SEAT's recently made over Ibiza is available in three body styles but the three-door models are the most affordable and, arguably, the most fun. Jonathan Crouch takes a closer look at the improved Ibiza SC range.
Ten Second Review
Wilfully the cheekiest and most transparently 'youth orientated' of the VW Group's supermini-sized offerings, the Ibiza was about due for a refresh to consolidate its position as SEAT's best-seller. The revised model gets slightly altered styling inside and out, a tweaked engine line-up and upgraded kit. It's a car that's key to SEAT future success, especially in China. And the three-door SC range is designed to hook them young. As they used to say about joining the army, dull it isn't.
Right from the very start, with its smart Giugiaro styled body and Porsche-developed 1.5-litre engine, the Ibiza has traded on an exuberant, youthful vitality - mercilessly massaged by the singularly on-message 'auto emocion' marketing campaign in more recent years. It's gone on to become one of the best-selling models in its segment across Europe, piling on 500,000 sales since 2008, when the fourth generation car was launched. Part of the appeal over that period has certainly been the Ibiza's stand-out styling with its riot of swage lines and playfully skewed proportioning which takes on an even feistier dynamic in three-door SC guise. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most recent revisions serve up detail changes but no radical departure from a successful script.
This is the second update of the Ibiza SC Mk4, a car originally launched in 2008 and then updated in 2012. Back in '08, it was the first to use the PQ25 chassis that now underpins the Audi A1 and the VW Polo, so it still has a classy set of underpinnings. This time round, SEAT has had a good look at the engine range. The entry-level 1.0-litre petrol unit is a three-cylinder 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 105PS. The 110PS TSI petrol version is 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.
Design and Build
Today's Ibiza SC doesn't look too different from the 2012 car, which in turn wasn't radically changed from Luc Donckerwolke's original. As before, the SC bodystyle gives you more of a three-door hatch than a coupe but it can at least be nmade to look a little more distinctive these days. 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. Inside, the air vent bezels and the detailing on the steering wheel and gear lever are part of the colour package, as are the coloured stripes set into the seat backrests. 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. 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
Prices haven't changed very much, so you're looking at a range that in three-door SC form starts at around £12,000 and offers a model-for-model saving over the five-door bodystyle of around £500. there's plenty of trim choice in a line-up that starts at 'E' and 'S' levels, then ranges up through 'SE' to 'Toca' and 'Connect' before culminating with the 'FR' and 'Cupra' sporting hot hatch models. SEAT's president and CEO has talked of "Leonizing" the product range and it's easy to see what he means. In some ways it's about rolling back the clock, and repositioning SEATs as the sporty, dynamic but value-packed cars they were ten or so years ago, before the manufacturer decided that every car in its range ought to look like a frumpy MPV. It's good to see the Spaniards back on the right track and the Ibiza is a car that we've overlooked for some time. 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. The four cylinder 1.4-litre Eco TSI petrol variant with 'ACT' active cylinder management manages a diesel-like 58.9 mpg on the combined cycle and both three and four-cylinder units fulfil all the latest EU6 emissions standards. The 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. Among the three-cylinder diesel engines, the 1.4-litre TDI with 105PS achieves fuel consumption of 78.5 mpg, which equates to an emissions figure of just 95g/km. A start/stop system, which switches off the engine when the vehicle is at a standstill, is available across all current SEAT Ibizas.
Essentially a Volkswagen Polo under the skin, the Ibiza is, deep down, a thoroughly sensible little car that's well engineered, solidly put together, nicely finished (very nicely after this recent refresh, thank you) and an eminently sane ownership proposition, especially when it comes to running costs. The admirable twist is that, because it's a SEAT, you get funky styling and a knock down price into the bargain, particularly as tested in three-door SC guise. The styling may not have changed dramatically - more aesthetic sleight of hand to fool the eye than fresh direction - but the full-fat tech quotient (including DSG auto transmission), efficient downsized engines and improved quality add up to exactly the kind of counterpoint you'd want to balance the Ibiza's 'fun loving' image. It's a compelling combination.