The Seat Ibiza is good looking, well-priced and spacious supermini that doesn’t quite live up to Seat’s sporty image

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The Seat Ibiza is the Spanish firm's strongest-selling car – both overall and in the British market – and, as we're about to outline, the Seat sells well for good reason.

Like many of its rivals, it comes in two body variants: a stylish, if traditionally shaped, five door, a more rakish three-door Seat Ibiza hatch (called the SportCoupé). There was a Seat Ibiza estate version, but it was discontinued at the end of 2016 due to dwindling sales

Three bodystyles are offered: five-door hatchback, three-door 'SC' hatchback and 'ST' estate

The engine line-up mirrors that of Volkswagen’s Volkswagen Polo, using the same engines to good effect. There is an entry level naturally aspirated Seat Ibiza 1.0-litre engine, followed by a turbocharged version of the unit, two versions of the Seat Ibiza 1.2 TSI, a cooking Seat Ibiza 1.4 TSI for the FR and a fizzy 1.8 TSI for the Seat Ibiza Cupra versions. The diesels pretty much limited to an 1.4 in two guises, with the lower-powered version given a green makeover for Ecomotive models.

SOL is the entry-level trim available only on the cut-price, low-powered 1.2 and 1.4 TDI, otherwise there is three other trims to choose from - SE Technology, FR Technology and FR Technology Red Edition, and two Cupra versions in that order of performance.



Seat Ibiza rear

The new Seat Ibiza was the first Seat designed under the direction of Luc Donckerwolke, formerly of Lamborghini. It was also meant to represent something of a change of direction for Seat, upping the ante to fulfil Seat’s emotive, dynamic ethos.

There’s meant to be more aggression to the front end, with a low grille and headlights. Certainly, the sharper edges to the side strakes give it more tension than Seat’s other monobox-style designs. Arguably the look is better suited to the three-door model than the cooking five-door. The sharply-styled standard headlights are good, but optional adaptive bi-xenons come with daytime running lights and are worth the extra money. 

The Ibiza is based on the VW Groups's PQ25 platform, which underpins the VW Polo and Audi A1

Mid-2015 saw the Ibiza given a large facelift, which saw its exterior matched closely its bigger sibling - the Leon, chief among which was the new grille, LED day-running-lights and numerous reworked powerplants.

Underneath, the Ibiza utilises the Volkswagen Group’s PQ25 platform. This was its first application; it also forms the basis for the Volkswagen Polo and Audi A1.

Styling alterations are deliberately brash on the Cupra, starting with a black honeycomb grille. Black wing mirrors, a large, black rear diffuser and central exhaust combine to give a much more dramatic look than the standard Ibiza three-door Sport Coupé. ‘Cupra’ badging also helps to differentiate the most sporting Ibiza from the standard Sport Coupé.

An optional tinted sunroof adds to the dramatic styling and interior ambience, but is limited to a tilting action only. A heavily tinted rear windscreen and side glass doesn’t help visibility but adds to the theme of black styling cues contrasting with the bright Cupra colours.


Seat Ibiza interior

Seat Ibizas used to get lumbered with interiors derived from other VW Group products. Not any more. The latest Ibiza has its own trim, and very distinctive it is too.

Fit and finish is certainly good and there are enough soft-touch surfaces, though there’s a slightly bewildering mix of trim graining. The traditional, random leather-like texture is still on a few surfaces, but the Ibiza also features what manufacturers like to call a technical grain. Then there’s the steering wheel, which has four different textures, so it’s anything but a dull cabin.

A optional dock on top of the dash allows full integration of compatible TomTom sat-nav units

More logical is the layout of its dials and some very neat touches. There are also two auxiliary ports for a portable music player and a slot for one to sit in, although this ought to be standard rather than optional, especially if Seat is serious about selling to a younger audience.

Cabin space is as good as you could reasonably expect from a 4m-long supermini. In the front there is no shortage of range for the height-adjustable driver’s seat and reach and rake-adjustable steering wheel. Space in the rear is a little tighter, but you can seat four adults in this car without worry.

On the equipment front, the SOL trimmed Ibizas come with 15in alloy wheels, DAB radio, Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control, a 5.0in touchscreen infotainment system and air conditioning as standard, while upgrading to SE Technology adds twin halogen headlights, split folding seats and Seat's 6.5in touchscreen infotainment system complete with sat nav and smartphone integration.

The mid-range FR-Technology cars gain sports seats, sports suspension, auto lights and wipers, twin exhaust system and an electronic locking differential, while the Red Edition adds red trim and decals to the interior and exterior.

Those after more performance can opt for the Cupra models, with the standard car adding adaptive bi-xenon headlights, gloss black details, a race-tuned exhaust and climate control, while the Cupra Black models add Seat's full infotainment offering, black alloy wheels and red brake calipers.


Seat Ibiza side profile

Of the cooking engines offered by Seat in the Ibiza, the best is the 1.4-litre TSI, 16-valve unit with six-speed manual gearbox. It’s as conventional as they come, with a reasonable power output and torque.

Through a quite demanding test route the Ibiza 1.4 returned 35.8mpg. Better still, on our touring route, consisting mostly of motorways taken at 70mph, it returned 44.1mpg.

The Ecomotive's 80.7mpg claimed average and 92g/km stand out

Unless you have to shop at the budget end of the range, we’d avoid the three-cylinder 1.0 petrol engines, while the 1.0 TSI pushes the purchase price up too high for an Ibiza of such modest performance. 

The 1.4-litre diesel engine will be a popular choice, especially in Ecomotive form – the claimed average mpg matches that of the Polo Bluemotion, while the CO2 figure is low. You’ll not get anywhere in a hurry, though, as a 0-62mph time shy of 14secs proves. The 1.4 also sounds a little agricultural, especially at low speeds.

Tempting as the Ecomotive is to anyone looking to cut their motoring costs, the standard 1.4 diesel is cheaper to buy, almost as fuel efficient, but its emissions do mean you have to pay road tax. It is also the best-selling engine on the estate, providing just enough power to haul the car along when fully laden.

The high-revving 188bhp 1.8 TSI engine is the most successful and enjoyable aspect of the Cupra. Our acceleration figures show that a 0-60mph time of 6.7sec is entirely achievable even with two occupants, but outright speed isn’t its greatest achievement. The 1.8 TSI’s real success is in its usability.


Seat Ibiza cornering

The Seat Ibiza, whichever body style you go for, rides with a compliance that’s partly a result of its tyres’ sidewalls and its chassis, which in turn allows its springs and dampers to be tight enough to control its body movements properly. And that means on the open road, as well as around town, it comes across as a refined, mature-riding car.

Like most of its rivals, the Ibiza’s suspension is by a straightforward, affordable combination of MacPherson struts at the front and a torsion beam at the rear.

The Ibiza is fun to drive, but lacks the level of dynamics Seat claim

Obviously, grip levels are not particularly high, but the Ibiza does steer with precision and accuracy, and its electrically assisted rack has a pleasant freedom from stiction.

Throw in its good brakes, smooth engine and very slick gearshift and you have a car that is a relatively rewarding thing to punt along. It would be even more so if it just had a little more pace.

Disappointingly for a company that claims its products are defined by their dynamism, the Seat is less competitive in the performance sector. 

The Cupra’s chassis and engine combination work well enough. It responds quickly and has ample grip for both road and track driving. But the experience is let down by inconsistent steering weight from the electrically assisted power steering, which reduces the resistance too much at slow speeds, resulting in a lack of feel and precision. This improves at higher speeds as the specially adapted servo weights up the steering, but there is never a real sense of connection. 

The Cupra’s handling may not be all that inspiring, but it has a supple ride which betters that of most of its rivals. The well controlled suspension can be caught out on sharp intrusions, but generally it absorbs the worst breaks and undulations with little more than a muffled thump in the cabin.


Seat Ibiza

Although you’d expect the Seat Ibiza to undercut cars like the Vauxhall Corsa and Toyota Yaris (which it does), you wouldn’t expect it to get close to the Skoda Fabia, with a similar price yet more equipment. 

It should also prove relatively inexpensive to run, with low CO2 emissions and competitive insurance groupings across the ranges. The Ecomotive will balance a high-ish purchase price with exceptionally good economy returns and the financial benefits that come with a low CO2 figure. Depreciation is par for the course in the class.

The Ibiza is a good choice for those looking for a safe car

The Ibiza is one of the safest superminis you can buy. It has scored an excellent five stars for adult protection in Euro NCAP’s crash tests, plus four stars for child protection, and three stars for pedestrian safety.

The Ibiza Cupra promises to be the cheapest car in its class to run. Its closest rivals in terms of power and price – the Renaultsport Clio 200 and the Vauxhall Corsa VXR – are both  less economical and produce  more CO2 than the Ibiza’s official figures. The only match on running costs is the Mini Cooper S. 


Seat Ibiza rear quarter

Seat may not create the most technologically advanced cars on the planet and, at times you have to wonder how seriously even it takes its ‘auto emoción’ strapline. But with the Ibiza it has created a distinctive, no-nonsense supermini. It looks good, especially in three-door form, is practical, especially as a small estate, and is priced competitively with a strong kit roster.

Put simply, the Ibiza gets the basics right. It is entirely adequately spacious, well finished inside and out, its performance is strong enough and it is frugal – especially so in Ecomotive form. A strong showing in Euro NCAP tests is an added bonus for supermini buyers.

The Ibiza ticks all the boxes, but it lacks the driving engagement of the class best

Better still for those who like driving, it’s rather more engaging than similarly powered versions of the Vauxhall Corsa, Renault Clio or even its sibling, the Volkswagen Polo. It doesn’t quite have the verve of a Mazda 2 or a Ford Fiesta, but there is both composure and brio to the Ibiza’s chassis.

The hot Ibiza Cupra makes a persuasive argument for itself. The hi-tech engine, low running costs, decent cabin and standard DSG ’box will appeal to many buyers. 

But this class is all about driver reward and the Seat Ibiza Cupra lacks the flair you would expect. Though good in everyday driving, the six-speed manual gearbox does improve the experience if you really want to plunder the engine’s potential. The inconsistent braking and steering rob the Ibiza of the engaging handling and responses that you get from a Renaultsport Renault Clio.

Seat Ibiza 2008-2017 First drives