SEAT Ibiza 1.2 TSI

New small engine makes a big impression

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

Let’s not give SEAT too much credit – borrowing a very good engine from the VW Group parts warehouse and putting it into the Ibiza isn’t what you’d call rocket science. Even so, we’re pleased  it has done so, as the punchy character of this 1.2-litre turbo suits the sporty Ibiza supermini down to the ground. At the same time, it might also be economical enough to turn some diesel drivers back to unleaded. It’s certainly the most convincing model in the range.

Spanish giant SEAT’s supermini has downsized! This is the new Ibiza 1.2 TSI – and as the name suggests, it features a 1.2-litre turbo petrol engine that aims 
to combine small-capacity fuel returns with big-capacity punch. 

It certainly does the former, promising 55.4mpg combined. That’s 10.6mpg more than the 
naturally aspirated 1.6-litre 
petrol version it replaces.

Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the SEAT Ibiza

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Both offer 104bhp, but they are very different in character. The new unit is a step above the 1.6, and propels the Ibiza from 0-62mph in 9.8 seconds – seven tenths quicker. Torque output rises from 153Nm to 175Nm, and as it peaks at 
only 1,550rpm, this is a far more peppy, responsive engine – if never especially quick.

But the most intriguing 
thing about this four-cylinder unit is the characteristic growl 
it serves up. At times, this is unusually reminiscent of a three-cylinder engine, and 
it’s all the better for it. 

The 1.2 TSI powerplant is offered in SE and Sport trims, and with all three bodystyles (three-door SC, five-door 
hatchback and ST estate). It commands a premium of a 
few hundred pounds over equivalent 1.6-litre versions, but SEAT will argue that the inclusion of fuel-saving tech such as stop-start and Brake Energy Recovery – standard on versions with the five-speed manual box – justifies that. 

The additions aren’t offered with the £450 optional seven-speed DSG transmission, but the Ibiza still manages to return 53.3mpg and 124g/km. In fact, the twin-clutch set-up is the more impressive choice. While the manual box feels as if it needs an extra gear to keep engine noise down at high speed, the DSG rectifies that issue with its two extra cogs.

As it changes so smoothly and quickly, the optional box also shaves one tenth off the 0-62mph time – taking it to 
9.7 seconds. And in Sport mode, it will cling on to gears right up to the rev limiter, making the SEAT even more involving. 

But whichever you go for, the 1.2 TSI is a sweet spot in the Ibiza range, delivering just about enough power to exploit the car’s sporty chassis.

Rival: Fiesta 1.4 Zetec

Ford’s benchmark supermini trumps the Ibiza in the ride and handling departments, but can’t compete with its impressive new engine. In addition, the Fiesta is a more expensive choice.

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