Value-focused cars have become big business following the rise of Dacia, which sells the UK’s cheapest car – the Sandero – which can be bought new for as little as £5,995. While the Seat Toledo doesn’t intend to compete with Dacia on the low-price front, this medium hatchback does offer a budget alternative to cars such as the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra for those who value function over form.

This low-cost medium size hatchback offers plenty of interior space and a large boot, along with a reasonable haul of equipment. Where things become confusing, however, is when you mention the Skoda Rapid; this car shares the Toledo’s engines and is virtually identical under the skin, but undercuts the Seat on price. Buyers looking for the best value option, therefore, are likely to bypass the Toledo on the way to their nearest Skoda dealer.

What is it?

Though Seat is the Volkswagen Group’s (which consists of Audi, Volkswagen and Skoda among others) sporty brand, the Toledo is a car focused firmly on practicality over style or performance. This affordable model majors on giving those on a tight budget a comfortable machine with a large boot.

The Toledo range starts at £14,265 for the 1.2-litre 84bhp S petrol model and rises to £18,870 for the range-topping 1.6 TDI 105 I-TECH, which we tested. All models include air conditioning, rear parking sensors, Bluetooth and steering wheel mounted audio controls. Mid-spec SE models add sat nav, 16-inch alloy wheels, a digital radio and cruise control, while I-TECH cars gain leather and suede-effect seats plus different trims.

What is it like to drive?

The Toledo is biased towards comfort over sharp handling, though around town it still isn’t the most comfortable machine. The ride in our car was a little on the firm side over bumps and scarred Tarmac, though it becomes smoother at speed. The seats in our I-TECH model were supportive and comfortable too, though some will find the driving position doesn’t quite adjust to how they want it; we found it a little tricky to get the steering wheel in the right position compared to the pedals. Balancing the clutch for smooth getaways could be easier too.

Take to the motorway, though and the car is very easy to drive with steering that doesn’t get deflected by bumps or cambers in the road – as is the case in many new cars – and enough power from the diesel motor. The engine is punchy enough for most drivers, though it is a little noisier and rougher than some newer units when worked hard.

The steering also gives the driver a good level of confidence, though this is no sports car; a standard Ford Focus offers a much more engaging drive. Rear visibility is also not great, courtesy of large rear pillars, and the relatively large turning circle make the Toledo a little less wieldy than it should be.

What is it like inside?

The Toledo shares much of its interior with other models under the Volkswagen umbrella and though it doesn’t feel anywhere near as plush as the VW Golf, for instance, it does feel solid and built to last inside. The layout of controls is also easy to understand with clear, simple analogue dials and not too many buttons to play with. However, we found the sat nav system on our car trickier to use than in other models due to its small screen, which is located quite far down the dashboard.

Is it practical?

For its size the Toledo has plenty of space inside for passengers and in the boot. The front seats offer a reasonable amount of room, though the tallest of drivers may struggle to find a comfortable driving position, while there is room for three average sized adults in the back seats.

The boot is very spacious for the price, with the large hatchback allowing easy loading of large items. Rear visibility could be a little better, however, with the wide rear pillars and high boot restricting the rearwards view. The rear parking sensors do come in handy, though.

Should I buy one?

The Seat Toledo is a competent car in many ways, but there are two factors that make the 1.6 TDI model that we drove an unappealing prospect. First is the price; for a car focused on value, the top-of-the-range model that we drove makes the least sense. The 1.2-litre 105 petrol offers near identical performance, reasonable economy and weighs in at a substantial £1,855 less than the diesel. And we’d opt for mid-spec SE trim, which slashes a further £500 from the price. A 1.2 105 SE for £16,515 would seem a much wiser prospect.

The second challenge for the Toledo is its cheaper, practically identical Skoda sibling, the Rapid. A mid-range Rapid would set you back £15,790, saving you more than £700 over a similar Toledo. If value is top of your priorities, therefore, the Rapid makes more sense, while those after a top-of-the-range car may be better served with the larger, more comfortable and more upmarket Skoda Octavia.

Don't want to buy new? You can browse for a used Seat Toledo in our classifieds here.

The facts

Seat Toledo 1.6 TDI 105 I-TECH SE

List price: £18,870
Engine: 1.6-litre, four cylinder diesel
Power: 104bhp
Top speed: 118mph
0-62mph: 10.4 seconds
Fuel economy: 57.6mpg (urban), 80.7mpg (extra-urban) 70.6mpg (combined)
Emissions: 106g/km CO2
Euro NCAP rating: Five-star