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Review

SEAT Ibiza hatchback (2017 - ) review

The Seat Ibiza is a five-door supermini to rival the likes of the Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa and Volkswagen Polo, and it looks to attract buyers with its smart styling and lots of in-car technology. It’s not half bad to drive, either.

Words by: First published: 6th April 2017
The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 3.8
As an all-rounder, the Ibiza is pretty difficult to fault. It’s nice to drive, nice to sit in, nice to look at; and, it’s practical enough and pretty affordable to buy and run. It’s not the absolute best supermini on offer, but it’s right up there, and its swish looks and impressive tech will be enough to seal the deal for a lot of buyers.

Pros

  • Looks smart inside and out
  • Good blend of comfort and agility
  • Fizzy turbocharged engines

Cons

  • Reliability record is only so-so
  • Slightly awkward driving position
  • Could be more versatile

Interested in buying SEAT Ibiza?

Exterior 4/5

This latest Ibiza is a completely different car to its predecessor from top to bottom, so it’s perhaps a little surprising that it looks so similar to the previous one. Granted, the details are a little sharper and the lines are a shade crisper, but the overall effect looks very much like a facelift rather than something that’s brand spanking new. The cheapest model looks quite bland, but one single step upwards in the trim structure is all that’s needed to make your Ibiza look considerably smarter; the entry-level S version has steel wheels and black door handles and mirrors, while SE and SE Technology cars replace these with body-coloured items and alloys, as well as providing LED daytime running lights, LED tails lights and a chrome grille surround. FR and Xcellence cars add chrome window surrounds and privacy glass, while the sporty FR also adds a bespoke rear bumper and twin exhausts.

Interior 4/5

The Ibiza’s interior looks very smart and sophisticated, especially when compared with those of many rival cars. Yes, all of the plastics you find are hard – rather than soft – to the touch, but they’re nicely finished and there are enough metallic trims and glossy panels to hike up the overall feeling of quality. Granted, a VW Polo feels posher, but the Ibiza has the measure of most other rivals for classiness. There’s a lot of adjustment for your driving position, but you might have to play around with the settings to remedy the awkward feel of a seat base that’s angled backwards pretty severely. The 8.0-inch touch-screen infotainment system you get on SE Technology trim and above looks really cool, and it’s reasonably easy to use, if not quite as easy as the equivalent systems in some rivals. In the left-hand drive cars we drove, the pedals were offset heavily to the right, which feels uncomfortable and awkward, but we’ll have to see whether this gets rectified with the conversion to right-hand drive.

Practicality 3/5

The Ibiza doesn’t re-write the rule book in this area, but it does a very solid job. Headroom and legroom are very generous in the rear seats, which will allow two gangly adults to travel very comfortably indeed, and a wide middle seat means carrying a third isn’t completely out of the question, either. At 355 litres, the boot is bigger than in a lot of the Ibiza’s competitors, and it’s a very useful square shape, too. However, it’s a little disappointing that, on entry-level S cars, the rear seat folds down in one piece, rather than being split 60/40, as it is on the rest of the range. Even then, the rear seats lie at an angle when you fold them down, and there’s also a significant loading lip to contend with. You can reduce the severity of this by specifying a higher-set, removable boot floor, but that’s a cost option throughout the range.

Ride and handling 4/5

Most buyers see Seat as a reasonably sporty brand, and the Ibiza delivers enough ability in the corners to support that view. It feels light and agile when you’re changing direction; and, with lots of grip and keen control over its body movements, it’s good fun to fling around. True, the throttle response could be sharper, but you’ll like the snappy gearshift and responsive, nicely weighted steering. Based on our experience, it also manages to deliver a smooth, comfortable ride. However, we’ve only driven the car on immaculate Spanish Tarmac so far, and we’ll have to try it on a typically terrible stretch of British road before promising that it’ll keep you and your passengers comfy.

Performance 4/5

In the fullness of time, a pretty wide range of engines will be available in the Ibiza. These include a 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol with 74bhp, while two turbocharged versions of this engine deliver 94bhp or 113bhp. A 1.5 turbo with 148bhp is also available in the FR, and the diesel options will include 1.6s with either 79bhp or 113bhp. So far, however, we’ve only had the opportunity to drive the 113bhp and 148bhp petrols. The lower-powered unit feels very flexible and perky most of the time, and it’ll also feel a lot faster than many drivers will be expecting. The only exception to that is when you let the revs drop below 1500rpm, where it can feel a little stuttery and underpowered, but it doesn’t take too much effort to keep the engine on the boil. The same is true of the more powerful version, and when you push the engine into the middle of the rev range and beyond, you’ll be treated to very fizzy acceleration indeed. It stops short of hot – or even warm – hatch pace, but you won’t often find yourself wanting more go. This engine sounds good and doesn’t subject you to many vibrations, either, but while the smaller engine is similarly quiet, it’s not as smooth; you can feel some buzz through the steering wheel and pedals.

Running costs 4/5

The prices for the entry-level versions of the Ibiza look very tempting indeed, but once you’ve specified an engine that you actually want, plus a trim level that provides enough kit, then you’ll find the amount you’ll have to pay has climbed considerably. That said, the same is true with most of the Ibiza’s rivals, and the prices are still competitive. What’s more, resale values are expected to be pretty solid for the class, and you’ll probably be able to negotiate a bit off the price with a bit of negotiation. The official efficiency figures quoted look fairly useful without being game-changing, with most petrol versions of the car getting close to 60mpg, and some beating that figure. We haven’t yet seen figures for the diesels, but these will be even better.

Reliability 3/5

Things look likely to be pretty average here, if the performance of past Ibizas is anything to go by: the previous-generation car has a mediocre-at-best score in Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index, and Seat sits in the lower half of the manufacturer standings. One or two horror stories have been reported in our own owner reviews, too, but generally, the car’s reliability is rated pretty highly here. That said, this latest Ibiza is completely different mechanically from the car it replaces, so it’s difficult to know how much to read into all these factors.

Safety 4/5

This iteration of the Ibiza hasn’t yet been crash tested by Euro NCAP, but we’d expect a solid score. Why? Because you get an autonomous emergency braking system as standard throughout the entire range, which is very encouraging. Every model also has six airbags, a tyre pressure-monitoring system, stability control, two Isofix child seat mountings and a hill-hold control function, while FR and Xcellence versions add a tiredness recognition sensor and an alarm.

Equipment 4/5

The base-level Ibiza is known as the S, and it comes with a very decent level of standard equipment including air-conditioning, electric front windows, remote locking, Bluetooth, a 5.0-inch touch-screen and four stereo speakers. That said, you’d probably want to upgrade to SE trim for the smarter looks alone, but the extra two speakers and the leather steering wheel and gear knob will also help sway you. SE Technology trim gives you a bigger 8.0-inch colour touch-screen with sat-nav, while the FR also provides you with DAB, enhanced smartphone connectivity, ambient lighting, cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, sports seats and sports suspension. Xcellence trim doesn’t have those last two items, but it has more luxury goodies besides, including Alcantara upholstery, climate control, electric rear windows, keyless go, parking sensors at both ends of the car and a rear parking camera.

Why buy? 4/5

Because style and gadgetry lie pretty near the top of your list of priorities for your next supermini. The Ibiza delivers on those scores, and it’s strong in a number of other areas, too. Not a game-changer or a class-leader, but a very capable and tempting option nonetheless.

Interested in buying SEAT Ibiza?