SEAT Ibiza review

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The fifth generation of SEAT's Ibiza supermini has upped its game in this revised form, with smarter looks, more equipment and extra technology. Jonathan Crouch reports.

Ten Second Review

This improved version of the fifth generation SEAT Ibiza supermini offers small car buyers a smarter set of more media-savvy talents. It'll need them if it's to distance itself from its Volkswagen and Skoda design stablemates and continue as a credible alternative in this tightly fought segment.

Background

'Enjoyneering'. It's one of those marketing words of course, but it's also a rather apt description of what Spanish maker SEAT sets out to create when it brings us a small car. Something beautifully engineered: but with a bit of extra Latin sparkle. Something like this, the Iberian brand's much improved fifth generation Ibiza supermini? Perhaps.

The 'beautifully engineered' bit isn't difficult to believe. The 'Sociedad Espanola de Automoviles de Turismo' - or 'SEAT' as we better know it - is well used to injecting a little life into the mainstream market. In this case, the Spanish maker's position within the Volkswagen Group means that this car was the first of the conglomerate's supermini models to get the empire's sophisticated MQB A0 small car platform, something that enables weight savings and the addition of extra electronic features borrowed from larger models. Plus SEAT reckons that with this revised MK5 model, buyers will really notice the extra media options, the smarter interior and the additional safety provision incorporated this time round. Will it all be enough to keep this car current against more recent rivals? Let's find out.

Driving Experience

On the move in this Ibiza, SEAT hopes one of the first things you'll notice is this model's 'big car' feel, something particularly evident in its rigid, rattle-free roadgoing demeanour. In part, this comes courtesy of the stiff MQB A0 chassis. That in turn means flat cornering and benefits ride quality that's un-bettered in this class. We're slightly less sure about SEAT's decision to extend that same 'big car' feel to the steering which, as a consequence, is a tough lighter than some really enthusiastic drivers might like.

The good news though, is that you still get enough feedback through your fingertips to keep you well informed on how well the front tyres are gripping on faster, twistier roads. Bottom line? If you'd ideally want a supermini with the spaciousness of a Skoda Fabia or a Honda Jazz and would like the sharp handling of a Fiesta and the supple ride of a Volkswagen Polo, you'll get closer to it with this SEAT than with any other class contender we can think of.

SEAT has had a good look at the engine range. It's nearly all petrol-powered, things kicking off with the old 80PS 1.0 MPI unit at the foot of the range. Try your hardest to ignore this aging unit and graduate instead to the far-preferrable (and more economic) 1.0-litre TSI three-cylinder turbo powerplant which produces either 95 or 110PS. The feebler MPI engine gets a five-speed manual gearbox, with a six-speeder used further up the range, where there's also the option of 7-speed DSG auto transmission on the 1.0 TSI 110PS FR model. Diesels have now been dropped.

Design and Build

There aren't many exterior changes to this revised version of the MK5 model, but you might spot the now-standard full-LED headlights and the revised alloy wheel designs.It's still a five-door-only design with short front and rear overhangs and at the front of the car, triangular full-LED headlights dominate. Under the skin, as before, the car is based on the Volkswagen Group's MQB A0 platform, shared with the VW Polo.

Inside, the update changes are a little easier to spot, with a new floating central infotainment system with bigger screen sizes - either 8.25 or 9.2-inches, depending on spec. Top variants now get a 10.25-inch Digital Cockpit instrument binnacle screen too. With all the monitors, there's now a built-in e-SIM and SEAT's 'Hola Hola' voice control system. And of course the brand's usual 'Full Link; smartphone-mirroring set-up, which accommodates 'Apple CarPlay' and 'Android Auto'. Other update changes include a softer-touch dashboard, as well as a more ergonomic multifunction Nappa leather steering wheel. The driver and passenger air vents have been redesigned and the surrounds now illuminate. Otherwise, things are much as before. That MQB A0 platform allows for a longer-than-average wheelbase, which translates into decent rear seat space and a decently-sized 355-litre boot.

Market and Model

Prices haven't changed very much, so expect a price span in the £17,000 to £23,000 bracket, which means that, as before, you're getting Volkswagen Polo technology for a significant saving. Only five-door models are on offer and the trim lines run from 'SE' to 'SE Technology', 'FR', 'FR Sport', 'XCELLENCE' and 'XCELLENCE Lux'.

As for equipment, well the full-LED headlights are a highlight. Plus most models get 'Apple CarPlay' and 'Android Auto'/'MirrorLink' 'phone connectivity, plus buyers can specify a premium 8-inch touchscreen and a wireless charger with a GSM amplifier. In addition, there's the chance to add in a thumping 300-watt 'Beats' Audio system with 7 speakers and an 8-channel amplifier. Other features buyers might want include keyless entry with a 'heartbeat' engine start button, front and rear parking sensors and a higher quality rear view camera. 'FR' and 'XCELLENCE' variants get colour-personalisable LED interior lighting too.

Safety-wise, SEAT has added various new features to this revised model, though you'll need plush trim or an extra spend for most of them. There's the brand's latest 'Travel Assist' semi-autonomous driving system, which allows you to let the car do most of the steering, throttle and braking work on the highway and in traffic queues. There's also now 'Lane Assist', 'Side Assist' and 'High Beam Assist'. As before, the Ibiza can also feature 'Front Assist' autonomous braking and Adaptive Cruise Control.

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 base 1.0 MPI variant manages up to 53.3mpg on the combined WLTP cycle and 121g/km of WLTP-rated CO2. The 1.0-litre TSI 95PS petrol models are capable of up to 54.3mpg and a CO2 figure of as little as 117g/km - so who needs a diesel? The 1.0 TSI 110PS auto petrol model manages up to 47.9mpg and up to 133g/km. A start/stop system, which switches off the engine when the vehicle is at a standstill, is on all models.

What else? Well there's SEAT's usual three year/60,000 mile warranty. That's unexceptional when rivals like Toyota and Hyundai offer five years of cover as standard and Kia offers up to seven years. However, the SEAT deal is extendable, so you might be able to negotiate on that. And it includes two years of Europe-wide roadside assistance.

Summary

Ibiza's important to Spain - and this one certainly is to SEAT. This car is, in short, something of an Iberian success story. And one that looks set to continue for some time yet. Extra infotainment provision, a slightly smarter look, more equipment and some useful extra safety features have nicely embellished the Ibiza's proposition, to the point where it's now a supermini you simply can't ignore. Unlike many other affordable small cars of this kind, it's fun to drive. And unlike other fun to drive contenders in this class, it's relatively spacious inside. Plus this car is safe, comfortable and well connected.

In summary, we're looking here at a car that, like its brand, has matured nicely. One mindful of the fact that modernday Spaniards need to balance Latin spirit with sober sense. In this Ibiza, they've a small car that does exactly that.

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