Model/Engine size: 1.4 TDI SC
Fuel economy combined: 76.4 mpg
Green-Car-Guide rating: 7/10
The SEAT Ibiza Ecomotive is one of the most economical cars you can buy, and it’s also one of the most affordable, so what are the downsides?
The Ibiza Ecomotive is clothed in SEAT’s latest body, so it looks modern and stylish from the outside. It’s also theoretically capable of an impressive 76.4 mpg on the official combined cycle, together with emissions of only 98 g/km CO2. This is a slight improvement over the previous model which managed 74.3 mpg along with emissions of 99 g/km. It means you pay no road tax and it costs just £12,790.
Although it’s closely related to the VW Polo, and shares its next generation chassis (along with the Audi A1), SEAT has done its own thing to the suspension to make it handle like a SEAT rather than a VW so it’s more entertaining to drive than you might imagine.
However there are a number of features that you should be aware of, the first of which is that the 1.4 litre turbodiesel engine is carried over from the previous generation model. This means that it is amazingly economical, and once up to constant speed, it’s OK to live with. But if you’ve not driven an Ibiza Ecomotive before, you may be shocked at the noise it makes when it starts up.
It’s a 3-cylinder diesel unit, which first appeared in the Audi A2 quite a few years ago. The engine still behaves like it did then and this is not helped by the lack of soundproofing in the SEAT in order to make it lighter and therefore more economical. This makes the Ibiza sound like an old tractor at tickover and when accelerating – albeit a slightly racy tractor. Although it’s a shock to the system to start with, you get used to it – to a point.
Another thing that SEAT has done to squeeze out maximum miles per gallon is fiddle with the gear ratios. Third, fourth and fifth have all been lengthened. This means that in fifth gear at anything but motorway speeds, you run the risk of stalling the car, as you’ll probably only be doing around 1000 revs.
The engine response is non-existent at low revs until the turbo spins up to around 2000 revs, and this is compounded by the long-gearing. It’s virtually impossible to pull out of a junction in second gear without the car dying, and constant gear changes through the five speed ‘box are required to make reasonable progress.
So it’s certainly not the most refined of drivetrains. However, having said all that, in an era of hybrids and CVT transmissions when cars are becoming more and more devoid of direct feedback between car, road and driver, the Ibiza has a feeling reminiscent of a 1970’s rally car. In a primitive way, it’s actually quite fun to press on through the back roads, as long as you can find the right rev range to get the best of the torque from the engine.
However you do need to be aware that the tyres are skinny and pumped up to high pressure, so ultimately there will be a finite limit of grip.
On long journeys with us, the Ibiza averaged 60 mpg. Yes, this is short of the official 76.4 mpg combined figure, but still impressive for real-life driving.
Other issues? Out of all the cars we’ve ever tested that have had Isofix mountings for a child seat, the Ibiza wins the award for the most difficult car to fit an Isofix child seat into, as the mountings are actually behind the seat fabric – genius. Also, although the rear seat back folds down, it’s just in one piece, so it’s impossible to have a child in the rear and at the same time to fold down half of the seat to fit in a baby buggy.
The three-door ‘SC’ makes it even harder to get in and out of the rear, so the five-door version wins from a practicality point of view.
Although the exterior looks modern, the dashboard looks incredibly cheap and dull. Equipment is sparse, due to being based on the entry-level Ibiza in order to save weight. Thankfully it does come with a Diesel Particulate Filter, but the Ecomotive still comes with steel wheels and wheel trims, which makes it look very unappealing compared to an Ibiza with alloy wheels.
As it’s part of the VW Group, you should feel reassured about the build quality and reliability.
The SEAT Ibiza Ecomotive is economical and cheap to buy, so ensuring that the overall package has low running costs. It’s fun to drive in a primitive kind of way, with a decent chassis and the engine is enthusiastic as long as you’re in the right rev range.
However it has drawbacks. It’s noisy, there are flat spots in the rev range, the interior is low rent, and it’s blighted with eco-wheels. All these drawbacks may have been acceptable a few years ago, but there are now lots of cars out there that are green and without such sacrifices.
If you want a cheap new economical car, and if you’re slightly deaf, then consider the Ibiza. If you want something that has more of a fun driving experience and a fun interior design, without the drawbacks, then consider a Fiesta ECOnetic or a Mini Cooper D . But hang on, surely both the Fiesta and Mini are at least £3000 more expensive? Correct, so why not consider second-hand versions?
Of course the Ibiza’s close family member, the new Volkswagen Polo BlueMotion, is the real rival, with its all-new engine, regenerative braking and stop and start technology, it’s even more economical, and it will certainly be more refined. However it costs around £2,000 more, so the Ibiza remains the cheap and cheerful choice.
Fuel economy extra urban: 94.2 mpg
Fuel economy urban: 57.7 mpg
CO2 emissions: 98 g/km
Green rating: VED band A – £0
Weight: 1065 Kg
Company car tax liability (2009/10): 13%
Price: £12,790 (From £9,470 to £17,245)
Insurance group: 3
Power: 80 bhp
Max speed: 110 mph
0-62mph: 12.7 seconds