Today, Seat’s first electric car made its UK debut at a shopping centre in West London. PetrolBlog wasn’t there, because it still hasn’t recovered from driving five hours into London for a 45-minute drive in a Vauxhall Adam.
You probably wouldn’t like the Seat Store. The overly bright shop is filled with people with expensive haircuts who share photos of their macchiatos on Instagram, and sales people clutching iPads.
As a venue to launch an electric city car, the Seat Store makes a lot of sense. The Seat Mii Electric costs less than £20,000 after a government bung, making it one of the most affordable leccy cars in the UK. A range of 161 miles should be enough for most city drivers.
But the Mii Electric isn’t Seat’s first electric car. That honour belongs to the Seat Toledo Electric, or Seat Toledo Eléctrico Olimpico, if we’re speaking in Seat’s native tongue. It was launched back in 1992, when Barcelona hosted the Olympic Games.
Seat supplied 2,000 cars for the Olympic family, with the Ibiza selected as the official car of the Games. The company produced a special edition of Giugiaro’s supermini, customised with the Olympic rings and the Barcelona 92 logo.
The company also presented the 24 gold medal winning Spanish athletes a Seat Toledo special edition. Each one was painted blue and included a portable telephone in the armrest and wood inserts in the steering wheel.
Of greater interest here is the electric Seat Toledo. The Olympic organisers asked Seat for a specific model to accompany the athletes during the torch relay and the marathon event. The car featured a plug-in charger behind the grille and a set of batteries weighing around 500kg.
— CUPRA Racing (@Cupraracing) July 25, 2017
The range was a rather limited 65km (40 miles), which just goes to prove how far electric cars have progressed since 1992. A 0-70km/h time of 28 seconds meant that it wasn’t going to trouble Linford Christie in the 100-metre sprint. In fact, Christie could do three 100-metre sprints in the time it took the Toledo to hit 43mph.
It’s taken Seat 27 years to build another electric car. Just like the Toledo, the Mii Electric is based on an existing car, but the El Born will be the Spanish firm’s first EV to be produced from the ground up.
The Seat Toledo was no less significant. Launched in 1991 at the Barcelona Motor Show, the Toledo was Seat’s first model under Volkswagen ownership. Using the Mk2 Golf as a platform, Giorgetto Giugiaro proved that it’s possible to make a desirable compact three-box car, albeit one with a hatchback, rather than a boot lid.
Almost a foot longer than the Ford Escort, the Toledo featured a massive 550-litre boot, making it a kind of forerunner to the super-practical Skoda Octavia. Engines at launch were a weak point, but thanks to Citroën ZX-style passive rear steering, the Toledo handled with real gusto. You could chuck the Toledo into a bend like Steve Backley throwing a javelin.
It wasn’t all good news. Interior quality didn’t warrant so much as a bronze medal, while space in the rear seats was tighter than Linford Christie’s lycra shorts.
Thankfully, the Toledo evolved over time, with the arrival of the 2.0-litre 16v GTI injecting it with the pace of a sprinter, and the diesels giving it the long-leggedness of a marathon runner. It retired in 1998, giving way to the less memorable but more successful Toledo Mk2.
Seat is going through a period of transformation, shifting its core model range to SUVs, creating a spin-off brand in the name of Cupra, and launching its first mainstream electric car.
But PetrolBlog wants to recognise the importance of the Mk1 Toledo, both as the firm’s first car under Volkswagen’s stewardship and for pioneering the idea of an electric Seat a full 27 years before Mii.