From £16,015
Does the Seat Ibiza deserve class honours ahead of the Ford Fiesta? We spent five months with one to discover just that

Why we ran it: To find out if the Seat Ibiza small car truly deserves its Fiesta-beating crown – we had five months with the Seat to find out

Month 1 - Month 2 - Month 3 - Month 4 - Month 5 - Specs

Life with a Seat Ibiza: Month 5

Final report – 7th March 2018

When we picked up the keys to our Seat Ibiza six months ago, we had just crowned it the best supermini on the market. So the question we set out to answer was simple: would we still consider it the class leader after spending an extended period with it?

Now, I could try to build up the tension by waiting until the closing paragraphs to tell you. But given how quickly the outcome will become apparent, let’s answer that right here: yes. Yes, it does. Very much yes. Have I given that away too quickly? Well, maybe. But it doesn’t feel like it: in reality, I knew that would be the answer barely a few weeks into my time with the Ibiza. At a time when I’d still be settling in to most cars – fiddling with the seat adjustments, trying to remember where all the controls are, that sort of thing – I felt utterly comfortable and at home in the Ibiza, as if I’d been driving it for years.

Now, those of you with long memories may recall me mentioning that I had previously driven an Ibiza for years – 12 of them, to be precise, having owned a 2005 model from new until selling it last year. But don’t think my feeling of familiarity was because of that: the newest Ibiza is an entirely different beast from its predecessors – more refined, more rounded, more complete, more, well, more. Given Seat’s place as the VW Group’s youth-orientated brand, I was expecting that my assessment of the new Ibiza would involve channelling my 26-year-old self. But the new Ibiza has arguably grown and developed more in the intervening 12 years than I have.

Of course, the price has grown, too, and at £17,510, our Ibiza 1.0 95PS FR isn’t exactly a budget offering, although it’s still slightly cheaper than the equivalent Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo. As a result, buyers are going to be less accepting of the compromises that buying a smaller, cheaper car usually involves – and that’s where the Ibiza really scores. It is good to outstanding in every area that matters for a small car.Around town, it cruises happily.

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Sure, the three-cylinder engine can be ever-so-slightly thrummy at low speeds, but that quickly eases into smooth, quiet running. And on quicker roads, the Ibiza breezes along. Even at motorway speed, that 1.0-litre engine always has a ready supply of power and torque if and when you need it. It was pleasantly economical, too. I normally got mid- 40-miles to the gallon and averaged 51.4mpg on one particularly long motorway trip.

On flowing country roads, it’s very composed as well, although don’t be tricked into thinking that Seat’s ‘youth’ focus means the Ibiza is honed for sporty handling. It can be fun, sure, but this Ibiza displays a maturity and poise, an all-round relaxed demeanour, that allows it to hold its head high against its rivals.

For a small car, space was rarely an issue, either. Passengers were always comfortable in the back, and when I needed to cram in lots of luggage, the Ibiza proved adept at swallowing far more than you might expect.

I was a big fan of the interior, too. It was comfortable and stylish, without being overly showy. And, sure, the Ibiza might have a relatively basic version of the VW Group infotainment system (no fancy high- resolution Google Map images or digital dashboard here), but I found it easier to use and more rounded than some of the posher versions I’ve tried. I quite like having a proper dial to change the volume on the radio, for example. If I had any gripe with the system, it was the occasional hassle of getting my iPhone to connect via Apple CarPlay – but such issues seem to be more generally to do with Apple’s system (having experienced similar in other cars) than the Ibiza’s.

So did I find any major flaws after six months in the Ibiza? Frankly, after searching with increasing ferocity, the Ibiza’s list of failings remains stubbornly short and trivial. The biggest is probably that, due to the car’s stylised bodywork and sculpted wing mirrors, rear visibility isn’t the best. The issue is exacerbated by the strange omission on our upmarket FR-trim model of rear parking sensors (a £220 option) or a reversing camera (part of the £425 Vision Plus Pack). Sure, it’s easily solved by ticking an option box (and shelling out a little more cash) but it seems odd not to include a reversing aid in the first place.

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What else? Well, the sharply styled bodywork meant dirt collected on small areas of the car after long motorway journeys on murky days. The boot occasionally didn’t shut properly when I closed it (although that could be because I wasn’t giving it enough force). And the passenger door handle was a little sticky, on occasion. And... well, that’s about it. Hardly an incriminating list, is it?

The supermini class is ultra- competitive, and both the Fiesta and Polo can put forward compelling cases. The margins between them are small indeed. But, to me, the Ibiza’s all-round excellence makes it a truly strong contender – yet it retains a distinct, fun character (something our testers struggled to find in the Polo during its recent road test).

So, yes, I reckon the Ibiza fully merits its crown as the best supermini on sale right now. But then you already knew that, because I already told you. See, I’ve found another flaw of the Ibiza: it’s just too darn all- round good to make for an exciting conclusion to a long-term report...

Like it: 

STRONG ENGINE: Quiet, frugal and never lacking for power: this three-pot is everything you need for a car of this size.

SHARP STYLING: Yes, you can spot the VW Group supermini heritage but the Ibiza’s sculpted bodywork helps it stand out.

BEATS SOUND SYSTEM: Younger members of our team raved about the audio quality of the Beats stereo (a £365 option).

Loathe it:

NO REVERSING CAMERA: It has a lovely infotainment screen, which highlights the oddity of not fitting a rear camera as standard.

LOW-SPEED VIBRATIONS: The engine is a little clunky at low speeds, although it makes up for that in all other aspects.

Second opinion: 

Forget your Cupra-badged performance rockets: for me, the Seat brand is defined by peppy, fun, small hatches such as our Ibiza FR. As James attests, its charm lies in its broad- batted accessibility, but no aspect of the Ibiza feels like a compromise. That’s VW Group polish for you. 

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Final report mileage: 6780

Life with a Seat Ibiza: Month 4

Our upgraded speaker system – 28th February 2018

Our Ibiza has the upgraded Beats Audio system – a £365 option – which comprises a 300W amplifier, six speakers and a ‘high-end’ subwoofer in the boot.

Beats, founded by rapper Dr Dre and owned by Apple, has a huge market share in high-end headphones, and if they’re anything like as clear-cut as the Ibiza’s sound, it’s clear why. 

Mileage: 6790

Life with a Seat Ibiza: Month 4

The clean lines make for dirty bodywork – 7th February 2018

The new Ibiza sports some stylish design and lines, but a series of journeys on murky winter roads have revealed a mucky by-product of that sculpting: grime builds up on a few small areas of the bodywork.

The shut line just below the rear door passenger handle gets dirty particularly fast, presumably where all those aero lines push the dirt. It’s easily solved by a good car wash.  

Mileage: 6752

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Life with a Seat Ibiza: Month 3

The Ibiza earns its spurs as a hauler – 24 January 2018

Finally. I’d finally caught it out. As the revs dropped and my momentum began to wane, I thought I’d found the Seat Ibiza wanting.

After a few thousand miles of motoring on every type of road, I’d failed to find a situation in which the Seat Ibiza’s engine didn’t exceed any expectations you could fairly place on a 94bhp 1.0-litre three-pot.

Until now. Because, on a fiendishly steep hill just a few hundred metres from my family home in Clevedon, I finally found myself asking for power that the engine was unable to deliver.

Or so I thought.

First, some explanation. Clevedon, a picturesque Somerset seaside town (fact: Clevedon Pier is a two-time winner of the National Piers Society Pier of the Year Award), is built around a number of hills.

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Mileage: 6619

The SNES of the car world – the Ibiza – 10 January 2018

I didn’t get a Super NES Classic for Christmas, but I’ve been getting my gaming fix from Seat’s EcoTrainer function.

To score highly, you have to keep the Ibiza image in the blue box in the middle of the touchscreen, achieved by avoiding heavy braking and acceleration.

The boost to my fuel economy is helping me save for a SNES (if I can find one in stock).

Mileage: 5117

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Life with a Seat Ibiza: Month 2

Stopping cold feet with the Ibiza – 28 December 2017​

The winter weather has revealed Seat Ibiza shares with regain the keys to our the 2005-spec version I previously owned: a snowflake that appears on the driver information display when the outside temperature drops below 4deg C.

It’s a pleasing little detail, although one I’ve never found necessary: by the time I get in a car, I’ve usually got a pretty decent sense of how frosty it is outside…

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Mileage: 4572

Enjoying the homecoming with the Ibiza – 29 November 2017​

After a recent holiday to Texas, spent driving a typically anodyne hire car, I was excited to Seat Ibiza.

Before even reaching the exit of the Autocar Towers car park, I had regained the warm glow of contentment I’ve felt whenever I’ve been driving it. If anything, added the new fifth-generation being reunited with the Ibiza after a break has made me appreciate it even more.

This struck me a few days after returning from Texas, when I forced myself out of bed before dawn on a chilly Sunday morning to take part in a 10k run in Wiltshire.

After breezing through the quiet streets of south-west London, I was zipping down the M3 when I realised something about the Ibiza: in terms of driving, it just does everything well. Really well.

So far, I’ve subjected the Ibiza to my stop-start commute through Greater London traffic. I’ve taken it on motorways and A-roads, used it as an airport shuttle, and packed the boot with cases and shopping. I’ve driven it on some lovely, flowing country roads too. And I’ve yet to find a situation in which it doesn’t excel.

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I noted in my first report how impressed I was with the one-litre engine in our FR-spec Seat Ibiza, and that appreciation has grown as well. It’s remarkably at home on a motorway, never feeling stressed even after long periods at 70mph or so.

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I bought my Ibiza from new and only parted with it earlier this year. It proved a trusty companion, only really letting me down once – albeit in spectacular fashion when an engine problem caused me to grind to a halt on the M4 with my sister-in-law and five-month-old nephew on board (I think she has since forgiven me…).

Don’t think my positive feelings towards my Ibiza might cloud my objective judgment, either.

If anything, I grew intimately aware of my Ibiza’s many faults and foibles. Those ranged from the major, such as suspension a little too firm for London’s pot-holed streets and a 1.4L engine that didn’t quite have enough torque at low speed, to the more trivial, such as the slightly questionable quality of certain trim bits, lack of any form of boot light and woeful slide-out cup holder.

Believe me, I know where to look to find faults with an Ibiza.

 

the best small car you can buy today.

We’ll find out how well it lives up to that title over six months, but I’ll be taking things further – considering if this is a car that I’d be prepared to own for 12 years…

Second opinion

If Seat came of age with the Ateca, the Ibiza proves it is set to flourish.

Time was you had to accept compromises on smaller, cheaper cars, yet the Ibiza is good to outstanding pretty much everywhere.

If I was asked which supermini to buy today, I’d recommend this one.

Jim Holder

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Seat Ibiza FR 1.0 TSI 95 specification

Specs: Price New £16,105; Price as tested £17,510; Options Desire red metallic paint (£650), Beats Sound System – including luggage compartment lining (£365), Full LED headlights (£480)

Test Data: Engine 998cc, three-cylinder, turbocharged petrol; Power 94bhp at 5000-5500rpm; Torque 129lb ft at 1500-3500rpm; Top speed 113mph; 0-62mph 10.9sec; Claimed fuel economy 60.1mpg; Test fuel economy 43.4mpg; CO2 106g/km; Faults None; Expenses None

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Comments
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si73 14 December 2017

I dont get why you are

I dont get why you are surprised by the capability of this car to undertake long journeys, fit shopping in the boot and perform airport runs with luggage in the boot? Back in 2001 I had a mk4/5 fiesta 1.25, and drove from moray to devon, about 680 miles with my wife 2 children and luggage, it never missed a beat and we were perfectly comfortable so why you should be surprised at achieving this in a modern supermini that is as big as a mk1 leon, which you would have expected to carry out these tasks, seems strange to me. The modern supermini is more or less all the car you need due to its larger size extra kit and better performance. I'd be surprise if more people arent downsizing to them.

Peter Cavellini 29 November 2017

Hmmmm.

My Wife is driving a 2016 model, an FR 1.2 (110) and i have to say that it’s quite impressive, steers, accelerates, corners very well and is good on Petrol, but I have one nagging doubt, you see compared to the previous Ibiza she had I don’t think this one is as well screwed together.

LP in Brighton 29 November 2017

Test Data: Engine 2993cc, V6, turbocharged diesel

Some editing required I think!