I'm just asking because after driving through 6 countries putting another 2,200 miles on a 12 year old Seat Toledo that already had 75,000 miles on the clock, I'm almost convinced it is.

Sure, our Spanish-German daily driver had fresh oil, new brake pads, a new water pump, and its timing belt replaced before we set off, but it also had to deal with 770 pounds of men and cargo, terrible Albanian roads, and the worst rain/mudslide I've ever seen on tight mountain roads. Oh, it also had to do about 110 mph for a while on the Serbian highway before we could cross the Schengen border again.


Seat, formally known as Sociedad Española de Automóviles de Turismo started in the fifties with rebadged (and slightly re-engineered) Fiats. The partnership kept on going until 1982, when Fiat sued Seat claiming that their Ronda is not much else than a slightly restyled Fiat Ritmo. The Italians lost, and the Germans came to the rescue.

After getting rid of all the remaining Fiat parts with the help of Porsche and Karmann, VW wrapped the Polo in Mediterranean cloth and called it the Cordoba. That was a crappy car. I know, we had one. It sucked on many levels, but so did the VW Polos of the time, so no surprise.

But let's fast forward to 1998 and the introduction of the second generation Seat Toledo, our weapon of choice for the Balkan trip.


It might have been styled by Giugiaro (or more likely by Seat's chief designer Steve Lewis), but it was also based on the MkIV Golf, which wasn't good at all, and related to the VW Bora (or Jetta), which was plain terrible. Encouraging start for a 2,200 mile road trip to the unknown, right?

Well, believe it or not, the car worked perfectly. On fast mountain passes in Bosnia...

...through the worst damn rain in Montenegro, even after we basically ruined its bottom with rocks we couldn't see properly...

...and on Albanian dirt roads that were surreal, creepy and extremely hard on the car at the same time.

It didn't make any funny noises, just kept going until we emptied its 16 gallon tank for the fourth time and got home after going across Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Corfu, Greece, Macedonia and Serbia in nine days.

An old base model with a 1.6 four cylinder producing 100 horsepower, with some added German engineering. Call me impressed.

Just don't try to sleep in it if you're anywhere above 6 feet and/or 180 pounds. That's where a European compact sedan designed in the late nineties starts to wave the white flag...