Spain’s SEAT (Sociedad Española de Automóviles de Turismo, Spanish Passenger Car Company) has a complex history for a relatively young company. Founded only in 1950, it was originally in a partnership with FIAT, to essentially licence produce FIAT designs for the protected Spanish market. FIAT started with a 7% holding; this grew to 36% by the 1980s and FIAT were intricately linked with the company’s expansion until 1982.
But in 1982, FIAT bailed out, largely as the protectionism of the Spanish market was ending and FIAT had plenty on its plate from Italy in the early 1970s. But not before SEAT had bought out BL’s efforts in Spain, as that empire crumbled too. In late 1982, in the face of partnership proposals from Nissan, Toyota and Mitsubishi, VW were able to establish a licensing and manufacture deal, and by 1986 was the majority owner of SEAT and the company’s factories became a fully signed up element of the VW manufacturing network. SEAT was nominated as VW’s value brand.
The pure FIAT based products were quickly despatched. The first new model was the 1984 Ibiza, developed separately from FIAT but with some FIAT underpinnings, an engine and gearbox designed by Porsche and the whole developed with input from Karmann.
The next new product was a pure VW Group effort – the Toledo hatchback.
The plot was very simple – take a VW Jetta Mk2 floor pan, re-skin it and add a hatchback instead of a conventional boot. The Jetta was longer in the rear for a bigger boot that the Golf, and the Toledo kept that profile. All the key dimensions were within millimetres. Practicality is often a flag of good value, and was in this case.
This may have been a car based on an relatively old VW platform, but space, practicality and value for money work for many of us. Power came from a very VW selection of 1.6, 1.8 and 2.0 litre petrol engines, and a 1.9 diesel, with or without a turbocharger.
The car was facelifted gently in 1995, with reprofiled bumpers, grilles and the like, and endured to 1998.
The interior was a solid, if clearly VW derived, effort.
The Toledo was replaced in 1998 by a second generation car which slightly confusingly was a pure saloon based on the Golf Mk4 floorpan and with an Audi A3 dashboard. But the format of the first Octavia, as a saloon length hatchback based on the VW Golf family platform and sold as a value for money, carried – the 1996 Skoda Octavia and its successor generations follow the format very closely to this day, while the SEAT brand has had a fairly tough time identifying itself within the VW Group structure and is indeed now transitioning to the Cupra brand, picking up the name of the sports derivatives of mainstream SEAT models.
And as the Russian TagAZ Vortex Corda from 2012 to, as far as I can tell, now, from CKD kits from China.