We rated the previous SEAT Ibiza that we tested very highly, as it encapsulated what we believe SEAT should stand for: fun Spanish character in a good value package. Unfortunately there was little evidence of any fun Spanish character in the most recent Ibiza that we’ve tested.
If you’re looking for a supermini then there’s lots of choice from a wide range of manufacturers, and even from within the Volkswagen Group, there’s the Volkswagen Polo, Skoda Fabia and SEAT Ibiza. There’s also now an increasing range of compact SUVs to tempt car buyers. So presumably any offering in this segment needs a compelling unique selling point – does the SEAT Ibiza have this?
The new Ibiza has updated exterior styling, but we’re not sure that it represents aesthetic progress compared to the previous model. Our SE-spec test car interior was very dark and very basic. The model tested had a 3-cylinder, 1-litre turbo petrol engine and a 5-speed manual ‘box.
Good news includes the fact that the seat adjustment and the reach and height adjustment of the steering wheel means that most people will be able to get a decent driving position. Once underway, the Ibiza is easy to drive – although our test car had a manual box, which may not suit everyone.
The basics of ride, handling and steering are all there, although the brakes on our car were rather sharp. The engine is intended to be efficient, but there’s not much power, and as is typically the case with downsized 3-cylinder turbo units, turbo lag is present at low revs. This means that you’re tempted to over-rev the car to ensure it gets going promptly in situations such as pulling out into a gap in traffic.
The Ibiza has one of the latest Volkswagen Group touchscreens, which mostly works well, but it does have a very shiny surface, meaning that it’s easy for fingers to slip when trying to reach for buttons on the screen. There’s no reversing camera – or warning beeps when you’re parking.
The basic nature of the SE spec also means that you have to put keys in the ignition, which is a rarity with most new cars, and if you’re starting the car in the dark, there’s no light around the area of the ignition, so there can be lots of fumbling with the key. The heating controls are also very low down in the centre of the dashboard, they’re very small, and very badly lit at night, so they’re also difficult to operate. There were also wind up windows for children in the rear seats – a feature that many kids have never seen.
The official combined NEDC fuel economy figure for the SEAT Ibiza SE 1.0 TSI 95 PS 5-speed manual is 60.1 mpg – equating to 106 g/km CO2. At motorway speeds we managed to extract 58.5mpg, but around town the economy could easily drop to around 40mpg. After a week of living with the car, the real-life economy figure ended up as 49.7mpg.
The SEAT Ibiza SE 1.0 TSI 95 PS 5-speed manual costs £14,595. Options on our test car included the metallic grey paint (£530), DAB (£145), Beats Sound System (£365), Full Link including Media System Plus (£810), Driver Pack including cruise control (£130), bringing the total cost to £16,575. There are many other cars that you could buy for this money that offer more joy, especially if you considered nearly-new options.
We’ve said for many years that our view of the Volkswagen Group is that it appeared to be run by accountants with graphs featuring SEAT and Skoda in the bottom left, Volkswagen in the middle, with Audi above, and then Lamborghini and Bentley in the top right. A carefully conceived spreadsheet gave small increments of increasing joy to the Group’s products as they progressed from the bottom left to the top right of the graph – with prices increasing (and margins increasing at an even greater rate). In our view this culture, which was primarily focused on financial efficiency, was a contributing factor in Dieselgate, where there was huge pressure to get the cars through emissions tests. Since Dieselgate, Volkswagen has had to make seismic changes, and you have to give the company praise where it’s due: it’s made a huge commitment to electric vehicles. Volkswagen’s main EV offensive hasn’t started yet, but the products that are here today – including the Volkswagen e-Golf, the Golf GTE and the Passat GTE – are generally excellent. However, there still seems to be an issue with what SEAT and Skoda stand for. In our view, Skoda should be the sensible, value-for-money version of the Volkswagen product, and SEAT should be the fun (Spanish), value-for-money version of the Volkswagen product. The previous Ibiza FR that we tested looked like our vision was becoming a reality. However this latest Ibiza, despite the expected advances in areas such as refinement and technology, offers little joy for the driver in the spec of our test car. We’re hoping that SEAT’s strategy in making this Ibiza model bereft of flair is to encourage people to buy the new SEAT Arona compact SUV instead. However that leaves us with little choice in the meantime but to award the SEAT Ibiza, in the SE spec as tested, with a Green Car Guide rating of 6 out of 10. We look forward to experiencing more joy in the Arona.