Seat shines again as Ibiza re­vamp takes on best in su­per­mini sec­tor

Belfast Telegraph - NI Carfinder - - News - 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.

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 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 it was de­cided 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 ‘Me­di­asys­tem 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’ve got an iphone, you’ll need ‘ The Full Link’ op­tion that’ll give you the ‘Ap­ple Carplay’ sys­tem that does the same as Mir­ror­link. Seat also de­buts a Tired­ness Recog­ni­tion Sys­tem, plus their Multi- Col­li­sion Brake sys­tem.

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 all the lat­est 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 emis­sions fig­ure of just 88g/km. In sum­mary it’s hard for a 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 lit­tle has changed.

If, on the other hand, as Seat has done here, you con­cen­trate most of your ef­forts in 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, be­cause the Ibiza de­serves a de­cent crack.

In cer­tain re­gards, this car truly 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...

Seat Ibiza

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