This 2021 the SEAT Toledo celebrates three decades still today being one of the greatest successes of the brand. And it was not only a good flagship with four generations and a multitude of versions, but It also consolidated the new mission designed for SEAT after its purchase in 1986 by Volkswagen. A mission that has changed over time until it is able to position itself within a group where brands such as Audi, SEAT, Skoda and Volkswagen itself have to coexist. Complementing all of them in a very subtle way so as not to step on the same market niche.
Analyzing where SEAT is currently at can lead to extensive debate. Even more so if we take into account the launch of Cupra as a differentiated brand, aspiring to a more or less accessible sportiness for the day to day. But nevertheless, What does generate more consensus is the point at which SEAT was at the end of the 80s. A point far below the qualities offered by Audi, but in the need to offer a range as wide as that of Volkswagen. That is why the Germans thought of making SEAT a company with popular prices, with simple finishes but robust mechanics with the group guarantee.
Thus, in 1986 the idea of creating a new flagship for SEAT arose after the announcement of the imminent disappearance of the VW Santana for 1988. A gap that should fill this saloon whose embryo was the Project S-3. With this code name, the former Golf Test Chief Friederich Goes came to Barcelona to work on the idea based on the Jetta chassis. In addition, his good relations with Giogetto Giugiaro led to the design being entrusted to Italdesign, which had to mount a cabin as large as possible on that platform. This is how the foundations of the future 1991 SEAT Toledo were laid.
TWO PROJECTS DISCONTINUED UNTIL RUNNING THANKS TO PROTO T
Although the SEAT Toledo started in its conception almost from scratch, the truth is that this could not have been the case. In fact, it may not have been so in duplicate. And it is that, shortly after the absorption by Volkswagen, SEAT showed the Germans a project it had been working on since the moment things started to go wrong with FIAT. It was called SEAT Mallorca and some consider it the basis of what in 1984 would end up being Málaga, although somewhat larger. However, those of Volkswagen rejected it for not meeting the minimum quality requirements.
That as the first project discarded since, at the time, VW considered the possibility of SEAT taking up a previously discarded project with the mission of replacing the Santana and Passat. Something that was finally truncated, as the prototype advanced a car too large and equipped for what SEAT could and should offer. Thus, all that remained was to start from scratch with the development of what would be the future SEAT Toledo.
A work for which there were already in 1987 some master lines raised in various clay models. But nevertheless, Friederich Goes decided to make a splash by asking Italdesign for a prototype with two objectives. The first was to be able to offer the media an outline of what the future SEAT saloon could be, generating expectations and a renewed image for the new era open to the Spanish brand.
In addition, it also sought to create an exercise in style with which to rehearse what would be the aesthetic keys of SEAT in the nineties. Both compliments, well SEAT Proto T's appearance at the 1989 Frankfurt Motor Show attracted quite a few spotlights. And that in fact it was a simple clay model. Of course, with a drag coefficient of 0.
SEAT PROTO TL AND SEAT PROTO C. OUTLINE THE NINETY
Although the first step was successfully taken thanks to that model full of fluid lines that broke with the straight lines of the seventies and eighties, the truth is that the SEAT Proto T needed a somewhat more credible version to reach series. For that very In 1990 Italdesign presented the SEAT Proto TL at the Geneva Motor Show. The unit that is considered a prototype of the Toledo, but which at the same time has a large number of details that would later be applied to the Córdoba. Something that is perceived, especially, when we look at its side line and the rear drivers.
In addition, the SEAT Proto TL did have an elaborate interior. Finally, this was discarded to incorporate in the Toledo another that in principle was going to be for the Passat. However, the most spectacular of this series of three prototypes would arrive a few weeks later. It is the SEAT Proto C, presented at the Paris Motor Show in that same 1990. A fundamental test for what SEAT was during the nineties, since it served as inspiration for the second generation of the Ibiza. A fundamental fact that should not overshadow its greatest virtue: Italdesign's ability to play with volumes, creating a car that mixed segments.
And, According to Giorgetto Giugiaro's own definition, the SEAT Proto C sought to hybridize a two-door utility vehicle with an urban and sporty touch with the practicality of a minivan. An impossible mix a priori. But after analyzing the height to the ground, the habitability, the large glazed area and the good aerodynamics ... It seems to us at least interesting. Undoubtedly a bet as risky as it is creative that, unlike its similar but larger Renault Avantime, never made it into series. Although, like good exercises in style, it didn't have to be that way. Its purpose was to mark the master lines of models such as the Toledo or the Córdoba. And yes, they did.
Photographs: Historic SEAT