The Ibiza’s launch engines are a trio of petrol units updated to deliver Euro 5 emissions when needed in a couple of years’ time, but familiar from other VWs: a 1.2-litre, 69bhp triple, and an 84bhp 1.4-litre unit and 100bhp 1.6-litre four cylinder. Three diesels will arrive in 2009: VW’s familiar 1.4-litre, 80bhp TDI, and two versions of the trusted 1.9 litre TDI, packing 90bhp or 105bhp.
What’s it like?
An all-new Ibiza shape, the work of a team headed by ex-Lamborghini design boss Luc Donckerwolke, incorporates a low and far more aggressive cab-forward profile. Designers have done a good job of boosting perceived quality by defining the shape with a series of precise panel creases that run confidently across doors, tail lights and the fuel filler flap with Audi-like accuracy.
Similar design precision continues inside, where a simple but modern, driver-oriented control layout is the order. Depending on model, Ibizas comes with many big-car features, such as bi-xenon “steering” lights, tyre pressure monitoring, USB audio connectivity, rain-sensing wipers and automatic headlights among them. Most eye-catching option is a seven-speed twin-clutch paddle-shift (DSG) gearbox, available with the diesel units and the 1.6 petrol engine.
Our early test focused on two cars, a 1.6-litre petrol model with the sportier of two suspension options plus 17-inch wheels, and a 105bhp, 1.9-litre diesel on 15-inch wheels with the more relaxed standard suspension.
We concentrated on the former because it will be first to appear in the UK, and discovered a car with near-neutral handling, plenty of dry-road grip, alert and accurate steering turn-in and minimal body roll.
Though distinctly sporty, it felt supple and quiet over whatever bumps we could find, revealing that the Sport is more comfortable than your average, harsh-suspended hot hatchback. The 1.6 engine sounds sporty but must be revved hard for action, and even then it isn’t especially quick. The 1.9 diesel is more instantly responsive, in a way, since it delivers useful torque at 1000rpm, and pulls hard from 1500rpm onwards.
Despite its new, sporty proportions and its claim to a very lively character, our first impression of this new Ibiza was of chassis quietness, comfort and refinement in both suspension guises, plus impressively fresh style inside and out.
Should I buy one?
Yes, provided new Ibiza prices stay sharp (we’ll find that out closer to the summer launch) the leading superminis of Europe will have to shove up to accommodate a tough new Catalan competitor.