Used SEAT Ibiza (Mk4, 2008-2017) review

Combining Latin design flair with VW mechanicals, the Ibiza is a fun-to-drive and cost effective supermini

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

  • Distinctive styling
  • Good to drive
  • Low running costs
  • Firm ride
  • Not as robustly built as some
  • A little cramped in the back

Verdict

The term ‘brio’ might have been coined for the fourth generation SEAT Ibiza supermini, which in spite of sharing many parts with the more staid Volkswagen Polo and Skoda Fabia of the same era, manages to exude a more exuberant style.

The SEAT Ibiza Cupra hot hatch is the zingiest of the range, but you can pick an Ibiza 1.4 or Ibiza 1.2 petrol and still feel the brand’s Latin flair – in fact it filters all the way down to the more recent 1.0-litre three-cylinder derivatives, and even across to the most practical estate model, the SEAT Ibiza ST. In general, the Ibiza fails to stand out against supermini rivals of the same age but low prices and a lack of serious flaws means it can be a solid used buy.

Which one should I buy?

  • Best SEAT Ibiza for fuel economy: 1.4 TDI Ecomotive 
  • Best SEAT Ibiza for young drivers: 1.2 S
  • Best SEAT Ibiza for fun: 1.8 TSI Cupra

The five-door Ibiza Mk4 arrived in July 2008 in 1.2, 1.4 or 1.6-litre petrol forms; within four months, the three-door SC was on sale. Diesel 1.4 and 1.6-litre engines debuted in March 2009, four months before the 178bhp 1.4 TSI Ibiza Cupra hot hatch. The mechanically identical Bocanegra version, with its distinctive black nose, arrived in September 2009. The 1.2TDI Ecomotive appeared in July 2009, a year before the ultra-practical Ibiza ST, the Ibiza E Ecomotive, the zesty 1.2 TSI and the muscular 2.0 TDI FR.

A facelifted Ibiza reached showrooms in January 2012, with revised styling, a higher-quality interior and a 1.2 TSI Ecomotive petrol option. Another refresh in autumn 2015 brought new engines, overhauled suspension, and hi-tech options.

The manual and DSG transmissions are great to use, while the TSI and TDI engines feel punchy and offer decent economy; the regular 1.2 and 1.4 don’t sparkle as much. The entry-level S trim level is best avoided, as they don’t offer a lot of kit.

E spec models come with remote central locking and a six-speaker CD/tuner, but you have to move up to the SE to get electric front windows, a trip computer, split folding rear seats, 15-inch wheels, ESP and a height-adjustable passenger seat. The Sport features firmer suspension, sports seats and 16-inch alloys. Options worth having include climate control, Bluetooth, rear parking sensors and the excellent Portable System Live removable multimedia system.

What are the alternatives?

The Skoda Fabia and VW Polo share the Ibiza’s underpinnings, but there’s no estate version of the latter, while prices for an equivalent hatch are higher. One of the best all-rounders is the smart-looking Ford Fiesta, which is great fun to drive, well equipped and cheap to run, plus there’s a wide choice of engines and trims.

The Renault Clio and Peugeot 207 are also worth a look, as they’re affordable and good to drive. Vauxhall’s Corsa is also cheap to buy and run, plus it comes with lots of kit and offers a decent amount of cabin space. Less obvious (but excellent) alternatives include the Hyundai i20 and Kia Rio, along with the Honda Jazz, which offers superb reliability with unrivalled practicality for a supermini of this age.

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SEAT Ibiza vs Renault Clio vs Mazda 2 vs Vauxhall Corsa

The Ibiza entered choppy water for its road test debut in July 2008. We liked the SEAT’s value and driving dynamics enough to place it ahead of the Corsa, but it couldn’t match the fun-loving Mazda’s quality or the all-round appeal and refinement of the winning Renault. Read the full test...

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SEAT Ibiza SC Bocanegra vs MINI Cooper S vs Renault Clio RS200

We turned up the heat on the Ibiza in January 2010, when we put the fast flagship Bocanegra under the microscope. The SEAT was quick, composed and well-equipped, but it still finished last behind both the desirable and classy MINI, and the thrilling and sharp-handling Renault. Read the full test...

SEAT Ibiza vs Peugeot 208 vs VW Polo - header

SEAT Ibiza vs VW Polo vs Peugeot 208

When the facelifted Ibiza arrived in September 2015, it was drinking in the last chance saloon. Improved engines and tech boosted its appeal, but it felt its age next to the stylish and well-equipped Peugeot, while both had to give ground to the upmarket, roomy and refined Polo. Read the full test...

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