What is it?
For those of you scrutinising the above photos and concluding that we must have accidentally uploaded the wrong ones, I can assure you this isn't the case. The car you’re looking at is most definitely the new Seat Ibiza. However, aside from some brighter LED bulbs in the tail-lights and some equally luminescent daytime running lights, it doesn't look any different from the old one.
There are a couple of good reasons for this. Firstly, an entirely new Ibiza – new platform, new interior, the works – is due in just two years, so it would make little financial sense for Seat to invest heavily in designing and pressing new body panels. Secondly, and perhaps more pertinently, the Ibiza has always been among the most striking superminis to look at. And if it ain’t broke…
Plenty is new about the 2015 Ibiza, though. Inside you'll find a soft-touch face on the dashboard where previously there was a hard and unappealing grey slab of plastic, and the clunky old infotainment systems have been replaced with brand new and user-friendly touchscreens.
The engine line-up is all but entirely fresh, too. The Volkswagen Group’s 1.0-litre triple petrol joins the range in naturally aspirated 74bhp form and, as tested here, 94bhp turbo guise. A 109bhp DSG dual-clutch automatic gearbox-equipped version is also available, and there are several new 1.4 diesels, the cleanest of which emits just 88g/km of CO2.
What's it like?
It’s fair to say the Ibiza’s dynamic talents have never lived up to its chiselled good looks, and that's largely still the case. Minor tweaks to the spring and damper rates have done little to improve turn-in or limit body lean, and the new speed-sensitive electric steering is also too light and short on feedback.
The Ibiza is still no dynamic masterpiece, then, but its lightweight controls make it easy to drive in the urban environments for which it’s designed, while the suspension tweaks have brought about a more forgiving primary ride. The rural roads on the outskirts of Barcelona aren’t nearly as challenging as an average British backstreet, mind, so we’ll reserve final judgement until we’ve tested the car on our own patch.
Far more impressive than the way the Ibiza handles, though, is its brand new 1.0-litre turbo motor. The 94bhp version picks up eagerly from 1400rpm but will hold even lower revs than that on partial throttle loads without getting flustered. Let the revs build and the power delivery remains linear with no surges or obvious flatspots.
You won't find the performance of a hard-tuned petrol engine here, of course (those thrills are reserved for the hotter Cupra version we’ll be driving later in the year), but both the tractability and mechanical refinement of Seat’s new 1.0 triple are impressive and a promising sign when you consider this engine will be powering Golfs and Leons in the not too distant future.
Seat’s new Full Link multimedia system – standard on Connect trim and optional elsewhere in the range – is arguably just as noteworthy an upgrade. The basic touchscreen, which features Mirrorlink for Android phones, is essentially the same as the one found in a Fabia or a Polo, but in the Ibiza it also gets the brilliant Apple Car Play. This system, essentially the same as Mirrorlink but for the iPhone, 'mirrors' the phone's display on the car’s screen, giving you access to certain functions, including text messages, your music, contacts and a medley of apps.
Should I buy one?
The new 1.0-litre turbo motor is without doubt the new Ibiza's biggest selling point, but the impressive new infotainment system and phone-mirroring features are also big draws.
However, there’s still little about the way the Ibiza steers or handles to get keen drivers excited, and we suspect that, given your choice of review site, this may make you take a step back. Even if it doesn't, the fact that a Skoda Fabia or a Hyundai i20 are bigger and better value for money quite possibly will.
The Ibiza badge won’t be emblazoned on a car capable of challenging the class leaders for at least the next couple of years, then, but Seat’s supermini is certainly a stronger contender that it was.
Seat Ibiza 1.0 TSI 95
Location Barcelona; On sale September; Price £13,245; Engine 3 cyls, 999cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 94bhp at 5000rpm; Torque 118lb ft at 1500rpm; Gearbox 5-spd manual; Kerb weight 1095kg; 0-62mph 10.4sec; Top speed 119mph; Economy 68.9mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 94g/km, 13%