SEAT Ibiza shines in supermini sector as class act
With the supermini sector hotting up with a host of new models, SEAT’s all-new, fifth-generation Ibiza’s sunny disposition shines through, says motoring editor Andy Russell.
This is very much the year of the supermini – with a new SEAT Ibiza, Nissan Micra, Suzuki Swift and Ford Fiesta and next-generation Volkswagen Polo in the wings.
So the fact that SEAT president Luca de Meo declared the new fifth-generation Ibiza should be the “best small car in Europe” just shows the new confidence coursing through the Spanish car-maker.
SEAT’s best-seller, with 5.4 million sales over more than 30 years, has certainly got what it takes. And SEAT being the first marque to use Volkswagen Group’s latest modular platform for the Ibiza clearly indicates the esteem it is held in by the rest of the family. SEAT is no longer the poor relation.
Looks and image
Despite the evolutionary styling, this Ibiza is all new and if SEAT wanted to make a real impression it has succeeded.
Its design language has always had flair but it gets better with each new model and the new Ibiza looks stunning, especially in dark, metallic colours.
With deeply-sculpted surfaces, bold kinks and creases, the sharp angles make it even sportier and edgier.
In keeping with models from other brands, SEAT has adapted to the changing market so the new Ibiza is five-door only with the three-door Sport Coupe and Sport Tourer estate dropped.
Under the bonnet
Launched with three 1.0-litre, three-cylinder petrol engines – 75PS and turbo charged 95 and 115PS versions – there’s a new 150PS 1.5-litre turbo petrol, with fuel-saving cylinder shutdown, and 80 and 95PS 1.6-litre turbo diesels to come.
The popular, sporty FR model gets both 1.0-litre TSI turbo engines, the more powerful also available in automatic guise.
The 115PS version is a delight – a peppy, punchy powerhouse with a throaty, three-cylinder growl, useful performance when wound up and a snappy six-speed manual gearbox. The engine’s free-revving, elastic nature also means it picks up willingly from low revs and is unflustered cruising with 70mph around 2,250rpm. And 50 to 60mpg overall makes it a credible alternative to diesel.
This energetic little engine really punches above it weight and you wonder if it needs a bigger unit.
How it drives
It doesn’t disappoint, living up to the promise of that dynamic design.
The sporty FR’s ride is firm, with sports suspension and 17in alloy wheels, but supple enough to take most of the sting out of road ruts and ripples.
It’s a trade-off I’d happily accept for the rewarding roadholding. This Ibiza is right up there with the supermini supremos when it comes to entertainment value.
It scoots along, flicking through bends with fine poise and balance and lots of feel from the well-weighted steering – and the flat-bottomed wheel adds to the sporty feel.
Space and comfort
It’s easy to forget the Ibiza is a supermini – it feels as roomy as some family hatchbacks a class above with more cabin space thanks to a 60mm longer wheelbase and clever packaging. It’s all the more impressive given the new Ibiza is a couple of millimetres smaller outside.
There’s an awful lot of space for four tall adults to sit quite comfortably, with the sculpted front seats backs freeing up more kneeroom, and three could manage short distances at a squeeze in the back.
The boot is also impressive, 63 litres bigger at 355 litres – enough for a couple of largish suitcases. The boot is deep and flat-sided but the lack of a height-adjustable floor panel is disappointing, especially as the 60/40 split rear seat backs step up from the boot floor once folded.
At the wheel
The bold angles are picked up in interior elements such as the door handles but the fascia is pretty conventional. Nothing wrong with that as it’s clean and simple with big dials, easy-action controls. A big gloss panel across the fascia and front doors and brightwork highlights break up the swathes of sombre, hard, dark plastics.
The driving position has good adjustment but rear visibility is hindered by tapering side windows and a shallow back screen and I was surprised the FR did not have rear parking sensors.
The supermini sector is getting increasingly competitive with these smaller models having big-car qualities. Even so, SEAT’s fifth-generation Ibiza’s talents shine through with its sunny disposition.
SPEC AND TECH
Price: SEAT Ibiza FR 1.0 TSI 115PS £16,630 (range from £13,130)
Engine: 999cc, 115PS, three-cylinder turbo petrol with six-speed manual gearbox
Performance: 0-62mph 9.3 seconds; top speed 121mph
MPG: Urban 48.7; extra urban 68.9; combined 60.1
CO2 emissions: 108g/km
Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 20%
Insurance group: 15 (out of 50)
Warranty: Three years or 60,000 miles
Will it fit in the garage? L 4,059mm; W (including door mirrors) 1,942mm; H 1,444mm