We’re in December 1990. VW has just bought Seat, making it the first company to fall under the VW
tyranny umbrella. What do we do from here? We launch the Seat Toledo 1L, of course. And in 2024 we take a trip back in time.
Seat Toledo 1L was indeed the first car built entirely under the supervision of the germans. Sure, the first cars to roll out of the modernized VW factory were actually the Seat Cordoba in 1993, but the first entirely german car was the Seat Toledo 1L, and even though the factory hadn’t been refurbished yet you could still see traces of Fiat in the building.
So what do you do with a freshly acquired company? Certainly, VW intended to enter the spanish market because the spanish auto industry was falling apart, and the germans managed to get their hands on a portion of it. But they needed to release a new car, and they came up with an almost brilliant idea – they applied the same recipe that Renault would use with Dacia 13 years later.
They took an outdated…sorry… a car platform “which has had it’s R&D done”, just as the Dacia Logan used an old Clio platform, and so Seat Toledo 1L used the Golf II platform because it was retired with the launch of the Golf III in 1992. And just like the Logan, Seat Toledo I was essentially a Golf II with a boot. It was an interesting move back then, in the days when a compact car was compact, and a saloon was a saloon. There weren’t many saloons based on hatchbacks back then. But still, Seat Toledo I aimed for the great Mediterranean and came up with this proposition – a hatchback with a regular boot, initially sold to spaniards but later to all europeans as well. And it was quite big, almost as big as a VW Vento. This makes Seat Toledo I probably the best VW from the ’90s if you’re strictly interested in practicality and low running costs. Because if you want comfort, you go for the VW Passat B4, if you want sport, you probably go for the VW Corrado, and if you want something stylish or vintage, you go for the Golf II. And if you suffer from multiple personalities disorder, you go for the VW Golf III Harlequin.
Seat Toledo 1L Engines
- 1.6 MPI EZ, ABN and 1F of 70, 74, and 99 horsepower – You have options such as a carburetor, monopoint injection, multipoint injection; you get all types of injection. I recommend only the 99 horsepower multipoint injection version if you don’t have bizarre fetishes with garden sprinklers called carburetors. Be careful, though, because the 1.6 engine is not a champion in fuel efficiency, and it drinks petrol like it just finished an exam session.
- 1.8 MPI RP, ABZ, PL and KR of 87, 89, and 136 horsepower – Similarly, the versions with almost 90 horsepower have monopoint injection, and the 136 version has multipoint injection. Moreover, the 136 horsepower one is essentially the engine from the Golf II GTI, so good luck finding it in Seat Toledo I. So, we stick with the ones with almost 90 horsepower , which are decent in terms of reliability and fuel economy. The only real issue is the clutch cable that stretches and snaps like the nerves of a gubment worker who finds out he has to work more than 2 hours a day.
- 2.0 MPI 2E, AGG and AGF of 116 and 150 horsepower – The 116 hp 2E engine is one of the engines that cemented VW’s reputation for reliability, making waves on the Passat B4. And the 150 horsepower one was the engine from the Golf III GTI, a pretty good engine. But good luck finding them in Seat Toledo 1L.
- 1.9D 1Y of 64 and 69 horsepower – The legendary 1Y from the Golf III was followed by the AEF, which was also bolted on the Caddy, and both are found on the Seat Toledo. It’s an old-fashioned engine that works with kitchen oil as diesel. No ECU, no electronics, with a mechanical fuel pump, and no power. Yes, it has torque, but it has as much physical strength as Graham Norton.
- 1.9 TDI 1Z of 75, 90, and 110 horsepower – The 75 hp one was interesting, but the engines with 90 horsepower (code name 1Z) and 110 horsepower (code name AFN, which was also mounted on A4 B5, A6 C5, or the first A3) are the ones that started the diesel mania in Europe. Everything good that’s been said about the 1.9 TDI is about these two engines. Yes, they occasionally have issues with the turbo, but that’s about it.
Seat Toledo 1L Reliability Issues
- It’s a reliable car but is also almost historical. In fact, there are already several models that qualify as historical. This means that when you’ll need to occasionally replace parts, your only options will be either OEM or from breaker because it’s less likely to find aftermarket parts than it is to find a well-paid job without experience or specialization. Plus, it’s a car you buy for 300 pounds and a bottle of brandy, so most of them are in an advanced state of degradation, like my mental health.
- It’s an old VW, so it’s time for the complementary moment where I talk about rust. Rust, rust, rust. Check the car for rust even where you don’t expect it. Even on plastic, expect it to rust.
- It was an experimental model, the spaniards’ first attempt to make a german car, and they also made a compact saloon. So, the boot wasn’t necessarily mounted properly every time.
- The suspension leans towards the sporty side, which is good if you have a minimum of 1.8 petrol engine or a 1.9 TDI and drive more sporty. Still, for the average driver who knows nothing about cars and has 500 pounds in his pocket, the suspension might be too harsh. No, it’s not broken; it’s supposed to be like that. It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.
- Seat Toledo 1L comes without a rear window wiper, and for some people, this matters, even though it’s a saloon and dirt doesn’t accumulate there because it’s on an incline.
- It’s not a relevant issue nowadays, but Seat Toledo 1L is very easy to steal. Literally. It weighs 985 kg in the lightest version and 1110 kg in the heaviest version. In the past, it might have made sense to steal it, but today when ferrous and non-ferrous materials are bought with prices starting from 200 pounds/ton, and you have a car that doesn’t even weigh a ton, I don’t know what to say.
Seat Toledo 1L Verdict
It’s incredible how spacious the boot of Seat Toledo 1L is. And it has the best engines ever made by VW, engines that made legendary cars like Passat B4 and Golf III and laid the foundation for the VW legend in Europe. It costs 300 pounds and 2 bottles of brandy. If you get into a traffic accident, you will be happy because of the insurance money.
Which engines do I recommend? For petrol, I recommend any engine, but my heart says the 2.0 MPI with 116 hp and the code name 2E. For diesel, the 1.9 TDI with 90 or 110 hp, both are excellent.