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Driven: SEAT Ibiza 1.0 TSI. Image by SEAT.

Driven: SEAT Ibiza 1.0 TSI
A sharp suit and a sharp chassis means you’re looking at the supermini champ, right here.

   



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SEAT Ibiza 1.0 TSI

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Good points: The joie de vivre that has gone into this modest supermini is most surprising and welcome...

Not so good: ...but why couldn't some of it apply to the drab interior design?

Key Facts

Model tested: SEAT Ibiza SE 1.0 TSI 95 manual
Price: Ibiza range starts from £13,130; SE 1.0 TSI 95 from £14,595, car as tested £16,575
Engine: 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol
Transmission: front-wheel drive, five-speed manual
Body style: five-door hatchback
CO2 emissions: 106g/km (VED £140 annually)
Combined economy: 60.1mpg
Top speed: 113mph
0-62mph: 10.9 seconds
Power: 95hp at 5,000- to 5,500rpm
Torque: 175Nm at 2,000- to 3,500rpm

Our view:

For years, the SEAT Ibiza has been in and around the leading pack of superminis, offering typically youthful Spanish looks and a normally half-decent chassis for a highly competitive price. But never once has it felt like it could genuinely be considered the benchmark in its segment - until now, that is. With this MQB A0-based fifth-generation car, the feeling we've got after spending a week in the Ibiza's company is that the SEAT is now the one to beat in its class. And yes, we're including the newest Ford Fiesta and the mechanically similar Volkswagen Polo Mk6 in the reckoning here.

The secret is, the SEAT simply seems to blend a broader spread of attributes together in one beautifully stylish package than rivals in what is, to be fair, a very talented marketplace right now. It's not only the long-established heavyweights from Ford and VW which are worth looking at, as vehicles that were once complete and utter cannon fodder - like the Nissan Micra - are suddenly well worth consideration. Thus, the competition in this particular battleground is extremely fierce.

Nevertheless, it's the SEAT we'd recommend first and foremost, and what's so charming about the Ibiza's performance is that it's confident and assured in all departments, without being overtly showy about it. Chiefly, the main appeal here is the hatchback's appearance. Using its big brother Leon as a template is no bad idea at all and yet, cleverly, the Spanish firm's designers have managed to give the Ibiza just the right amount of aesthetic tweaks to lend it an identity of its own. Better still, its crisp and creased looks do not require bold colours and massive alloys to work. Our SE-spec test car was finished in sombre Monsoon Grey metallic (+£530) with a set of teensy 15-inch 'Enjoy' alloy wheels, and yet it still looked attractive and, crucially, premium.

Inside, it's our age-old lament with SEAT: the exteriors of the company's cars are edgy and exciting, but the dashboard designs sure as heck ain't. Now, we will at least temper that observation here by saying the optional eight-inch Media System Plus touchscreen in the dash (+£810, including Full Link incorporating Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink) does provide a nice focal point for the centre stack, and it's a beauty to use and look at, while the gunmetal fillet of trim it's housed within - it spreads the width of the dash - also generates a bit of visual interest. But, beyond that, we're back to lots of charcoal grey plastics and humdrum cloth. Further, between the analogue dials in the instrument cluster is the old black-and-white Driver Information System (DIS) that went out of vogue on a 2010 Polo, which only adds to the somewhat dour ambience.

Oh, don't get us wrong; it's built wonderfully well and everything is laid out in the most logical, intuitive fashion you could imagine. All the Ibiza's switchgear operates with high-quality solidity, the multifunction steering wheel and small round knob for the five-speed manual's lever are ergonomically superb, and aside from that Media System Plus (which is standard fit from SE Technology level and above, hence why SEAT UK expects a 1.0 TSI 95hp SE Tech to be the top seller in the UK; you get a five-inch display otherwise, monochrome on the S or colour on the SE), the only options fitted to our test car were DAB for £145, a Beats Sound System for £365 (very good, by the way) and the Driver Pack for £130, lobbing cruise control and driver tiredness recognition into the mix. Coupled to the SE's generous basic spec, and taking into account the adequately spacious cabin and good-sized boot out back (355 litres), we're prepared to say the SEAT's interior is more than acceptable. It's just we wish the interior design matched the exterior for adventurousness.

Never mind - get on the move in the Ibiza and it soon eradicates the 50 swathes of grey cockpit from your mind. What a storming little chassis MQB A0 is proving to be. It's given the Polo a new dynamic lease of life in its sixth incarnation and we reckon it's what makes the Arona the small crossover darling of the moment too.

Well, in the Ibiza, it appears to have already attained its zenith. Here is a supermini that excels in every driving department. Accurate and faithful steering, excellent body control, lovely compliance in the damping and a feeling of limberness brought on by its light kerbweight of 1,122kg (allowing for a 70kg driver on board) means the sweet-as-pie 1.0 TSI with 95hp feels more than capable of propelling the SEAT along with decent urge - there's a 115hp version of the same engine if you doubt our word - and the car certainly carries a surprising lick of pace through a series of corners, while engaging its driver in the process.

Yet the Ibiza was just at home pootling around town - admittedly, something any self-respecting supermini should be capable of - as it was bombing around back lanes, while on the motorway it felt as competent and agreeable as some of the very best larger hatchbacks going, never mind a city runaround. The ride quality is magnificent, noise suppression is first rate and a perfectly spaced set of gears results in fifth being more than flexible enough to haul the Ibiza out of 50mph zones and up to the national legal limit in short order; you get to hear that cheeky little three-cylinder engine note quite clearly in such situations, too, only adding to the SEAT's appeal.

The cherry on the cake in this regard was a 61.9mpg run down the M1, forming part of an overall economy return of 55.4mpg across 378.6 miles at an average 40mph. Honestly, zesty performance and fuel frugality is the holy grail for most hybrids, so for a 'mundane' little supermini with a turbo petrol motor to achieve this tricky balancing act is something truly remarkable.

In the big three-way battle for overall class honours, the Fiesta has lost its ultimate driving edge and the Polo just feels that touch heavier and stodgier than the Ibiza. Of course, both of these rivals have better interiors than the Ibiza's coal-shed cabin, but then the SEAT counters by being better value-for-money. And as it looks great, drives beautifully, is wonderfully refined and has practicality in spades, it's therefore easy to see the SEAT Ibiza Mk5 is the king when it comes to superminis.

Alternatives:

Ford Fiesta: For so long the dynamic benchmark of this class, the suspicion is that the all-new Fiesta has erred too far towards refinement over fun. It has a far better interior than the SEAT, though.

Nissan Micra: Transformed from a total also-ran into a contender, the edgy Micra looks good inside and out, and seems to have a nice chassis. However, some report the 0.9 engine to be a bit duff.

Volkswagen Polo: On the same chassis as the Ibiza and using the same engines, the Polo's cabin is a step up, yet the SEAT makes more of its MQB A0 underpinnings to reward its driver.


Matt Robinson - 20 Oct 2017



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2017 SEAT Ibiza TSI drive. Image by SEAT.2017 SEAT Ibiza TSI drive. Image by SEAT.2017 SEAT Ibiza TSI drive. Image by SEAT.2017 SEAT Ibiza TSI drive. Image by SEAT.2017 SEAT Ibiza TSI drive. Image by SEAT.

2017 SEAT Ibiza TSI drive. Image by SEAT.2017 SEAT Ibiza TSI drive. Image by SEAT.2017 SEAT Ibiza TSI drive. Image by SEAT.2017 SEAT Ibiza TSI drive. Image by SEAT.2017 SEAT Ibiza TSI drive. Image by SEAT.








 

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