SEAT Ibiza 1.2 TSI SE

Attractive, fuel-sipping petrol car puts up strong fight

Style and eco credentials come together on SEAT’s fashionable Ibiza. The supermini is a distinctive and good looking choice, and has the sportiest profile in this test – which is appropriate considering that our petrol model provides the most power of the trio. 
You can opt for an Ibiza Ecomotive with the same three-cylinder diesel as the Fabia, but the 1.2-litre petrol TSI model also gets stop-start and energy recovery systems, so it’s hardly off the pace in green terms. 
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It does without the Skoda’s aero tweaks and the Honda’s garish light clusters, and is all the better for it. Plus, inside, the dash is simple and less fussy than in the Jazz, yet has more character than the Fabia’s layout. 
Neat instrumentation and a comfortable driving position are among the qualities it shares with the Fabia, but despite using similar underpinnings, the SEAT offers less legroom in the back.
The 292-litre boot is the smallest of the trio, too, while the conventional split-fold rear seats provide none of the imaginative functionality that is a hallmark of the Honda.  
Still, buyers in need of more space can always opt for an Ibiza ST estate. It costs £800 more than the five-door, and has a 430-litre boot with the rear seats in place. 
Equipment is generous, with SE models getting electric windows and a trio of head restraints in the back. Up front, a height-adjustable driver’s seat, cruise control and column-mounted audio switches mean you won’t feel short-changed. 
Hit the road and the SEAT underlines its top-value status with the most polished dynamic performance. The smooth 1.2 TSI gets the ball rolling because it’s the keenest engine here. At the test track, it took the car from 0-60mph five seconds faster than the Fabia, in 10.2 seconds, while in-gear responses were livelier, so it inspires more confidence when overtaking slower traffic.
Key to the SEAT’s appeal is the way the unit matches the slick manual box. It suffers neither the Skoda’s gruff note nor the CVT Honda’s high-revving roar. And if you do want the ease of a self-
shifting transmission, the twin-clutch DSG model carries a mere £465 premium. That still makes it cheaper than the Jazz, although you’ll have to accept higher CO2 emissions – up from 119g/km 
in the manual to 124g/km. 
The handling also impresses. The Ibiza feels more nimble than its rivals, with a lower centre of gravity than the Honda. There’s less body roll as a result, plus more front end grip than the Skoda provides. Yet the major controls are still light enough to make city driving a breeze. 
The only downsides are the slightly firm ride, which also afflicts the other cars, and the fact there’s no sixth gear. This means the engine is working harder, at 2,600rpm, at 70mph. 
But the acid test came at the pumps – as the sporty SEAT was more fuel efficient than the Jazz. And while it emits the most CO2, it still sits in the same company car tax bracket as the Honda. So the positives of Ibiza ownership seem to outweigh the negatives.


Chart position: 1WHY: Turbocharging small petrol engines is all the rage for makers at the moment, and 1.2 TSI in the Ibiza is one of the best around...

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