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First drive: 2017 SEAT Ibiza. Image by SEAT.

First drive: 2017 SEAT Ibiza
SEAT's new Ibiza is one of the Spanish brand's most impressive cars ever.

   



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2017 SEAT Ibiza

4 4 4 4 4


Test Car Specifications

Model tested: SEAT Ibiza 1.0 TSI 115hp X-Cellence
Price: Ibiza starts at 13,130 on-the-road
Engine: 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Transmission: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door hatchback
CO2 emissions: 108g/km (VED Band F, 140 per annum)
Combined economy: 60.1mpg
Top speed: 120mph
0-62mph: 9.3 seconds
Power: 115hp at 5,000- to 5,500pm
Torque: 200Nm at 2,000- to 3,500rpm
Boot space: 355 litres
Euro NCAP rating: not yet tested

What's this?

This is the new Ibiza supermini and it's an especially crucial car for SEAT, as the Spanish brand at last seems to be turning the corner on its finances and starting to post profits that will keep the Volkswagen bean counters happy.

It's such a significant car for the brand (coming off the back of 33 years and 5.4 million sales of previous Ibiza models) that Volkswagen, after a little Spanish persuasion, gave the go-ahead for the Ibiza to use the latest-tech MQB-A0 platform, ahead of its debut on models such as the Audi A1, Skoda Fabia and even Volkswagen's own new Polo.

That puts the Ibiza at a crucial advantage in the small car market, at least for a few months, as it becomes the most up-to-date model you can buy, more or less. SEAT claims that its customers are, on average, 10 years younger than those of other brands and that these whipper-snappers are demanding sexy styling, sharp handling and smart connectivity.

All these the new Ibiza seems to provide in spades, although we'll get onto the handling bit in a minute. It's certainly a handsome little thing, with very strong overtones of the larger SEAT Leon (so much so that you could easily confuse the one from the other at a distance) with heavily contoured lines and small, tightly-packaged headlights and tail-lights. It's a touch derivative of SEAT's other recent work, but looks good in a strong red or dark metallic grey, especially with the optional, sporty, FR body kit.

The best bit may just be the interior. The MQB-A0 chassis has allowed SEAT to keep the new Ibiza to the same overall height and length as the old one, but it's pushed out the wheels by an extra 95mm and the overall width has gone up by 87mm. That makes for a very roomy cabin, with decent legroom in the back and no elbow-bashing between two adults sat in the front. The cabin looks and feels good too - of very high quality, with lots of parts taken from the Leon and the Ateca, which gives the Ibiza a much classier feel than the rather grim, grey plastic affair of the old one. The boot, at 355 litres, is also a good size, and it may just be that, thanks to the extra rear seat space and the decent boot, the Ibiza could potentially steal sales from the larger Leon. SEAT says that's not something it's worrying about, but we think it just might be an issue.

On the tech front, the Ibiza can be fully loaded with options such as an eight-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control that can take over driving in heavy traffic and (shortly) an all-digital instrument pack.

How does it drive?

The old SEAT Ibiza had sharp steering that made it reasonably good fun to drive, but it was beset by terrible refinement and a long motorway run in a basic model would induce a ringing in the ears that could last through dinner. The new Ibiza makes no such mistakes, and refinement is one of its strongest points. The 115hp turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine isn't the smoothest thing at low rpm, but it gets better the more revs you pile on and it always sounds enthusiastic. It is decently quiet at a motorway cruise too, but if you're looking for the ultimate in refinement, you might want to consider upgrading to the 150hp 1.5 TSI ECO, which will be available later in the year. That engine is almost uncannily smooth and makes the Ibiza an even better proposition for those seeking to trade down from a Leon.

If the Ibiza lacks the scalpel sharpness of the likes of the Ford Fiesta from behind the wheel, I think we can forgive it because it's actually really engaging to drive. The steering is fast and accurate, and while it's not the most informative helm around, it allowed us to settle the car into a very sweet rhythm during testing on the twisting, mountainous roads just outside Barcelona. Spanish tarmac is generally very good, so it's a little hard to judge the ride quality (a major flaw of the old Ibiza), but for now it feels a touch firm, but mostly good.

Overall, the Ibiza's reactions are from the top-drawer - even when provoked with a ham-fisted combination of brakes, steering and throttle, it remains unruffled and sure-footed, and surprisingly enjoyable. The six-speed manual gearbox is light, easy and accurate and the driving position, thanks to some excellent seats, is supportive and relaxing. There are cars in the class that can offer a little more outright entertainment, but the Ibiza's broad-spectrum dynamic performance is seriously impressive.

Verdict

SEAT's new Ibiza seems to be catching a wave of exceptional small cars at the moment, with the likes of the new Citroen C3 and Nissan Micra impressing us recently, and a new Ford Fiesta gearing up in the wings. The Ibiza lands with a seriously good package, which can be ordered from next month and which goes on sale here in July. Roomy, well-specified and very good to drive, it could, and should, be the car that copper-fastens the SEAT renaissance.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

5 5 5 5 5 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain


Neil Briscoe - 4 Apr 2017



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2017 SEAT Ibiza. Image by SEAT.2017 SEAT Ibiza. Image by SEAT.2017 SEAT Ibiza. Image by SEAT.2017 SEAT Ibiza. Image by SEAT.2017 SEAT Ibiza. Image by SEAT.

2017 SEAT Ibiza. Image by SEAT.2017 SEAT Ibiza. Image by SEAT.2017 SEAT Ibiza. Image by SEAT.2017 SEAT Ibiza. Image by SEAT.2017 SEAT Ibiza. Image by SEAT.








 

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