Work has begun on the fifth-generation Seat Ibiza ahead of an expected launch in 2017.
Until the new model arrives, the current fourth-generation Ibiza – which has been on sale since 2008 – is set to undergo a facelift next year to keep it fresh, with the main changes expected inside.
Company chief Jürgen Stackmann said the new Ibiza was now being "defined". He added: "It needs to be normal enough to be bought by everyone but different enough to stand out in the market."
Seat is this year celebrating 30 years of the Ibiza, and last night assembled key designers of the car from its past – including VW Group design boss Walter de Silva, Bentley design chief Luc Donckerwolke and current design boss Alejandro Mesonero-Romanos – to celebrate the car's past, present and future.
Mesonero-Romanos revealed a sketch showing how the Ibiza's key design themes have evolved, which also hinted at a future styling direction of the car. He said to not expect a smaller clone of the Leon, but themes developed on that car would continue on the Ibiza, perhaps in the LED front light graphic, for example.
"This is an opportunity to redesign an icon," said Mesonero-Romanos, who owned an Ibiza Mk1 and was also part of de Silva's design team for the Ibiza Mk3. "It's going to have great horizontality, and blister lines developed from the Leon. The lines of the current car will change but the spirit won't.
"It will be a design revolution for the Ibiza, as firstly the market demands it and secondly to set it apart from the Leon. It will have strong character, tautness and a feeling of movement when stopped. The spirit of a fun, agile drive will remain. It will be a different car, but clearly an Ibiza.
"The current Ibiza, of course, still has life and we're still planning a long life for it based on innovations."
Mesonero said the new Seat SUV, due 2016, would evolve the design language of the Leon but the Ibiza would be a bigger step.
The new Ibiza will be based on the compact version of VW Group's MQB platform, also destined for the new Polo in two to three years, rather than use a re-engineered version of the current car's underpinnings as sister firm Skoda is doing with its new Fabia.