What's it like?
The Ibiza has always been a pleasant car to drive, even in lesser trims and in lower-output forms, and this remains unchanged with the facelifted version. At lower speeds its steering is light, precise and fast-acting, making manoeuvring and around-town driving effortless.
The steering lacks the additional weighting that you might expect in faster, tighter corners, though, and can feel a little numb, despite the revisions. You can lean on the front end heavily, to the point where the tyres are audibly protesting, and the steering weight and feel will remain relatively unchanged. Not on a par with the fabled Ford Fiesta in terms of engagement, then.
However, there's just enough inherent weight to the wheel to maintain suitable poise and confidence in bends. There's adequate grip at sensible speeds, and the Ibiza corners in a relatively eager manner. This is partly due to the fact that the Seat clocks the scales at a relatively svelte 1043kg, at the kerb, aiding the hatch's agility.
The car's structure also feels satisfyingly stiff; there’s no shudder over bumps, nor any creaks or rattles when pushed harder. This allows the suspension to do its job properly and, although firm, the Ibiza rides in a composed and comfortable fashion. It doesn't protest when flung around and feels assured while doing so, resulting in a car that's hassle-free and mildly rewarding to drive at higher speeds across country.
Even though it's powered by a small, naturally aspirated three-cylinder engine, performance is adequate. The 1.0-litre triple pulls willingly through the gears, all the way to a soft limiter at around 6700rpm. It even makes an endearing growl towards the top end of its rev range but is otherwise quiet and relatively vibration-free.
The 0-62mph sprint takes a pedestrian 14.3sec, but you never feel like too much of an obstruction. Throttle response is swift enough, traction isn't a problem, and the clutch and brake action is easily judged.
Obviously the engine lacks mid-range urge compared with forced-induction or larger-displacement alternatives, but provided you pick an appropriate gear, it rarely frustrates. In third and fourth around town, there’s enough in-gear pull to avoid overly frequent gearchanges.
Loaded up, the engine doesn’t labour excessively, either; it simply soldiers on until the revs being to climb. Those regularly attacking motorways, however, would be far better off with one a more powerful option.
A short-throw but slightly notchy five-speed manual gearbox serves up a sensible spread of ratios, but following some shifts you’ll hear the odd clunk and rattle as the linkages shift around. This slight shortage of mechanical refinement takes the edge off what feels like an otherwise neatly engineered car.
Seat claims combined fuel economy of 54.3mpg, which theoretically grants a range of more than 530 miles. We averaged a lesser 36.0mpg during our test but, given that our route involved a lot of fast cross-country driving, the lower figure doesn't come as a surprise. That still means a full tank will permit a 350-mile drive before refuelling - fine for a small hatch.
At speed, there is some road and wind noise, particularly from around the front pillars, but the Ibiza feels more than refined enough to undertake long trips without becoming an annoyance. Rougher surfaces do project more road noise into the cabin, however, but that’s par for the course.
Inside, the new dash, while hardly a dramatic visual feast, is smart and clear. It’s made of a much softer material and is pleasing to the touch, as are most of the other key points – the wheel, gearlever and handbrake. The gauges are big and easy to read at a glance, and the speedo features 10mph divisions.
All of the controls are conveniently sited and easy to interpret, while the switchgear has the solid, slick-acting feel you’d expect of a Volkswagen Group product. No doubt many will approve of the standard mechanical handbrake, too.
The front seats are comfortable and there’s plenty of room, while the steering column adjusts for both height and reach. This makes it easy to find a good driving position. You do sit quite high and upright, though, so taller drivers will find themselves looking primarily through the top portion of the screen. It doesn’t detract from forward visibility, though.
That said, the clutch footrest is tucked away and shrouded by the pedal. It’s not particularly comfortable or easy to get your foot onto, particularly if you’re wearing more substantial footwear.
Visibility is, on the other hand, very good, thanks to lots of glass and decently sized rear-view mirrors. You won’t struggle for storage, either, with two cupholders, large door bins and a fairly big glovebox.
Seat's standard 5in media system is the same as you'll find in a Polo or Fabia and works well. You'll have to pay an extra £240 or the slicker, more modern 6.5in media system, however, and a further £145 for Full Link support. It's a worthwhile addition, though, as it's a far easier way of accessing the content and extra functions on your phone.
In the back, there’s just enough room for two 6ft-tall passengers, even with a taller driver up front. There is seating for three, if you need it, but it’s really just for children at that point. It’s quite comfortable in the back, otherwise, with a decent view and enough room to avoid feeling hemmed in. The seats are quite firm, however, like those up front.
The boot is usefully big, at a Fiesta-rivalling 292 litres, and the rear seats split and fold should you need more room. You don’t get a space-saver spare as standard, though, but one is available for £100.
All in, the Ibiza is a practical and smart hatchback. The dash, in particular, is far more cleanly styled than that of the Fiesta. Many buyers will also appreciate the wide range of options, including cruise control and sat-nav.
Should I buy one?
This particular version of the Seat Ibiza is a competent, well-designed and pleasant car to drive, and the updates make it a more appealing prospect than it was before. It doesn't feel like it was launched several years ago, either, which is no mean feat.
It also remains, as with Ibizas of old, comparatively good value. A list price of £13,025 may sound expensive, particularly for a small naturally aspirated hatch, but it's a similar price to any of the commonly suggested mainstream alternatives.
You do get a good amount of kit in the Seat, adding to its appeal, plus that stout build quality and feel many may look for. That said, you could get a similarly specified Suzuki Swift or Hyundai i20 for less, but there would be trade-offs on various fronts, such as refinement.
However, fitted with this engine, the Seat is a car that's best suited primarily to around-town work. It's more than capable of undertaking the odd motorway trip or cross-country jaunt, but if you're regularly entertaining higher speeds then we'd recommend opting for the 1.0 EcoTSI 95 version of the Ibiza instead.
Furthermore, the turbocharged 101bhp three-cylinder version completes the 0-62mph sprint in a more tolerable 10.4sec, and its higher 118lb ft of torque grants it significantly better in-gear flexibility. It'll probably prove more economical, too, and it isn't that much more expensive to buy, commanding a premium of £950 over the naturally aspirated alternative tested here.
2015 Seat Ibiza 1.0 75PS SE
Location Waddesdon, Buckinghamshire; On sale Now; Price £13,025; Engine 3 cyls, 999cc, petrol; Power 74bhp at 6200rpm; Torque 70lb ft at 3000rpm; Kerb weight 1043kg; Gearbox 5-spd manual; 0-62mph 14.3sec; Top speed 107mph; Economy 54.3mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 118g/km, 18%