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Car group tests

SEAT Ibiza vs Peugeot 208 & VW Polo

SEAT’s revised its Ibiza to keep up with class rivals. Can it tempt buyers away from Peugeot and VW?

No new car class is as competitive as the supermini market. Virtually every manufacturer has one of these compact and cost-effective models on its books, so you need something special to stand out from the crowd.

Best superminis

The SEAT Ibiza has never lacked kerb appeal, but this refresh nearly eight years into the car’s life is overdue; there were some minor tweaks in 2012, yet they went nowhere near as far as this latest update.

With subtle styling changes, a more upmarket interior, new engines and revised suspension, the newcomer leaves no stone unturned in the pursuit of class honours.

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Best small cars

But it’s not the only model to have been given a nip and tuck. The Peugeot 208 has also gone under the knife and now features more kit and a host of personalisation options.

Also new is the turbocharged 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol, which we put to the test for the first time here.

Setting the standard for both new arrivals is our reigning champ, the VW Polo. Classy, refined, practical and cheap to run, the German car proves that you don’t have to compromise when downsizing.

So, which of our trio will prove to be the biggest hit on the high street?

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SEAT Ibiza review

Peugeot 208 review

Volkswagen Polo review

Click the links above to read individual reviews, and scroll down to see which supermini comes out on top...

Head-to-head

Infotainment

All of our contenders feature a touchscreen infotainment system. SEAT has dropped its flimsy dashtop cradle in favour of an intuitive in-dash unit. Like the Polo’s set-up, it boasts a proximity sensor that reveals functions as your hand moves nearer the screen. The 208’s seven-inch display is the biggest here, but it’s not as easy to use.

Customisation

Peugeot offers bold paint finishes, wheel colours, exterior decal packs and contrasting interior trim. The Ibiza’s £150 Blue pack adds blue wheels and mirror housings, while the £640 Velvet and Bismouth upgrades feature colour-coded rims, vent surrounds and leather stitching.

Engines

The SEAT and VW share the same 89bhp 1.2-litre four-cylinder TSI, but the Polo emits just 107g/km of CO2 compared to the Ibiza’s 119g/km figure. The Peugeot’s three-cylinder is also a 1.2-litre, yet produces 108bhp and emits less CO2, at 103g/km.

Verdict

1st place: VW Polo

It’s another deserving victory for the Polo. It’s not as boldy styled as its rivals here, but the VW oozes class. Not only does it feel more upmarket inside, it also delivers greater refinement and comfort. Yet it’s still agile and composed, while its TSI engine is a smooth and eager performer. Low running costs, excellent residuals and impressive practicality seal the deal.

2nd place: Peugeot 208

It’s not cheap to buy and the driving position won’t be to all tastes, but the revised 208 is a desirable small car choice. The package is boosted by the addition of the brand’s new turbocharged 1.2-litre engine, which delivers big car pace together with strong refinement. A roomy cabin, decent equipment list and low emissions only add to the appeal.

3rd place: SEAT Ibiza

A raft of tweaks inside and out can’t disguise the Ibiza’s advancing years. It’s still reasonably fun to drive and the 1.2-litre TSI is a refined performer, but the SEAT just lacks some of the latest must-have equipment of its supermini rivals. Factor in high CO2 emissions, a cabin that has too many low-rent materials and inconsistent handling`, and the Ibiza finishes last here.

Other options in this category

Mazda 2 1.5 SE-L Nav

Price: £14,395 Engine: 1.5-litre 4cyl, 89bhp

Mazda 2 - rear tracking

Mazda’s ‘right-sizing’ engine policy means there’s no turbo, but the 1.5-litre is keen and paired with a precise five-speed box. And while the 2 trails rivals on efficiency, it’s stylish and fun. Plus, its easy-to-use touchscreen nav is standard.

Ford Fiesta 1.0T Zetec 5dr

Price: £14,795 Engine: 1.0-litre 3cyl, 99bhp

Ford Fiesta - front tracking

The Fiesta is getting on a bit now, but the combination of a punchy turbo engine and sparkling handling means it still sets the standard for involvement. It’s not as well equipped as rivals and is expensive, yet Ford dealers will always haggle.

Key specs:

 VW Polo 1.2 TSI SEPeugeot 208 PureTech AllureSEAT ibiza 1.2 TSI Connect
On-the-road price/total as tested£14,410/£14,470£16,095/£17,510£14,620/£15,250
Residual value (after 3yrs/30,000)£7,306/50.7%£6,551/40.7%£6,228/42.6%
Depreciation£7,104£9,544£8,392
Annual tax liability std/higher rate£459/£919£481/£962£524/£1,049
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)£1,490/£2,483£1,397/£2,329£1,737/£2,896
Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost15/£418/B/£2015/£387/B/£2013/£334/C/£30
Servicing costs£288 (2yrs)£12.99 p/m (3yrs/35k)£480 (3yrs/30k)
    
Length/wheelbase3,972/2,470mm3,973/2,538mm4,061/2469mm
Height/width1,453/1,682mm1,460/1,739mm1,445/1,693mm
Engine4cyl in-line/1,197cc3cyl in-line/1,199cc4cyl in-line/1,197cc
Peak power89/4,800 bhp/rpm108/5,500 bhp/rpm89/4,400 bhp/rpm
Peak torque160/1,400 Nm/rpm205/1,500 Nm/rpm160/1,400 Nm/rpm
Transmission5-spd man/fwd5-spd man/fwd5-spd man/fwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel45 litres/foam50 litres/space saver45 litres/foam
Boot capacity (seats up/down)280/952 litres285/1,076 litres292/847 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight1,107/531/1,000kg1,060/552/1,150kg1,043/487/1,000kg
Turning circle10.6 metres10.4 metres10.0 metres
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery3yrs (60,000)/1yr3yrs (60,000)/1yr3yrs (60,000)/2yrs
Service intervals/UK dealersVariable/22312,500 miles (1yr)/300Variable/128
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.22nd/31st10th/5th15th/27th
NCAP: Adult/child/ped./assist/stars90/86/41/71/588/78/61/83/582/77/59/71/5
    
0-60/30-70mph9.9/10.2 seconds9.5/9.6 seconds10.8/11.9 seconds
30-50mph in 3rd/4th5.0/7.2 seconds4.3/6.6 seconds5.6/8.7 seconds
50-70mph in 5th10.9 seconds10.0 seconds15.2 seconds
Top speed/rpm at 70mph114mph/2,600rpm118mph/2,500rpm114mph/2,600rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph51.4/36.9/9.4m50.3/36.6/9.4m47.6/35.8/9.4m
Noise levels outside/idle/30/70mph62/50/58/64dB63/42/61/70dB63/42/61/70dB
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range40.7/9.0/403 miles43.4/9.5/477 miles34.9/7.7/345 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined47.1/70.6/60.1mpg50.4/74.3/62.8mpg44.1/70.6/57.6mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined10.4/15.5/13.2mpl11.1/16.3/13.8mpl9.7/15.5/12.7mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket160/107g/km/16%150/103g/km/15%187/116g/km/18%
    
Airbags/Isofix/parking sens/cameraFour/yes/£295/£240Six/yes/yes/£200Four/yes/£249/no
Auto gearbox/stability/cruise control£1,375/yes/£400^£1,100/yes/yesNo/yes/£130
Climate control/leather/heated seats£380/no/£360£290/£1,110/£1,110*No/no/no
Metallic paint/LED lights/keyless go£540/£900/no£495/no/no£530/no/no
Sat-nav/USB/DAB radio/Bluetooth£700/yes/yes/yes£450/yes/yes/yesYes/yes/£280/yes
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