Hot Seat

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How perceptions of a nation’s place in the scheme of things can change. According to recent statistics, Spain now lies third in Europe’s car production table, behind Germany and France, but ahead of the UK and Italy. As Seat looks to double its annual output to around 320,000 units, this position of apparent strength should be sustainable.

Under VW’s patronage, Seat has steamrollered its way to respectability. No longer is Spain simply a cog in the used-Fiat recycling industry.

The Cordoba GT (about £600 cheaper, at £12,235, than the range-topping, similarly powered GTE) is testament to just how far the company has progressed since it first tried to establish its own identity with the distinctly rickety Ibiza MkI. Quite simply, it’s hard to pick any major faults. The Cordoba is a handsome enough three-box saloon, which rides and handles well and features a long list of equipment for the price (the ‘E’ specification adds ABS and traction control): sunroof, electric mirrors, central locking, electric windows, sixspeaker radio/cassette with RDS, split folding rear seats, immobiliser, seat-belt tensioners, front fog lamps. . . You must also consider comfortable accommodation for five, generous boot space (which, at 16.1 cubic feet, compensates for the absence of a hatch) and a standard of build quality which should be a lesson to other mainstream manufacturers. Indeed, you could almost be sitting in a VW, and not just because of the familiar switchgear. . .

The GT’s performance (0-60 mph should be attainable in just under 10s, and top speed is around 122 mph) is good by class standards, but it is the manner of its delivery which impresses.

The Cordoba is an unpretentious, likable workhorse with far higher abilities than its price might suggest.