REVAMPED IBIZA BACK IN DRIVING SEAT
Resplendent after an upgrade this stylish, zippy and cheap Spanish supermini is pulling ahead of its rivals
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.
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.
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