SEAT has updated its Ibiza supermini with a mild facelift and a range of fresh engines, including an efficient 1.0 TSI three-cylinder unit. The experts at Car & Driving check it out.
Ten Second Review
SEAT's Ibiza, now in its fourth generation, has been a budget alternative to the Volkswagen Polo for over 20 years. With the introduction of fresh engines and various styling and equipment updates, the Ibiza now offers a more competitive proposition, especially in frugal 1.0 TSI petrol guise.
SEAT's Ibiza has always been quite an endearing little supermini, provided you could stretch to the more sophisticated engines fitted to plusher, more powerful models. If budget or circumstance restricted you to an entry-level variant, things were very different. Since the MK4 version of this car was first launched in 2008, the cheapest versions of this model have been saddled with the lowest-tech engineering offerings that the Volkswagen Group had to offer. But not now. Since the introduction of the refreshed version of this car, Ibiza buyers have had access to one of the most sophisticated engines the Volkswagen empire makes, a three cylinder 1.0 TSI petrol unit. It's an engine also used in Volkswagen's Polo and Audi's A1 and offers the kind of performance you'd expect from a much bigger powerplant.
The 1.0-litre TSI petrol engine is perfectly suited to the Ibiza. Its power begins to come in low down in the rev range and it pulls the hatchback strongly for such a compact unit. The three-cylinder engine produces either 95PS and 160Nm of torque. Or 110PS and 200Nm in the higher powered sportier FR model which must be ordered with DSG automatic transmission. For such a reasonably priced car, these figures are impressive. On the road, the numbers translate into very easy progress. The torque is provided at a lowly 1500rpm, meaning even at very low revs, the Ibiza 1.0 TSI pulls well. It doesn't have much of a top end though, so to maintain swift progress, it's better to change gear early and ride the swell of torque. Some of the changes SEAT has recently made to the Ibiza include altered spring/damper rates and speed sensitive electric power steering. The suspension tweaks do add a touch more compliance to the ride but in handling terms, this car can't match the dynamic responses of something like Ford's Fiesta in this segment. The speed sensitive electric steering is too light and makes it difficult to judge the grip you have available. We think most potential buyers will be quite satisfied though.
Design and Build
Inside this improved Ibiza, better quality materials, an upgraded infotainment system and a more contemporary climate control panel add an air of quality missing from previous cars. This model looks and feels like a more luxury product but still has the sportier image that SEAT pride themselves on. Though you'd be forgiven for thinking no changes have been made to this generation of Ibiza, the exterior styling has received very minor improvements. LED taillights and daytime running lights are standard, different styles of 16" and 17" alloy wheels have been introduced and two fresh paint options are available. 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. Other changes to the exterior of the car include revised lights, wheels and standard colours. 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.
Market and Model
As with other Ibiza variants, this one comes with a choice of three bodystyles: the three-door SC, the five-door hatch and the ST estate. Prices for the 95PS Eco1.0 TSI petrol variant we've been looking at here start from around £13,500. That means you've looking at a premium of around £1,000 over the older-tech 75PS 1.0 12v petrol unit that continues on in the range. If you want the 110PS version of this engine, you have to have it in sporty FR guise mated to a DSG automatic gearbox. Prices start from around £15,700. These figures might sound quite high but the reality is that against similarly equipped rivals such as the Ford Fiesta 1.0T EcoBoost, the Ibiza's value for money proposition looks strong. . Bringing a welcome dose of technology to the Ibiza is sure to help its showroom appeal. The 'MediaSystem plus' and sat nav system can be enhanced with the 'MirrorLink' function, which provides seamless smartphone integration into the car infotainment system. In other words, you see the icons from your Android phone on the infotainment screen in the car. If you're a scion of Steve Jobs (or, to put it another way, if you've got an iPhone), you'll need 'The Full Link' option that'll give you the 'Apple CarPlay' system that does much the same thing as MirrorLink. SEAT also debuts a Tiredness Recognition System with this Ibiza, plus their Multi-Collision Brake system.
Cost of Ownership
Being able to dip into the Volkswagen Group parts bin for the niftiest tech usually means a very low overall cost of ownership and that's certainly the case here. This entry-level 1.0-litre Eco TSI Ecomotive petrol model delivers a combined fuel economy of 68.9 mpg, which equates to a CO2 figure of 94g/km. Go for the 110PS version of this engine with its DSG auto gearbox and the figures fall to 64.2mpg and 102g/km. A start/stop system, which switches off the engine when the vehicle is at a standstill, is available across all current SEAT Ibizas.
If you are looking for a budget-priced supermini and can overlook the premium that comes with this 1.0 EcoTSI engine, the Ibiza now offers a level of quality, equipment and economy that rivals struggle to match for the money. Introducing this three-cylinder powerplant into the range provides multiple benefits. Its economy and emissions are significantly better than the 75PS 1.0-litre 12V unit it replaces and performance is stronger thanks to the turbocharger providing good low-down torque. This means even the lower-powered 95PS model is blessed with reasonable performance. Overall, the relatively affordable price and brilliant engine make the Ibiza a tough car to beat in this segment. Running costs are kept to a minimum without sacrificing performance and the improved cabin, extra equipment and various other tweaks keep it looking and feeling sharp.