The SEAT Ibiza FR 1.0 EcoTSI 110 PS is what SEAT should stand for – light, agile, efficient, sporty, fun and good value.
It feels like SEAT has often been struggling to find its niche in the Volkswagen Group, with perceived overlap with other brands such as Skoda in terms product offerings and positioning. However for us the SEAT Ibiza FR 1.0 EcoTSI is a perfect example of the sort of car that SEAT should be selling.
It will come as no surprise that there is plenty of shared Volkswagen Group hardware under the Ibiza’s body. In the case of our test car, the engine is a 110 PS 1.0 EcoTSI, with a 7-speed DSG automatic transmission, all chanelled through front-wheel drive.
SEAT’s marketing people have talked lots over the years about ‘emotion’. Design is a subjective thing, but we’re not convinced that all SEATs have demonstrated emotional design on the outside or in the inside over recent times. We think the exterior of the SEAT Ibiza FR 1.0 EcoTSI is as good as any SEAT in the looks department. The interior is functional but we’re still not fans of the dashboard design; along with most SEATs we’ve driven, the interior feels more like a product of the Volkswagen Group accountants’ spreadsheet than of a creative car designer.
This is a SEAT that has some character in its driving experience. The 1-litre petrol engine is free-revving and responsive, and the DSG transmission generally works well. Leave it in auto and it’s easy to drive, but if you want more involvement you can be in control of changing gear yourself thanks to the steering wheel-mounted paddles. However like many Volkswagen Group models, the DSG transmissions can be slow to react from standstill. There are two driving modes, Comfort and Sport.
Because the Ibiza is light (with a kerbweight of 1140kg), the 1-litre engine provides more performance than you would imagine, the handling is fun, and even the ride is good. The steering is well-weighted and direct, and even the steering wheel itself adds to the sporty character.
The Ibiza is generally quiet in normal driving, although the cabin isn’t particularly well-insulated from noise at motorway speeds.
Overall the driving experience encapsulates what we believe you should expect from a SEAT – sporty and fun, and direct rather than over-engineered.
The SEAT Ibiza FR 1.0 EcoTSI 110 PS 7-speed DSG-auto (in contention for the one of the longest car names of the year) has an official combined economy figure of 64.2 mpg (equating to 102g/km CO2). Interestingly, our real-life economy was an anagram of this figure: 46.2mpg. Although this fell short of the NEDC figure, 46.2mpg isn’t bad for a car that also offers decent levels of fun. We achieved 45.4mpg at 70mph on the motorway and 44.9mpg in real life driving around town – with over 50mpg possible on A and B Roads. So you shouldn’t see less than 45mpg unless you drive it particularly hard.
The SEAT Ibiza FR 1.0 EcoTSI 110 PS 7-speed DSG-auto costs £16,640. Our test car had £1,505 worth of options (including a £500 Technology Pack consisting of Media System Plus, Navigation System and Full Link), bringing it to a total of £18,145. Generally we struggle to find decent new cars for less than £20,000, but the Ibiza FR 1.0 EcoTSI manages to tick this box.
You can get an Ibiza 3-door (known as the SC), a 5-door, or an Estate (known as the ST). There’s a wide range of trim levels, providing an Ibiza for a variety of price points: S A/C, SOL, SE, SE Technology, CONNECT, FR, FR Technology, FR Red Edition, FR Red Edition Technology, Cupra and Cupra Black.
In our view many SEAT models have struggled to achieve sufficient differentiation from other Volkswagen Group offerings, particularly Skoda. Both of these brands have been seen as offering better value propositions than Volkswagen, the key downside being that you don’t have a Volkswagen badge. For SEAT to find its niche, its vehicles need to encapsulate Spanish flair and fun, so offering a distinct proposition from Skoda. The SEAT Ibiza FR 1.0 EcoTSI 110 PS 7-speed DSG-auto succeeds in offering that niche brand: fun, good value (by offering simplicity as opposed to over-engineering), and of course with all cars that we test we want efficiency.
The one other thing we would like to see is more Spanish creative flair in the design. Although the exterior styling of this Ibiza is pleasing to the eye overall, the interior still feels as though it is a standard Volkswagen Group product that has been purposely made somewhat bland to position it at a quality level below a Polo. Designing an interior to be visually more creative would achieve differentiation from a Volkswagen, and would help to convey the SEAT brand value of emotion. But for the moment the SEAT Ibiza FR 1.0 EcoTSI 110 PS 7-speed DSG-auto still gets our thumbs up and is awarded a Green Car Guide rating of 9 out of 10.