SEAT Ibiza hatchback (2008 – ) expert review
Read the SEAT Ibiza hatchback (2008 - ) car review by Auto Trader's motoring experts, covering price, specification, running costs, practicality, safety and how it drives.
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Entry-level E trim comes with remote-locking, electric front windows and an MP3-compatible CD stereo with steering wheel controls, but you have to upgrade to S A/C trim for air-con. SE trim adds alloys, a leather steering wheel, cornering foglamps and body-coloured door handles and mirrors, while Toca trim adds a portable infotainment system that includes sat-nav and Bluetooth. FR trim comes with sportier design details inside and out, plus a sports suspension and cruise control. Cupra models look sportier still and also come with automatic lights and wipers.
Seat sees itself as a sporty brand, but the Ibiza’s styling isn’t exactly what you’d call ‘racy’. It is, nevertheless, a good-looking little car, with bold features at either end and some stylish creases along the flanks that give a contemporary look. The overall effect is one of sophistication rather than sportiness, but that’s no bad thing.
The interior has a very minimalistic feel, which makes the various controls very easy to find and use. All the buttons and dials are angled towards the driver and placed high up on the swooping dashboard, so that your attention isn’t diverted from the road for too long. All versions have driver’s seat height adjustment, plus two-way steering adjustment, so it’s easy to find a comfortable driving position. The build quality feels generally solid, but too many of the plastics have a hard, scratchy finish and some feel a little flimsy. The Ibiza doesn’t therefore feel anywhere near as posh as some superminis.
The entry-level engines are 1.2-litre, three-cylinder petrols, producing either 59bhp or 69bhp, but we’d avoid them because they’re noisy and underpowered. The 84bhp 1.4 is better on both counts, and still affordable to buy and run, so that’s our pick. The turbocharged 1.2 is even better, with good refinement and strong, flexible performance, but it costs too much to buy. The 178bhp 1.4 turbo in the Cupra gives hot hatch pace, but it’s short on thrills elsewhere and the standard semi-automatic gearbox is horribly jerky. The diesel range starts with a 74bhp 1.2 capable of up to 80.7mpg, but it’s very slow and feels very rough. The 103bhp 1.6 is smoother and perkier, while the 141bhp 2.0 (only available in pricey FR trim) gives exceptional pace.
The Ibiza is acceptable in this area, but no more than that. The rear seats are a little bit tight on both headroom and legroom, so while adults will fit in the back, they won’t want to stay there for too long. Getting into the rear of the three-door version is tricky, too, because the gap you climb through is very small. Similarly, the boot is a decent size, but nowhere near those of the class leaders for capacity.
The Ibiza scores well in Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index and Seat currently enjoys mid-table respectability in the manufacturer rankings. Repairs are pretty affordable, too.
Ride and handling
The Ibiza provides a good mix of abilities on the road. The ride is smooth most of the time, and it takes a very nasty bump to upset it. Enter a bend and you’ll enjoy tight body control and secure, predictable handling. That said, the Ibiza can’t match the most enjoyable cars in the class, because the steering feels rather remote. The sportier models in the range have a firmer suspension, designed to give better handling, but they’re no more fun and they’re not as comfortable. The Cupra hot hatch model is particularly disappointing on the thrills front.
The Ibiza isn’t cheap, but it is competitively and fairly priced. You’ll get a good slice off if you haggle with your dealer and resale values are pretty good, too. Most versions deliver decent fuel economy (only the 1.4 petrols fail to bust 50mpg), but the star performer for efficiency is the 1.2 TDI Ecomotive, which delivers almost 81mpg and CO2 emissions of just 92g/km for super-low tax bills. All diesel versions will better 60mpg.
The Seat Ibiza has been awarded the maximum five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests. There are only four airbags provided, but the side airbags extend upwards to cover the same area that a curtain airbag would. However, the base trims miss out on electronic stability control, which isn’t really good enough these days.
The Seat Ibiza can’t match the best superminis in a number of areas, but it doesn’t disgrace itself in any, so it’s a very capable little all-rounder. It’s affordable to buy and run, nice to drive and it has plenty of style. Worth a look.