The Ibiza from SEAT is a highly popular super-mini that has become more than capable of taking on rivals such as the Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa in a highly competitive sector.
Since inception in 1984 and with around 5.4 million Ibiza’s sold worldwide to date, this fifth generation model is not just at home in the city as Barcelona’s super-mini doubles up as a great small family car and with frugal engine choices on offer it also becomes a great choice for those who are no stranger to sitting in a car for hours on end.
Those big mile owners maybe don’t want the initial outset of a larger car, nor do they want large monthly payments that come with a car at say £30k – never mind the increased running costs over a two to three year ownership period.
Mention the SEAT Ibiza to me and the first thing that comes to mind is the unmistakable lime green SEAT Ibiza F2 rally car with prominent ‘SEAT Cupra Sport’ and ‘IBIZA’ livery in red swooping up the quarter panel with the Welsh Wizard Gyndaff Evans at the helm on the 1998 Ulster Rally – an event he went on to win.
Things have come a very long way since those days and having owned an Ibiza from that era as well as the Ibiza based Cordoba Vario in bright yellow (a factory colour that paid homage to SEAT’s success on the rally stages) I can assure you the recycled drinks bottle interior and busted sofa-like seats of said era are a distant memory.
So too are the bland curves and lack of any distinctive lines – gone in favour of sharp and bold styling that runs across the full SEAT range now along with the almost signature triangular shaped LED daytime running light design incorporated within the front lights of the higher spec models.
On the roof-top terrace of a hotel in Liverpool city centre on Tuesday night we got to see the all-new Ibiza for the first time at the UK media launch and first drives. It was a chilled out affair with some Ibiza club classics being played by a DJ whilst we enjoyed a Mediterranean BBQ with cocktails.
Coming in five-door only for the first time, the Ibiza is very versatile and more than affordable with pricing starting from just £13,130 for the ‘S’ model which includes a 5” touchscreen media system with Bluetooth audio streaming, daytime running lights, electric front windows, air conditioning and front assist with emergency brake assist and hill hold control.
An ‘SE’ adds 15” alloy wheels and 5” colour touch screen along with leather steering wheel and LED daytime running lights with LED taillights, colour coded mirrors and door handles as well as 60:40 split fold rear seats – the SE starts from £14,000
An ‘FR’ model starting from £16,015 adds 17” alloy wheels, twin exhaust with FR exclusive rear bumper, SEAT drive profile (Eco – Sport – Comfort – Individual) and a touch screen navigation system with Mirrorlink, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto along with DAB radio.
Safety and convenience is added too on the FR with cruise control, rain sensing wipers, auto-dim rear view mirror, electric folding mirrors, coming & leaving home headlight function and a tiredness recognition system.
The range topping ‘XCELLENCE’ starts from £16,715 and gets 16” alloy wheels along with plush looking alcantara upholstery and the KESSY keyless enter and go system for ultimate convenience. It retains the DAB and phone connectivity of the FR along with the drive profile feature.
Comfort is key on this model with the addition of front and rear parking sensors, rear electric windows, dual-zone climate control and a front central armrest. Your local SEAT dealer will be able to advise on spec levels as well as options available across the range to make sure that your all-new Ibiza fits the needs of your lifestyle perfectly.
Built upon the all-new Volkswagen Group ‘MQB A0’ platform the all-new Ibiza really is all new as it is the first car to utilise these underpinnings with Audi’s A1 due to be built upon this platform later in the year with VW’s Polo likely to see the same platform at some point next year.
To my surprise there is no diesel power-train on offer (diesel options will be introduced later this year) nor is the tremendous DSG auto gearbox available (it will be available in the coming months on the FR model only).
At launch, SEAT have favoured a pair of small three-cylinder petrol engines to power this all-new Ibiza starting with the 1.0L MPI 75 PS combined to a 5 speed manual ‘box returning an estimated 57.6 mpg on a combined cycle.
Next up is a 1.0L TSI with a pair of outputs depending on the model of car you choose – the 95 PS engine is mated to a 5 speed manual ‘box which will return a claimed 60.1 mpg combined whilst the 115 PS version (FR only) is mated to a 6 speed manual ‘box and has the same claimed combined economy.
Inside – the Ibiza has never been as spacious both in the cabin as well as rear leg room and with increased load-space the Ibiza offers plenty of room for groceries, a couple of weekend bags, some camping gear or a buggy.
Seating wise both the front and rear offers great comfort with the front seats being surprisingly supportive even on the lower models and although there isn’t as much soft-touch material around the dash, the hard plastics are textured in a way that they don’t look cheap and nasty – something many other manufacturers could learn from.
From The Shankly Hotel in Liverpool we set off along a two-hour scenic route into the homeland of rallying legend Evans in a 95PS ‘SE’ model (set to be the most popular model of the Ibiza range) during which we tackled every type of driving possible to get the full feel for this all-new Ibiza.
The highlight of the journey was reaching the fast, open meandering roads above our destination that demonstrated how good the chassis of the Ibiza really is and although a little firm on some roads, I found the ride quality to be more than acceptable.
The 95PS engine, in its low capacity nature is a little gear sensitive and lacks low down grunt but once going it certainly keeps going with more than enough haste for most and after a fantastic fish supper whilst soaking up the rays on the dam road of Llyn Brenig Reservoir in North Wales we got to compare differences to the previous generation Ibiza which was on site.
After an assessment of both came the realisation that this all-new Ibiza is a dam good effort (see what I did there) from the Spanish firm and fitting of the young demographic who seem to prefer the Ibiza over its rivals – rightly so too as it looks amazing, drives great and is very affordable with the right amount of tech on-board.
On a shorter return journey to Liverpool we had an ‘FR’ 95PS model and I must admit that it was disappointing – to me the FR is the warm-hatch and as such needs an engine capable of standing your neck hair on demand – the 1.0TSi didn’t do it for me.
Maybe with the 115PS engine and seven-speed DSG ‘box in the FR it may get a little better but this is still nothing that could come close to the 200PS Fiesta ST for example. For me the only option in an FR is the all-new 1.5 TSi EVO engine offering 150PS – a four-cylinder engine being launched late this year that will have a mountain of low down torque and likely excite. (I do hope SEAT UK can accommodate a test of this once available)
Road tax is £160/yr for the MPI engine whilst both 1.0 TSI engines are £140/yr to tax and you can expect to pay around £16,000 for an SE with a comfortable spec with the FR loaded with options coming in around £18,000.
Words & Photos: Graham Curry
[images must not be used in any way without prior written consent of the photographer]