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The fourth generation version of SEAT's Ibiza supermini has smartened up its act. Jonathan Crouch tries it.
The revised version of SEAT's fourth generation Ibiza supermini offers small car buyers a smarter set of more eco-conscious hi-tech talents. It'll need them if it's to distance itself from its Volkswagen and Skoda design stablemates and continue as a credible alternative in this tightly fought segment.
'Enjoyneering'. It's one of those marketing words of course, but it's also a rather apt description of what Spanish maker SEAT sets out to create when it brings us a new car. Something beautifully engineered: but with a bit of extra Latin sparkle. Something like this, the Iberian brand's much improved fourth generation Ibiza supermini. The 'Sociedad Espanola de Automoviles de Turismo' - or 'SEAT' as we better know it - is well used to injecting a little life into its cars. Only when Volkswagen took control of the brand in 1986 though, did its appeal start to spread to the rest of Europe, with the Ibiza supermini the sales spearhead and this MK4 model, launched in 2008, generally acknowledged as the company's most competitive proposition yet. A few years on though and with toughening small car competition, it was clear that a bit of a re-think might be needed to keep this car current. Perhaps a sharper look, a bit of extra running cost efficiency and an added touch of hi-tech would do the trick? All were duly delivered by this improved model, launched here in the Spring of 2012. Let's check it out.
What is it about this car? It ought to drive just like a comparable Volkswagen Polo or Skoda Fabia. The underpinnings, after all, are just the same. Yet somehow, it doesn't. Perhaps the sportier styling and more dynamic brand image that this SEAT has lead you to push it that little bit harder, revealing unexpected handling talent that a Fabia or a Polo could also offer if only given the chance. Maybe. But somehow I doubt it. But if I can't explain to you why an entry-level Ibiza like this one can offer a sportier drive than the class norm, I can at least elaborate on the reasons why the sportier variants further up the range really relish a good flogging. Go for a model with more than 100bhp and it'll also come with a clever XDS electronic differential lock which will help you get the power down more quickly out of tight corners, dialing out understeer and firing you from bend to bend. All TSI petrol models get this treatment, these including my favourite variant, the 105PS 1.2-litre unit which makes sixty in 9.8s on the way to nearly 120mph, yet still returns a highly impressive set of running cost figures. You can order it with a super-smooth DSG automatic gearbox - but you don't have to. Annoyingly, that's not the case if you go for the pokier 140 or 180PS 1.4TSI engines found in the sporty but strangely auto-only FR and Cupra hot hatch models. The 140PS unit is especially clever featuring ACT cylinder deactivation technology for greater efficiency. Other pokey XDS-equipped Ibizas include the 105PS 1.6-litre diesel and my pick as the sportiest car in the range, the desirable 143PS 2.0 TDI FR model which makes sixty in just 8.2s on the way to 130mph. That's the fast stuff dealt with. For this test though, we chose a more realistic Ibiza variant to drive, the 12v 70PS 1.2-litre petrol model that the majority of buyers select. Here, the performance figures are sober-suited, sixty from rest occupying around 14s on the way to a maximum of only just over 100mph. Virtually the same performance return you'd get from the frugal 75PS 1.2-litre TDI diesel. Both engines are a better bet than the aging 85PS 16v 1.4-litre petrol unit.
Whichever Ibiza bodystyle you choose - five-door hatch, ST estate or the sportier three-door SC, it won't at first glance appear to have changed very much over the original versions of this MK4 model. But then few changes were needed. The key tweaks have been made around the headlights and grille, this Ibiza wearing the 'eagle eye' lamps that are now part of the SEAT corporate look. Inside, though there's still quite a lot of black plastic on display and the focus remains on functionality, soft-touch finishes are now used in all the crucial areas and Ibiza regulars will notice the smarter steering wheel, the revised instrument graphics, the higher tone paint surfaces, the improved seat materials and, where fitted, the sleeker finish to the Climatronic climate control system. You now get a significantly larger 10.7-litre glove compartment too, now boasting space for a lot more than just the usual owners manual, mobile charger and bag of gummi bears. In the back, the three-door Ibiza SC's swooping roofline will make headroom an issue for taller folk, but five-door and ST estate models should seat two adults and/or three children quite comfortably. There's a 284-litre boot here, a total that rises to 292-litres in the five-door and 450-litres in the ST estate.
Expect to pay somewhere in the £10,000 to £17,000 bracket for this Ibiza, pricing that's pretty much par for the course in the supermini segment. There's a £500 premium to go from the three-door SC bodystyle to the five-door bodyshape. And from there, you've the further option of finding another £700 to get the extra carriage capacity of the ST estate. Whichever Ibiza model you choose - 60 or 70PS versions of the entry-level petrol 1.2-litre 12v engine, the 85PS 12v petrol 1.4, either of the impressively pokey 1.2 and 1.4-litre TSI petrol units or your selection between 1.2, 1.6 or 2.0-litre TDI diesels - you'll find a reasonable level of standard equipment included. All models get what today's supermini buyers would see as the basics - front electric windows, tinted glass, a four-speaker MP3-compatible CD stereo with AUX-in point and steering wheel controls, remote central locking, a 12v power socket and a height-adjustable driver's seat. Safety-wise, there are the usual twin front and side airbags, plus anti-lock brakes that flash the brake lights to warn following motorists if you're making an emergency stop. It's a pity though that SEAT doesn't see fit to install ESC stability control on entry-level models. Where you do get it though, at least the package includes both a Hill Hold Control system (to stop you drifting backwards on uphill junctions) and a Tyre Pressure Monitoring set-up.
Running cost-wise, the prime pick is undoubtedly the 1.2-litre diesel TDI engine with its clean Diesel Particulate Filter, offered both in standard form and, for a premium of around £5,000, in green-conscious Ecomotive guise. Go the Ecomotive route and, thanks to a Brake Energy Recovery feature and a Start/Stop system that cuts the engine when you don't need it, stuck in traffic or waiting at the lights, you're talking emissions of just 92g/km which tax-wise will mean your car won't be much more expensive to run than a push bike. At the same time, this variant barely sips fuel to achieve 80.7mpg on the combined cycle, considerably more frugal than much pricier competing eco-conscious supermini models like Ford's Fiesta ECOnetic and Vauxhall's Corsa ecoFLEX 95PS Start/Stop. And should a smug Toyota Prius hybrid driver pull up alongside you at the lights, then yes, this particular Ibiza would be more planet-friendly than one of those too. It's fair to point out that of course, the mainstream petrol variants that most Ibiza buyers will end up driving are nothing like that frugal. The 70PS 12v 1.2-litre petrol model for example, manages 52.3mpg on the combined cycle and puts out 125g/km of CO2 - pretty much par for the class. If you're tempted to stump up for a pokier petrol model, then it's worth remembering that the older 85PS petrol 1.4 has a far less impressive set of running costs stats than the more modern 105PS 1.2 TSI, a variant that returns a combined cycle figure of over 55mpg and CO2 emissions of under 120g/km. Cleverest of the bunch though is the 1.4 TSI ACT petrol engine. This returns 60.1mpg and emits just 109g/km.
Ibiza's important to Spain - and this one certainly is to SEAT, its best-seller in a Fiesta and Corsa-dominated market segment stuffed with tough rivals. It might not be one of the first names on your shortlist when you're shopping for a new supermini but SEAT are OK with that. As long as it's a name somewhere on your list, they seem confident that once you've tried it, you'll buy it. And after doing just that and mulling over the figures, I can see why they've got grounds for optimism. There's an inherent rightness about the product, a real attention to detail that comes through developing this model line over a quarter of a century. Aggressive pricing, sharp styling, a decent breadth of models and low running costs right across the board all weigh in its favour. There are, it's true, sharper-handling rivals. And there are those that are cheaper or better equipped. But this SEAT is there or thereabouts in all of the key areas. Plus dress it correctly and it can look very sharp indeed. Thanks to a well chosen package of improvements, we're looking here at a car that, like its brand, has matured nicely. One mindful of the fact that modernday Spaniards need to balance Latin spirit with sober sense. In this Ibiza, they've a small car that does exactly that.
The exterior design of a SEAT Ibiza is really striking since its facelift in late 2015 and since then popularity for these cars has soared due to its compact size, affordable prices and great range of safety and technology features.
It also helps that SEAT was bought out by Volkswagen Group who have implemented their own design and tech into the new range, which has vastly improved their appeal. This is due to VWs high profile and reputation towards efficiency, reliability and quality of build, now in SEATs has made them really good value for money.
The Ibiza is possibly one of the most improved models in the SEAT range, now having excellent safety credentials, great fuel economy and lots of features that come as standard such as Bluetooth connectivity, air conditioning and plenty of colour and design options.
The choice of Ibiza variants is huge so if you need specific features you'll be able to match the car very closely to your requirements as well as being able to pick and choose features to suit you. The Ibiza also has good residuals so your monthly rentals are likely to be a lot lower than others and then value for money becomes key.
If you want to make an enquiry on a SEAT Ibiza or would just like to ask a question please call our team on 01565 880880.
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