Seat Ibiza hatchback (2017 - ) review

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The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 4.0

As an all-rounder, the Ibiza is pretty difficult to fault. It’s nice to drive, nice to sit in, nice to look at, it’s practical enough and it’s pretty affordable to buy and run. Importantly, it’s right up there with the very best cars of its type, 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

  • Interior quality not quite as good as the Polo.
  • Slightly awkward driving position.
  • Could be more versatile.
Pick of the range
1.0 TSI 95 SE
Affordable to buy, with enough power and kit.
Most economical
1.0 TSI
The 95-horsepower version has the best fuel economy.
Blow the budget
1.5 TSI Evo FR
Fizzy performance makes this version fun to drive.

Interested in buying a SEAT Ibiza?

How good does it look? 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. 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 original entry-level S version, with its cheap steel wheels and black door handles and mirrors, is no longer on sale, so the SE is now the way into the Ibiza range. It, and the SE Technology model, have alloy wheels and LED daytime running lights, LED tails lights and a chrome grille surround. FR/FR Sport and Xcellence/Xcellence Lux cars add chrome window surrounds and privacy glass, while the sporty FR cars also adds a bespoke rear bumper and twin exhausts.

What's the interior like? 4/5

The Ibiza’s interior looks 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. A Volkswagen 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 touchscreen 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. Lower models get a slightly smaller, less sophisticated version.

How practical is it? 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 pretty 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. 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.

What's it like to drive? 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. It also manages to combine that agility with a reasonably smooth ride, but while it stays comfortable most of the time, you do feel a little more edge from bumps than you do in some competitors. FR versions of the Ibiza come with a sports suspension that’s been both lowered and stiffened, but we haven’t yet had the chance to try it.

How powerful is it? 4/5

There’s a wide range of petrol engines available in the Ibiza and some diesels too. The entry-level petrol unit is a 80-horsepower three-cylinder unit that gives predictably modest pace, but it goes along pretty nicely if you don’t let the rev counter needle drop below the middle of the dial, and it’s also pretty smooth and quiet. However, it does start to struggle quite a bit if you come up against a steep hill, or you load up your car to the metaphorical rafters with stuff.

You don’t have that problem in the first of the turbocharged versions, which has 95 horsepower, because it delivers stronger pull from further down the rev range, making it more flexible and more eager, and that alone makes it worth the upgrade. That said, it’s still a little reluctant at the very bottom of the rev range and the power delivery can be a little stuttery. There’s a 115-horsepower version of the same engine, which has the same character traits, and because it doesn’t ultimately make the car go that much faster, we don’t think it’s worth the extra over the 95-horsepower version.

The most powerful version we’ve tried is a 150-horsepower turbocharged 1.5, which gives you a useful hike in performance. 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.

All the cars we’ve driven have been fitted with a sweet-shifting manual gearbox, so we’re yet to try a car with the optional automatic gearbox.

How much will it cost me? 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 very competitive. What’s more, resale values will be pretty solid for the class, and you’ll probably be able to get a bit off the price with a little of negotiation.

How reliable is it? 4/5

Things look likely to be above average here. While the performance of past Ibizas is mediocre at best judging by Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index, there's much better news in JD Power's 2018 Vehicle Dependability Study, which puts Seat towards the top of the rankings. Should anything go wrong with your Ibiza, Seat offers a fairly standard three-year/60,000-mile warranty.

How safe is it? 4/5

This iteration of the Ibiza has been crash tested by Euro NCAP, and it earned an excellent five stars. Why? Well, in part, it's because you get an autonomous emergency braking system as standard throughout the entire range, which is excellent. 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.

How much equipment do I get? 4/5

The base-level SE trim comes well-equipped, with metallic paint and LED running lights on the outside, and a six-speaker sound system with Bluetooth inside. No DAB though, which is a shame. SE Technology gives you a bigger 8.0-inch colour touch-screen with sat-nav, while the FR finally provides you with DAB, enhanced smartphone connectivity, ambient lighting, cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, sports seats and sports suspension. The FR Sport adds a digital cockpit (a screen instead of traditional instruments) and microsuede upholstery, as well as dual-zone air conditioning.

Xcellence trim has more luxury goodies, including climate control, adaptive cruise control, keyless entry and go, parking sensors at both ends of the car and a rear parking camera. The Xcellence Lux version adds a digital cockpit and the ability to switch between Normal, Sport and Eco driving modes.

Why buy? 4/5

You'll go for an Ibiza because style and gadgetry lie pretty near the top of your list of priorities in your next supermini. The Ibiza delivers on those scores, and it’s strong in a number of other areas, too. A very capable and tempting option, and it should definitely be on the shortlist of anyone looking for a small hatchback.

Interested in buying a SEAT Ibiza?