SEAT Ibiza review

Our Rating: 
3
3.0/5.0
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

The SEAT Ibiza is a stylish and good-value supermini that rivals the Ford Fiesta and VW Polo

For: 
Distinctive styling, competitive prices, fun to drive
Against: 
Poor quality interior trim, stiff suspension, fiddly stereo

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The SEAT Ibiza, is a stylish small car that looks great next to its main rivals - and that's no surprise when you find out that it was styled by Lamborghini’s former design boss. It takes on the ever-popular Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Polo and Vauxhall Corsa in the competitive supermini segment, and does so very well - we think it's actually one of the best superminis of 2013.

The stylish exterior doesn't mean that the SEAT Ibiza sacrifices practicality, either, with a spacious and useful interior layout and a 292-litre boot that expands to 554 litres with the rear seats down. That compares well to other small cars, and it's more affordable than the VW Polo it's based on as well.

The standard car is the five-door model, but you can also choose from a more stylish three-door SC model or a practical ST estate version, both of which are good to drive and look great.

Five trim levels are available – S a/c, Ecomotive, SE, Toca and FR. As you'd expect, with the S a/c trim you get air-conditioning as standard, but move up and you'll get alloy wheels, Bluetooth, sat-nav and a Micro-SD card slot for music storage.

Go all the way up to top-spec FR and you'll get a sportier styling pack and tyne option of a more powerful engine to turn it into a warm hatch. The three-door SC is also available in Cupra trim, and with 178bhp it's a proper small hot hatch. If it's economy you're after, go for the Ecomotive diesel, which returns 80.7mpg and emits just 92g/km of CO2.

Our choice: 1.2 TSI Toca SC 3dr

Styling

3.9

With hot hatch looks and big alloy wheels, the SEAT Ibiza FR is one of the sportiest-looking superminis around, but even the standard models have a lot of style. In fact, with the 2012 model's optional Xenon headlights with smart LEDs, new bumper and revised cabin, the Ibiza makes the VW Polo look really plain.

There's not much headroom in the rear seats for taller passengers, but the driving position is excellent and the cabin is well laid-out overall. The materials used are good quality and it feels built to last, and the design is pleasing, too. There are plenty of standard accessories, too.

Driving

3.5

Especially when compared with its sister car, the Volkswagen Polo, the SEAT Ibiza is rather fun to drive when you're out on the open road - or even just around town. It's no match for the superb Ford Fiesta, though. The suspension is a little firm, and although the set-up was softened in the recent update it's still a less comfortable ride than the VW Polo as the Ibiza is more of a sporty proposition.

The Ibiza Cupra three-door is the fastest model you can buy, and it uses a 178bhp 1.4 TSI engine to sprint from 0-62mph in 6.9 seconds - that's very nippy for a small car like this. You can also buy FR versions of the five-door model in petrol and diesel form, which will do the same sprint in 7.6 seconds and 8.2 seconds respectively.

Even the 1.2-litre diesel Ecomotive version is worth a look too, thanks to its low weight and torquey diesel engine. It's a bit on the slow side, however, and the engine can be a bit gruff. Go for the 2.0-litre TDi diesel if that's a concern - it manages low emissions and high fuel economy combined with impressive performance.

Reliability

3

In part thanks to a wide array of safety equipment, the SEAT Ibiza scored the full five stars when it was tested by safety experts at Euro NCAP. It features front and side airbags and stability control as standard.

Unfortunately, when it comes to reliability, the little Ibiza hasn't fared too well. A disappointing 144th place finish in the Driver Power 2013 survey's top 150 cars list doesn't look good for the car, but what makes things worse is that only five manufacturers performed worse in the Best Manufacturer category. Plus, SEAT dealers scored badly, with readers citing poor communication and low quality of dealer’s work as the main problems. Value for money was the only thing going for SEAT dealers.

Practicality

3.2

There's not too much between the three-door SC and the five-door model when it comes to boot space, with the SC's 284 litres facing up against 292 litres in the five-door. It's even less of a gap with the rear seats down: they both get the same 847 litres of space. This is about average for its class, and will be fine for day-to-day tasks but might not cope too swell with a lot of luggage. If you want even more space, the ST estate model offers 430 and 1,164 litres of space.

The rear seats in the Ibiza are a bit cramped, especially for taller passengers, but with the three-door model it's also tricky to get in and out. A recent update improved the amount of storage space around the cabin but the fiddly and unintuitive stereo remains the same and the car lacks modern kit like a USB port for smartphones.

Running Costs

4.2

The SEAT Ibiza is actually very good value for money and comes with plenty of standard equipment to make the low price even more tempting. Insurance costs should be pretty low as well, even for the nippy FR versions. 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.

When it comes to fuel and tax, the Ecomotive model is the easiest on the wallet: it will return 80.7mpg, which is superb. However it's good news across the engine range as even the small 1.2 and 1.4 litre TSI petrols are surprisingly efficient, and even the Cupra manages to return 47.9mpg - not bad for a hot hatchback.

Disqus - noscript

I have a Ibiza FR 1.4TSI/DSG. I just do not understand why your reviewer finds the radio difficult to operate, I find it incredibly easy, and I am 81! The car performs excellently with masses of urge when needed, and it handles like a dream.

I'm surprised the Ibiza fares so badly in the Driver Power survey. Having owned them for over 10 years now reliability from my personal experience has been a stand out factor, second only to the excellent real world economy of the old 1.9tdi engine. The first one I owned is still in the family and going strong at 140000miles with very little spent on non wear and tear items. The second one (latest generation) has made it past 30000 miles and its first MOT with zero issues so far. Maybe I'm just very lucky.

VW Polo will be the best buy better with better superb build quality, even though the Seat shares VW bits & WRC winning beating pedigree is a Fiesta beating car.

Can warm to Seat's superb handling, nice price & excellent fuel economy NCAP numbers to die for.

But unfortunately like AE says, "when it comes to reliability, the little Ibiza hasn't fared too well. A disappointing 144th place finish in the Driver Power 2013 survey's top 150 cars list doesn't look good for the car".

VW Polo 2013 WRC winning pedigree, legendary built quality solid as a rock, would be my first choice.

Think you have been believing the propaganda blurb too much. One user satisfaction survey rates all four VW group supermini clones much the same but with the A.1 tending to lag behind. None of them match the class best though.

The only Fiesta worth having is the ST, and that only comes with a Manual gearbox. I have to have a auto due to a disability and the Ibiza FR 1.4/DSG is superb. Your reviewer is biased against Seat and needs to be more objective!!!

Highly unlikely an AE reviewer would be biased against a VW group product! Of the four clones I do think this is the best looking one.

Had a Seat Toca 1.4 since February from new added some extras including Dab which had to be changed. The dealer tries to be loved but most involvement has been unsatisfactory. However just love the car practical,sporty and drives very well. Have had over twenty cars in my time this is nearly the best recommended.

Last updated: 11 Dec, 2013

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