Seat Ibiza Hatchback (2015- ) review
The Seat Ibiza is a stylish alternative to the Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa and Renault Clio, with a range of efficient small petrol engines, and technology from the larger Leon.
- Peppy petrol turbo engines
- Easy to drive
- Smart looks
- Intrusive road noise
- Rivals are bigger inside
- Some slightly drab interior panels
At a glance
Seat sees itself as a sporty brand, and by and large, the Ibiza lives up to that billing. However, the way your Ibiza looks will largely depend on which trim you choose. The most basic version has tiny 14-inch steel wheels with plastic protectors, black plastic door handles and mirrors, and body coloured bumpers. Move up to the SE version, though, and you'll get LED lighting front and back, fog lights, gloss black pillars and alloy wheels. The popular FR spec is overtly sporty, and a good-looking little car, with a bold set of angular front and rear bumpers, twin exhausts, and 16-inch alloys in a variety of colours.
Today's Ibiza is like a shrunken Leon inside and, as long as you go for the SE trim or above, you'll get the same classy leather steering wheel, gloss black gearstick and 5.0-inch touch-screen as its bigger brother. There's a swathe of soft-touch plastic covering most of the dash, which helps lift the interior, but there are still some harder, cheaper-looking materials lower down. The pedals are nicely aligned, and it's easy to get comfortable quickly, regardless of your shape or size. Choose a version with climate control or 6.5-inch touch-screen, and the Ibiza can go toe-to-toe with upmarket rivals, but once again basic versions feel a little behind the times, with a PVC steering wheel, a very small black and white display screen, and no DAB or Bluetooth.
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, especially when compared with rivals such as the Hyundai i20 and Honda Jazz; so, while adults will fit in the back, they won’t want to stay there for long. Climbing into the rear of the three-door 'SC' version is tricky, too, because the gap you climb through is very small. Similarly, the boot is a decent size and shape, with 292 litres of space, but several rivals offer considerably more cargo room, and greater versatility. The same is largely true of the Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa, though, so unless you really need the extra room, don't be too put off.
Ride and handling
The Ibiza provides a reasonable mix of abilities on the road. The suspension is relatively adept at ironing out small imperfections, meaning a comfortable ride most of the time, but sharper bumps can send a nasty jolt through the cabin, and can unsettle the car mid-corner. Enter a bend, and you’ll enjoy neat body control, plenty of grip and secure, predictable handling. That said, the Ibiza can’t match the most enjoyable cars in the class, and falls short of the high benchmark set by the Ford Fiesta. The sportier models in the range have a firmer suspension set-up, designed to give better handling, but in truth they’re no more fun and they’re also not quite as comfortable on the UK's notoriously pitted roads. On the plus side, though, the steering weighs up naturally, and feels pretty accurate.
There are lots of engines to choose from in the Ibiza range, but which one you can have depends a lot on which trim you choose, because availability of some engines is very limited. The entry-level engine is a 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol with 74bhp, and even in a car this small it feels pretty pedestrian. It's fine in the Seat Mii city car, but needs working really hard in the Ibiza to make meaningful progress, and gets noisy and strained at higher revs. The 1.2 four-cylinder turbo with 89bhp is much better. It's considerably more refined, pulls hard in gear and is really flexible, making it relaxing to drive both around town and on faster roads. There’s a 108bhp version as well, that provides a little extra fizz. The three-cylinder turbocharged petrol, badged 'Eco TSI', is available with very similar outputs to the 1.2s - 94bhp and 108bhp – and while these units are a little less refined, they feel just as perky and are more efficient. We haven’t tried the 148bhp 1.4-litre petrol, but the 189bhp 1.8 in the Cupra hot hatch provides sizzling pace. The diesel range is composed of three 1.4-litre units with either 74bhp, 94bhp or 103bhp. The economy-minded gearing of the lower powered unit can hamper your progress, and it sends quite a lot of vibration through the controls. We’ve not tried the mid-ranger – only available with a twin-clutch automatic gearbox – but while the higher powered version is also a little rough, but at least you can feel the extra urge. Most Ibizas come with a five- or six-speed manual gearbox, but there is a slick, seven-speed twin-clutch automatic available with the more powerful versions. It's pricey, but also one of the best automatic gearboxes we've tried in a supermini, with stutter-free changes and a responsive manual mode.
The vast majority of Ibiza buyers will specify their cars with a petrol engine, and most of the motors in the range are pretty efficient. There’s only one version that can’t beat the 120g/km mark for CO2 emissions, and that’s the high-performance Cupra model. Some versions can even duck below the 100g/km mark, and what’s more, most of the diesels beat that threshold by quite a way. Obviously, good emissions goes hand-in-hand with good fuel economy, so Ibiza buyers won’t spend too much time or money at the pumps, either. Look at the list prices, and the Ibiza starts out quite cheap, but if you want a decent engine and range of equipment, you'll be paying more than you would for rivals from Ford, Vauxhall and Hyundai. As for other running costs, insurance groups are low across the board, but premium rivals from Mini and Audi will hold onto their value better over time. PCP finance deals are very competitive, though, and it's these affordable monthly payments that are most likely to sway the Ibiza's youthful buyers.
The Ibiza does not enjoy an especially good reputation for reliability as far as Warranty Direct Reliability Index is concerned. Seat sits mid-table in the manufacturer standings, but as an individual model, the Ibiza falls behind most of its rivals in the study, with more frequent repairs, which are costlier to fix than in competitors from Ford and Honda, cars that rank significantly higher. On the plus side, most of the historical issues reported were with the engines, and many of these have now been replaced, so hopefully this situation will improve. The owner reviews on our own site back this up, with most buyers having a positive experience, but several reporting mechanical issues which require a return trip to the dealership. As standard, the Ibiza has a three-year or 60,000-mile warranty, whichever arrives first. Rivals from Toyota and Hyundai offer five years of standard cover, which is available on the Ibiza, but Seat will charge you extra for it.
The Seat Ibiza was awarded the maximum five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests, with good driver and passenger protection, but that was back in 2011, and safety technology and equipment - not to mention the stringency of the tests - have come a long way since then. There are only four airbags provided, but the side airbags extend upwards to cover the same area that a curtain airbag would. The base model does come with traction control, and tyre pressure monitors, but no deadlocks, an alarm, or locking wheel nuts, so security could be better. Move up the range and these features do become included, but many rivals now offer automatic emergency braking, a technology that is not available on the Ibiza.
As discussed above, the Ibiza ranges from very basic, in 'E' and 'S' trim - which miss out on quite a few essentials - to very generously equipped. For us, SE trim is the one to go for. It's got everything you need (except cruise control, but that’s affordable to add as an option), it’s available with some of the best engines, and the price is within touching distance of its fiercest competitors. The FR models at the top of the range add plenty of visual flair, but also needlessly push the price up. Rivals like the Hyundai i20 are better equipped, and have a simpler range structure, but in the right trim, the Ibiza ticks all the important boxes for any buyer.
If you want a supermini with a dash of style, good road manners and a decent amount of kit, the Seat Ibiza won't disappoint. The little turbo petrol engines are entertaining and efficient in equal measure, the car is neatly finished inside, and SE models and above are well equipped. It's not class-leading in any one specific area, though, so if you need a specialist, look elsewhere.