RE­VAMPED IBIZA BACK IN DRIV­ING SEAT

Re­splen­dent af­ter an upgrade this stylish, zippy and cheap Span­ish su­per­mini is pulling ahead of its ri­vals

Belfast Telegraph - NI Carfinder - - Front Page - JONATHAN CROUCH

SU­PER­MINI-SIZED cars are hot stuff at the mo­ment. The days when big­ger fam­ily hatches like the Ford Fo­cus and the Vaux­hall Astra topped the sales charts are now well and truly over. We’ve down­sized en masse, drawn to the likes of the Fi­esta and the Corsa. But not, it seems, to the Ibiza, a car that un­til now has been rou­tinely out­sold by its big­ger sib­ling, the Leon.

At first glance, it’s dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand ex­actly why that is. Af­ter all, this lit­tle Span­ish con­tender cer­tainly looks dis­tinc­tive enough, is priced keenly and goes well.

It should sell bet­ter than it does — and maybe it now will thanks to a pack­age of far-reach­ing changes that aim to im­prove its su­per­mini seg­ment propo­si­tion. But will all of this be enough to pitch this car above more ob­vi­ous ri­vals in this class? That’s a tougher one to call.

Driv­ing Ex­pe­ri­ence

This is the se­cond up­date of the Ibiza Mk4, a car orig­i­nally launched in 2008 and then up­dated in 2012. Back in 2008, 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 75PS and two other TDI pow­er­trains, of­fer­ing ei­ther 90 or 105PS.

The 110PS TSI petrol ver­sion and the 90PS TDI diesel variant are both 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 sys­tem 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 doesn’t look too dif­fer­ent from the 2012 car, which in turn wasn’t rad­i­cally changed from Luc Don­ck­er­wolke’s orig­i­nal. As be­fore, it’s avail­able in three body styles — five-door, ‘SC’ three-door and ‘ST’ compact es­tate. 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, whether you’re look­ing at three-door, five-door or es­tate mod­els. Most mod­els are sold in the £1,500 to £15,000 bracket, so, as be­fore, you’re get­ting Volk­swa­gen Polo tech­nol­ogy for a sig­nif­i­cant sav­ing.

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 10 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 ‘Me­dia sys­tem 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 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 75PS achieves fuel con­sump­tion of 83.1 mpg, which equates to an emis- sions fig­ure of just 88g/km. Each of the other TDI pow­er­trains, with 90 or 105PS, achieve 74.3 mpg or more on the com­bined cy­cle.

A start/stop sys­tem, which switches off the en­gine when the ve­hi­cle is at a stand­still, is avail­able across all cur­rent SEAT Ibizas.

Sum­mary

It’s hard for a car man­u­fac­turer to get a mid-life makeover right. If all the bud­get goes on im­proved styling, lots of peo­ple take no­tice, then try the car and find out that es­sen­tially, lit­tle has changed.

If, on the other hand, as SEAT has done here, you con­cen­trate most of your ef­forts on cre­at­ing a bet­ter, more ef­fi­cient, prod­uct with­out too much un­nec­es­sary tin­sel, then there’s a dan­ger that your work will get over­looked in an in­creas­ingly com­pet­i­tive mar­ket, some­thing that could cer­tainly hap­pen with this much im­proved MK4 model Ibiza.

Though its un­der­body changes are sweep­ing, so mod­est is this car’s ex­te­rior up­date that it’s likely that few will pay too much heed.

That’s a shame, as the Ibiza de­serves a de­cent crack. In cer­tain re­gards, this car does wind the clock back, to a point when buy­ing Volk­swa­gen-build qual­ity on the cheap in the form of a SEAT was al­most a bit of an in­side se­cret.

When peo­ple caught on to that trick and Volk­swa­gen saw SEAT erod­ing its mar­gins, it made a more con­certed at­tempt to put some dis­tance be­tween the per­ceived qual­ity of the two mar­ques and the Span­ish brand suf­fered for years as a re­sult.

Now SEAT’S back on form and, on the quiet, this Ibiza might just be one of the clever­est su­per­mini choices you could make. It does, af­ter all, now have some great en­gines and its value propo­si­tion looks strong. Let’s keep it be­tween our­selves though ...

Mid-life makeover: the new SEAT Ibiza is back on form

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