out – the Toledo deserves to steal sales from them all.

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