Can driving SEAT's Ibiza supermini bring a taste of sunny Spain to suburban England? June Neary gets behind the wheel.
Will It Suit Me?
'Oh, we're going to Ibiza' or so the song says. Well, I think I'm a bit long in the tooth to spend my holiday clubbing, so I opted for a test drive in SEAT's latest Ibiza instead.
This sunny supermini is said to reflect the party spirit of its namesake - though you have to take a long hard look at the Ibiza in the metal to be convinced of the fact. Having said that, this is as much a compact family car as it is a supermini, so I think it's a model that will suit buyers of any age. After all, you're never too old, or too young, to have fun.
The latest Ibiza incorporates a huge number of improvements. I won't list them all, but naturally, the visual tweaks are the most prominent. The car comes in a basic five-door bodystyle and has also been designed to work as a three-door 'Sports Coupe' which looks lower leaner and meaner. There's also an ST estate variant.
SEAT has belatedly jumped onto the personalisation bandwagon and now offers the Ibiza with 'Colour Packs'. 'Bismuth' (an elegant shade of brown) is among them, as is 'Velvet' (a rich purple). Each Colour Pack comes with a wide range of trim elements in the respective colour. On the outside, the rim of the radiator grille and the door mirror housings are finished in the chosen colour. One characteristic element is the two-colour 16- or 17 inch alloy wheels. There are a large number of possible combinations between the Ibiza's paint colour and the Colour Pack. Other changes to the exterior of the car include revised lights, wheels and standard colours.
Overall, this SEAT remains a good all-rounder, especially when it comes to the weekly trolley dash. As you'd expect, you won't have a problem parking the Ibiza. However, you might think you'd have bit of trouble cramming the weekly shop in the back. You'd be wrong - it's a piece of cake. Lift the tailgate and you'll find impressive reserves of space (before folding the rear seat). When it comes to rear passenger space, there's enough to comfortably accommodate two adults.
Behind the Wheel
Compare the new Ibiza's cabin to that of its predecessor and you'll find it's undergone a few changes. The air vent bezels and the detailing on the steering wheel and gear lever are part of a personalisable colour package, as are the coloured stripes set into the seat backrests. Plus the Easy Connect infotainment system has been updated with an interface designed to highlight the relationship between the driver and technology by creating character lines that add functionality. The interior plastics are now of a higher grade, helping bolster SEAT's growing reputation for quality. Overall, there's now more of an upmarket feel, giving the impression that you're in a much more expensive car.
On the move, this is still a fun steer, helped by changes to the engine range which have given the line-up a little more fizz. The entry-level 1.0-litre petrol unit is now a three-cylinder unit which produces 75PS in naturally aspirated format and 95PS or 110PS in 'Eco TSI' turbocharged guise. The four-cylinder 1.4 Eco TSI with active cylinder management (ACT) develops 150PS while its cylinder deactivation under partial load leads to impressive fuel economy. There's also a 1.4 TDI with 75PS and two other TDI powertrains, offering either 90 or 105PS.
The 110PS TSI petrol version and the 90PS TDI diesel variant are both available with a dual-clutch gearbox. There's now a speed sensitive electric steering system fitted while ride and handling has been improved, with springs, dampers and anti-roll bars being completely re-tuned. The optional SEAT Drive Profile offers adaptive damping with two modes - comfort or sports-oriented. The Comfort/Sport selector switch also influences the feeling of the power steering.
Value For Money
The range starts at around £10,000, so the Ibiza would certainly suit my pocket. The Ibiza's engine range holds few surprises for anyone familiar with this model's predecessor. Whichever model you choose, you'll find a reasonable level of standard equipment included. All variants 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.
It doesn't cost much more to get a model like the one I tried with air conditioning and an ascension up the trim hierarchy or a trip to the options list will net you all kinds of 'big car' features like Bi-Xenon headlamps with an Adaptive Front Lighting system, rear parking sensors, Bluetooth 'phone compatibility and the pre-installation on the dashboard of a docking point into which you can connect a sat nav. Or indeed perhaps this car's cleverest option - the innovative SEAT Easy Connect Infotainment System. Borrowed from the Mii citycar, this gives you a neat 5-inch colour touchscreen combining satellite navigation, Bluetooth 'phone compatibility, an on-board computer and audio playback via SD card - all in one convenient unit. And you can download updates and apps to increase its functionality still further.
Your Ibiza shouldn't cost much to run either. The entry-level 1.0-litre Eco TSI Ecomotive petrol model delivers a combined fuel economy of 68.9mpg, which equates to a CO2 figure of 94g/km. Among the three-cylinder diesel engines, the 1.4-litre TDI with 75PS achieves fuel consumption of 83.1mpg, which equates to an emissions figure of just 88g/km. Each of the other TDI powertrains, with 90 or 105PS, achieve 74.3mpg or more on the combined cycle. A start/stop system, which switches off the engine when the vehicle is at a standstill, is available across all current SEAT Ibizas.
Could I Live With One?
SEAT has certainly put a lot of effort into making its latest Ibiza a supermini class leader. Although my lifestyle would probably force me to choose something a little larger, this is my kind of car and given half a chance, I could definitely live with this smartly styled SEAT.