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