SEAT Ibiza review
The SEAT Ibiza is a stylish and affordable alternative to superminis like the Ford Fiesta and VW Polo
The SEAT Ibiza, styled by Lamborghini’s former design boss, is a great-looking car that is set apart from rivals – like the Ford Fiesta, VW Polo and Vauxhall Corsa – by its bodywork and slanted headlights. The SEAT Ibiza even made it onto our list of the best superminis of 2013. It delivers agile handling and makes the most of its dimensions with a spacious interior. The boot compares well to other superminis too; the 292 litres expands to 554 when the rear seats are folded down.
It's available as a stylish three-door SC model, a more practical five-door and an even more practical ST Estate, which debunks the myth that supermini estates are awkwardly styled and boring to own and drive. Five trim levels are available – E S A/C, Ecomotive, SE and FR. The S A/C trim lists air-conditioning and split folding rear seats amongst its features. The SE and 'Toca' special edition versions add alloys, Bluetooth, sat-nav and a Micro-SD card slot for music storage. Top-spec FR models get the option of a fast but frugal diesel 148bhp petrol, which turns the Ibiza into an entertaining warm hatch, as well as extra FR styling features amongst the upgrades. The three-door SC model is also available as a 178bhp Cupra hot hatch, which gets a seven-speed DSG gearbox and records a 0-62mph time of just 6.9 seconds. The most economical model is the Ecomotive diesel, which promises 80.7mpg and 92g/km in emissions.
Our choice: 1.2 TSI Toca SC 3dr
The Ibiza is one of the sportiest-looking superminis you can buy, particularly if you opt for the high-performance FR version, with its distinctive alloy wheels and aggressive bumper design. It's easily as stylish as the Ford Fiesta, and its sharp creases makes the VW Polo look plain. The facelifted model arrived in 2012 and brought with it a new set of optional Xenon headlights with smart LEDs, a new bumper and subtly revised cabin.
The interior is fairly spacious and the driving position is spot on, but taller adults will be disappointed by the headroom in the rear seats. The dashboard is neatly styled, though, and a facelift towards the end of 2012 brought an improvement in the quality of materials used. But some touches, like the interior materials that feel cheap and scratchy and limited rear visibility, make the SEAT Ibiza seem less refined than the Renault Clio or the Peugeot 207.
The SEAT Ibiza feels a bit sporty and thanks to the controls, which are nice and light, you can have a bit of fun when the roads open up. But it’s also a practical car and the SEAT Ibiza is great for driving around town too.
The quickest Ibiza you can buy is the Cupra model, which is powered by a 178bhp 1.4 TSI engine. In conjunction with the seven-speed DSG auto, it can sprint from 0-62mph in 6.9 seconds. The petrol and diesel FR models meanwhile manage this feat in 7.6 seconds and 8.2 seconds respectively. The firm suspension can become uncomfortable, particularly at low speeds around town but the facelifted Cupra, which arrived at the beginning of 2013, does feel a little more softly sprung.
Elsewhere in the range, the 1.2-litre diesel Ecomotive version is worth considering. Its lightweight and torquey diesel engine make it very economical, but it's gruff and rattly and struggles to deliver much performance. Still the 2.0-litre TDi diesel is the polar opposite - as it provides the kind of in-gear punch you associate with much bigger cars and yet still returns excellent fuel economy figures and low C02 emissions. Sadly though, the Ibiza just lacks the kind of cultured dynamics and supple ride that set apart the class-leading Ford Fiesta.
The Ibiza put in a strong performance during Euro NCAP crash tests and was awarded five stars for occupant protection. Its overall score of 91 per cent is also impressive compared to its supermini rivals. However, the pre-facelift model placed a very disappointing 91st in our 2012 Driver Power survey, with owners complaining about both the build quality and reliability problems - something that should have been addressed with the recent refresh.
Things only got worse for the SEAT Ibiza in our 2013 Driver Power survey: the car plummeted to 144th place and only five manufacturers performed worse in the Best Manufacturer category. SEAT was also named the worst dealer in the UK, with drivers slating the communication and quality of dealer’s work. Value for money was the only thing going for SEAT dealers.
The three-door SC has a 284-litre boot, while the five-door manages 292 litres but does compromise a little in terms of styling. Both have a maximum load area of 847 litres with the rear seats folded, but if you want even more space, the ST estate model offers 430 and 1,164 litres of space.
All versions offer a reasonable amount of room inside, but getting into the back of the three-door can prove tricky. However, the rear seats will be a squeeze for all but the smallest of people. The interior layout was updated with the 2012 facelift, with a number of useful cubbyholes. Unfortunately, the fiddly and unintuitive stereo remains the same and it lacks modern kit like a USB port for smartphones.
Whilst the SEAT Ibiza doesn’t have the lowest insurance group of the superminis, even the high-performance Ibiza FR is unlikely to attract high premiums. And despite it’s Lamborghini styling, the SEAT Ibiza doesn’t come with a dramatic price: it’s one of the most competitively priced superminis on the market and even the entry level Ibiza comes pretty well equipped. Five-door models command a small premium over their sporty SC stablemates, but hold their value better, which means they are worth more when it's time to sell them on.
The 1.2-litre diesel-engined Ibiza Ecomotive will return 80.7mpg, which makes it one of the most fuel efficient superminis money can buy. However the small turbocharged petrol models like the 1.2 and 1.4 litre TSI versions are also surprisingly efficient, as long as you drive them in a gentle fashion.