The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 3.5
As a small estate car, the Seat Ibiza ST is a supermini with added practicality. It’s not without its weaknesses, but it’s a good little all-rounder and one of the better supermini-based estates on the market.
Reasons to buy
- Decent practicality
- Affordable to buy and run
- Pretty stylish for a small estate
At a glance
- How good does it look? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- What's the interior like? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How practical is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- What's it like to drive? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How powerful is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How much will it cost me? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How reliable is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How safe is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How much equipment do I get? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- Why buy? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
How good does it look?
Seat sees itself as a sporty brand, but making a small estate such as the Ibiza ST look racy isn’t an easy feat. 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 roof is higher that the hatchback’s and the rear overhang is longer, but it doesn’t give the car awkward proportions.
What's the interior like?
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.
How practical is it?
The Ibiza ST is based on the same chassis as the standard Ibiza hatchback, but its body is 18cm longer, to accommodate the bigger boot. Lift the bootlid and there’s 430 litres of luggage space on offer, which is less than the Skoda Fabia Estate but significantly more than the 380 litres found in the Seat Leon. This increases to a mammoth 1,164 litres with the seats folded. The rear bench can be split 60:40 and, when the seat squabs are lifted vertically, the backrests fold almost flat into the floor for maximum practicality. The ST’s back doors are slightly longer than those on a five-door Ibiza hatchback, to improve access. Rear legroom is a little on the tight side, but a higher roof means more rear headroom than you get in the hatchback.
What's it like to drive?
The Ibiza ST 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. Compared with the hatchback, you can feel the ST’s extra bulk in the way it changes direction, but it never feels clumsy or cumbersome. The sportier models in the range have a firmer suspension, designed to offer better handling, but they’re no more fun and they’re not as comfortable. Road noise is well contained most of the time, but the standard roof rails generate a fair amount of wind noise at speeds and some of the engines are rather rowdy.
How powerful is it?
The entry-level engine is a 1.2-litre, three-cylinder petrol with 69bhp, but we’d avoid it because it’s 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: it’s only available with a manual gearbox in pricey FR trim and only with a costly semi-automatic gearbox on lower trims. A 138bhp 1.4 turbo with cylinder shut-off (to save fuel) is also available, but we haven’t driven it yet. The diesel range starts with a 74bhp 1.2 that’s capable of up to 80.7mpg, but it’s very slow and feels very rough. The 103bhp 1.6, on the other hand, is much smoother and perkier.
How much will it cost me?
The most economical versions are the diesels. The 1.2-litre engine can return up to 80.7mpg in Ecomotive trim, which equates to low CO2 emissions of 92 g/km. Even without the Ecomotive’s extra fuel-saving measures, the engine will achieve 70.6mpg, while the more powerful 1.6 diesel can achieve 65.7mpg. Only the naturally aspirated 1.4 petrol engine fails to better 50mpg – and even then it gets pretty close (47.9mpg). The 1.4 turbo, with its system that shuts down two of the engine’s four cylinders under light loads to save fuel, can achieve, 60.1mpg, which is super-impressive, considering its prodigious power.
How reliable is it?
Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index places Seat in the middle of its manufacturer ratings. The Ibiza feels solidly built and there have been few problems reported with its engines or gearboxes, which have been widely used in numerous models from the Volkswagen Group.
How safe is it?
Although the ST itself hasn’t been tested, the Ibiza hatch scored a five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating when it was tested in 2011. It received good scores for pedestrian and child occupant safety, too. Standard safety equipment is pretty good, including an anti-lock braking system, electronic stability programme, hill hold assist and seat belt reminders, as well as driver, passenger and side airbags. Separate window airbags aren’t provided, but the side ‘bags extend upwards to cover the same area.
How much equipment do I get?
The ST is available in four trim levels: S, SE, Toca and FR. Standard equipment is generous and includes air-con, tinted windows, body-coloured bumpers, roof rails, steering column-mounted audio controls and a four-speaker stereo system with MP3 connectivity. SE adds 15-inch alloy wheels, electrically adjustable heated door mirrors, front fog lights with cornering function, cruise control, electric rear windows and split folding rear seats for added practicality. Toca models come with 16-inch alloys and a leather steering wheel. Range-topping FR models also get sports suspension, Bluetooth, sat-nav, sports seats and 16-inch alloys of a different design. Optional extras include a panoramic glass sunroof.
There aren’t many supermini-based estate cars, which is good for Seat. The Ibiza ST isn’t without its flaws, but it’s a good all-rounder and, in this sparsely populated sector of the market, that’s good enough to make it one of the best cars of its type.