SEAT Ibiza review
The facelifted SEAT Ibiza is stylish and good to drive. It also shares its mechanicals with the excellent Volkswagen Polo
The SEAT Ibiza has always been one of the most fun choices in the supermini market, and the latest version upholds this reputation by delivering a more engaging driving experience than its small car cousins from the VW Group, the Volkswagen Polo and the Skoda Fabia.
In terms of price, the Ibiza sits between the Fabia and Polo, and it offers lots of standard equipment for the money. Add those stylish looks, as well as nimble handling, and the car makes lots of sense in the showroom.
The Ibiza isn’t quite as practical as the best models in this class, largely thanks to the rakish roofline, while there are some question marks over its reliability record. But it’s still an appealing supermini choice.
The SEAT Ibiza shares its underpinnings with the Volkswagen Polo, so it carries over most of its mechanical parts from one of the best superminis currently on sale. As part of a recent facelift, the company has tweaked the suspension and dampers, while also carrying out big changes inside, bringing the car bang up to date.
What SEAT hasn’t done is change the exterior styling much, so where the Polo has gone for subtle, classy looks, the Ibiza still provides a dash of Latin flair – after all, it was designed by the former head of design at Lamborghini.
The hatchback is a rival to the likes of the Peugeot 208 and Ford Fiesta, and is available as a five-door or a three-door. The latter is a more stylish choice, and SEAT prefers to refer to it as a ‘sports coupe’, so it’s badged the Ibiza SC. Meanwhile, if you need more room than the five-door hatch provides, there’s also a spacious ST estate version.
SEAT offers six trim levels across the Ibiza range, kicking off with the basic E, which is a three-door SC with a single engine option. From there, buyers can move up through S A/C to mid-range SE spec, and the Vista and Connect versions.
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The entry-level SEAT Ibiza E does without features such as alloy wheels, but you do get a five-inch (black and white) touchscreen, a USB port and four-speaker stereo. Move up to an S A/C, and alloys remain on the options list, but air-conditioning and a DAB radio are welcome additions, while you also get steering wheel controls for the stereo and Bluetooth streaming.
Alloy wheels arrive with SE spec, as does an upgraded colour touchscreen system. Connect editions bring Internet connectivity, MirrorLink and Apple CarPlay among a feast of infotainment upgrades. The FR package adds sports suspension and a wealth of racy trim enhancements inside and out.
As well as head-turning looks and good value, the latest SEAT Ibiza comes with a new line-up of petrol and diesel engines sourced from the wider VW Group. A new batch of 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engines has been added, while the 1.4-litre diesels now claim even stronger efficiency.
Although it is so closely related to the Volkswagen Polo, the Ibiza is built at SEAT’s own factory in Martorell, near Barcelona.
Engines, performance and drive
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Some buyers will find the suspension a little harsh, but SEAT tweaked it as part of the update to the range in 2015 in a bid to take the edge off. Even so, buyers who prefer a softer ride may be better to opt for the Polo.
The driving position in the SEAT Ibiza is excellent, adding to the sense of involvement behind the wheel. And no matter which model you go for, there's not much body roll in corners, while the steering is quick. If only it provided a little more feedback.
The Ibiza comes with a five or six-speed manual gearbox, depending on the engine size. There’s also an automatic option, in the shape of the seven-speed twin-clutch DSG system sourced from Volkswagen.
The biggest change to the way the latest Ibiza feels on the road is what's under the bonnet. And the 94bhp EcoTSI turbo version of the new 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine offers the best compromise in terms of performance and economy.
The combination of the refined engine and softer suspension means the SEAT supermini covers ground with far more poise than it did before. The five-speed manual gearbox is short and snappy, while power from the engine builds progressively. With a useful 160Nm of torque, it delivers a 0-62mph time of 10.4 seconds and a 119mph top speed.
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Kicking off the petrol range is a 74bhp 1.0-litre, which claims 0-62mph in 14.3 seconds and a top speed of 107mph. Sporty FR models can be specced with a 109bhp version of the same engine, but here it delivers 200Nm of torque and is hooked up to the DSG gearbox. The result is 0-62mph in 9.3 seconds and a 122mph maximum.
Next up is the four-cylinder petrol 1.2-litre. It’s available with 89bhp or 109bhp in the FR model, and claims 0-62mph in 10.7 seconds or 9.1 seconds respectively, as well as top speeds of 114mph or 122mph.
If you want a petrol model that goes faster, you need the four-cylinder 1.4-litre EcoTSI FR. This offers 148bhp and 250Nm of torque, which is enough for a 7.6-second 0-62mph time and a 137mph top speed.
There’s only a single diesel engine in the Ibiza, but the 1.4-litre TDI is offered with 74bhp, 89bhp or 104bhp. The entry-level version is available in standard or Ecomotive guise, with the latter tuned for fuel economy rather than pace – it takes 13 seconds to cover 0-62mph. The most powerful TDI powers the fastest diesel Ibiza FR, delivers 250Nm of torque and promises 0-62mph in 9.9 seconds and a 119mph top speed.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
SEAT has a reputation for building good-value cars, and the Ibiza is no exception. It comes with a decent level of kit, and all the engines should prove easy on the wallet, too.
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The new 74bhp three-cylinder 1.4-litre TDI Ecomotive diesel is the most efficient model in the Ibiza range, as it claims 83.1mpg fuel economy, as well as CO2 emissions of 88g/km. The same engine is also available with 89bhp – albeit exclusively linked to a DSG automatic box in the FR version of the Ibiza ST estate – and 104bhp, and both versions promise decent fuel returns of 76mpg-plus. The higher-powered diesels’ respective 99g/km and 95g/km emissions mean free road tax, too.
With petrol power, the Ibiza isn’t as efficient, but fuel economy is still very good, and the new three-cylinder engines make the car far more enjoyable to drive. The 94bhp 1.0-litre EcoTSI claims 68.9mpg and is the only petrol Ibiza to be exempt from road tax, thanks to its 94g/km emissions.
The lesser 74bhp 1.0-litre 12V has official figures of 54.3mpg and 118g/km, while the 109bhp 1.0-litre EcoTSI DSG in the FR claims 64.2mpg and 102g/km.
The four-cylinder 1.2-litre TSI promises 57.6mpg in 89bhp guise and 54.3mpg with 109bhp. CO2 emissions mean both versions sit in VED band C, so owners will pay £30 a year for road tax.
The fastest 148bhp 1.4-litre EcoTSI petrol still claims decent 58.9mpg fuel economy, along with moderate 110g/km emissions, so it sits in VED band B (£20 a year).
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The more sprightly new three-cylinder engines mean premiums for an entry-level Ibiza are likely to be a little more expensive than they used to be. The 74bhp 1.0 S A/C petrol model now sits in insurance group eight, compared to group five for the old 1.2-litre it replaced in the range.
The only way is up from there, with a jump to groups 13 or 14 for the 74bhp diesel and 94bhp petrol Ibizas in SE spec. Sporty FR models range from group 17 to group 23 for the top 150bhp petrol version.
SEAT brand perception is getting better all the time, but residual values for the Ibiza range still have some room for improvement. They’re currently in the middle ground in the supermini market – so the Ibiza doesn’t hold on to its price as well as its Volkswagen Polo sister model, but is likely to resist depreciation better than less in-demand rivals from Kia or Hyundai.
Interior, design and technology
The SEAT Ibiza was already a sharp-looking supermini, so the revamp to the range carried out in 2015 – which brought LED daytime running lights and more personalisation options – is enough to keep it up to date. Thanks to its short overhangs, subtle body creases and angular headlamps, this is still one of the most stylish superminis around, despite its age.
Not surprisingly for a VW Group car, the SEAT Ibiza is well screwed together inside, with decent-quality plastics used throughout. But still, the interior was one of the areas SEAT focused on with the update.
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The layout is now modern and clean, with a new colour touchscreen replacing the previous model’s array of buttons and dials. The instrument display is also attractive and clear, with white-on-black dials, and the round vents help to give the cabin a sporty feel.
SEAT has a tradition of allowing customers to make a bold style statement through vivid colour and trim choices, and the latest Ibiza doesn’t disappoint. New Colour Packs bring ‘colour-coded’ shades such as purple, blue, red or grey to the radiator grille rim and wing mirror housings, as well as to the interior vent bezels and detailing on the steering wheel and gearlever. You can even specify twin-colour 16-inch or 17-inch alloy wheels.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
In the new Ibiza, SEAT has fitted the second generation of its Easy Connect infotainment set-up. With the MediaSystem plus, you can upgrade to MirrorLink and integrate your smartphone; the technology is compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
DAB radio is available, and you can play music via USB or Bluetooth connections. MediaSystem plus also adds voice control.
In addition, there’s the chance to upgrade to the SEAT Sound System; in the Ibiza, this brings six speakers, a bass box in the boot and an extra amplifier.
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Practicality, comfort and boot space
Despite the addition of two extra doors, there isn't much difference in terms of space between the three-door SEAT Ibiza SC and the standard five-door Ibiza hatch. But if you need more room, the Ibiza ST estate is a practical option that retains its sense of style.
Space up front for the driver and passenger is decent, but the Ibiza is not one of the class leaders on the practicality front – even the glovebox and door pockets seem a little on the cramped side.
The dimensions tell you a lot about why the SEAT Ibiza trails some rivals on interior space. Perhaps surprisingly, at 4,061mm it’s longer than its Skoda Fabia sister car. It’s a little narrower than the Fabia and the Hyundai i20, but it’s the height that really gives the game away. The sleek-looking SEAT has a roof height of 1,445mm, while the Hyundai and Skoda stand taller at 1,474mm and 1,467mm respectively.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
There’s a price to be paid for the Ibiza’s rakish roofline. Even in five-door guise, adults will find the back seats cramped, so if you really need to carry passengers any significant distance, you’ll be better off looking at cars like the Hyundai i20 or the Skoda Fabia.
The problem is exacerbated in the three-door SC because it’s pretty awkward to get into the back seats in the first place. Once you’re there, the main issue is the limited headroom, so this criticism will be less relevant to those with young families. Isofix child seat mountings are standard.
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With the rear seats in place, the SEAT Ibiza SC has a boot capacity of 284 litres, which is only marginally less than the 292 litres in the five-door. When you fold the seats, as both versions serve up the same 847-litre maximum space.
This is about average for the supermini class, and will be fine for day-to-day tasks. But if you want even more room, the Ibiza ST estate offers 430 litres of space with its rear bench in place, and 1,164 litres when it’s folded.
Reliability and Safety
The SEAT Ibiza scored the maximum five stars when it was crash tested by the experts at Euro NCAP in 2011, and it features an array of standard safety kit, including front and side airbags (six in total), as well as stability control.
Options include city brake assist and lane-keeping assist, and the recent facelift has also seen the introduction of a Tiredness Recognition System designed to spot the signs if drivers are nodding off at the wheel and sound an alarm. Another new addition is Multi-Collision Brake, which automatically slows the car following an impact serious enough to activate the airbag – it works by setting the ESP system to apply the brakes.
In our Driver Power 2015 satisfaction survey, SEAT can at least say it’s on an upward journey. It finished 15th out of 32 manufacturers, which is a definite step in the right direction from its 24th place in 2014 and disappointing 27th in 2013. There’s still room for improvement considering sister company Skoda came third in 2015, but by the same token Volkswagen slipped to 22nd.
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Judged on reliability alone, the SEAT brand fared less well – owners ranked the brand in 19th place, while Skoda came seventh and Volkswagen 27th. The latest Ibiza hasn’t been included in the results, as it was too new when the survey closed. But the improvements are no doubt down to the radical overhaul SEAT has carried out to its product line-up in recent years, and the supermini should be one of its stronger performers going forward.
SEAT’s standard three-year/60,000-mile factory warranty doesn’t look all that generous when compared with the seven-year/100,000-mile package offered on the Kia Rio or the five-year/unlimited mileage warranty that comes with the Hyundai i20. You can extend the Ibiza’s warranty to five years and 90,000 miles, but it will cost you.
SEAT still insists on 10,000-mile service intervals for the Ibiza, although a fixed-price maintenance package is available. This provides two or three years of cover for a fixed monthly charge of £19.99.