Seat is a big-name brand these days; it produces more than 400,000 cars per year, exports around the world and has a market share in the UK of slightly less than 2%.
Its Ibiza supermini has been its biggest success story – and not just because the new Mk5 model has landed at the top of its class. Over its four generations, the Ibiza has sold more than 5.4 million examples, and the original was the car with which Seat took its leap of faith.
It was a big risk for the company that was formed in 1950 by the industrial concern of the Spanish state as Sociedad Española de Automóviles de Turismo, on a basis of partnership with Fiat.
Seat made its way rebadging Fiat models or building its own based upon them until the two companies had an acrimonious break-up in 1982. The Spanish government wasted no time in finding Seat a new partner, signing a deal with the expanding Volkswagen Group later that year.
This was in part to build Volkswagen models for export, but what Seat really wanted was its very own model for global exports. However, rather than building such a car all alone or simply restyling an existing Volkswagen model, it approached established firms around Europe for help.
Thus the Ibiza was born. It was built around adapted underpinnings from the Fiat Strada; the body was penned by Giugiaro’s Italdesign team and its production was done by Karmann, while the design of a brand new engine was outsourced to Porsche.
This resulted in what Autocar described on 18 August 1984 as “a highly professional, complete and challenging” three-door hatchback of the Peugeot 205 kind.