There’s an all-new VW Polo about to hit showrooms, but if you can’t wait, or you can’t quite afford one, a cut-price alternative has just arrived – the Seat Ibiza. At first glance you might think it’s the old model, launched in 2008, but this is actually the fifth-generation Ibiza and very good it is too. For now there’s just a five-door hatch available, but a three-door model is likely to arrive next year – which if the previous model is anything to go by, will look even more stylish than the car shown here.
The Ibiza may be a small car but it’s not basic. While the cabin is quite plasticky it doesn’t feel cheap, with things helped by an excellent multi-media system that keeps the dashboard free of clutter. The instrumentation is typical Volkswagen Group, so it’s generally clear, although the speedo is quite busy with kph and mph increments.
Being able to configure the information between the dials is useful; it’s possible to display a large digital speedo. There’s plenty of adjustment for the driver’s seat and steering wheels, plus ample cubby hole space, but the boot and rear seat space are no better than average. A nice touch on SE trim and above is ambient cabin lighting that can be adjusted for intensity and colour.
You can choose between 74bhp 1.0 MPI, 94bhp or 114bhp 1.0 TSI, 148bhp 1.5 TSI Evo (FR only) and 79bhp 1.6 TDI engines. All come with a five- or six-speed manual gearbox; the only automatic option is a seven-speed DSG transmission with the 115bhp 1.0 TSI engine. The 94bhp three-cylinder 1.0 TSI has plenty of zip for urban driving and is happy at motorway speeds, but it’s not especially torquey, although it’s happy to be revved. The four-cylinder 1.6 TDI diesel (£15,995 in S form, £16,595 for an SE) might be a better bet. Refinement levels are excellent, the controls are light and the five-speed gearbox is pleasant to use, but the suspension of our sporty FR edition was too firm. An adjustable chassis allows you to smooth things out to a point, at the touch of a button, but a car on smaller (16” or 17”) wheels is likely to be more comfortable. Although the rear pillars are very big, over-the-shoulder visibility is excellent while the LED headlights are superb. The fly in the ointment is a pair of under-sized door mirrors, while on our test car the Auto Emergency Braking was a bit over-enthusiastic, to the point where it could spook a pupil.
The Ibiza range is book-ended by the 1.0 MPI S at £13,130 and the 1.6 TDI Xcellence at £19,300. While entry-level Ibizas get air-con, Bluetooth, automatic headlights and a black & white touch-screen display, the SE (from £14,000 for the 1.0 MPI) adds 15” alloy wheels, a colour multi-media display with navigation, LED daytime running lights and tail lights.
The FR (from £16,015 for the 1.0 TSI) has 17” alloys, a bigger display, automatic wipers, sports suspension and a host of other sporty touches including uprated suspension. The range-topping Xcellence (from £16,715 for the 1.0 MPI) has dual-zone climate control, parking sensors all round, a rear-view camera and keyless go. There are also SE Technology and SE Design editions. On balance we’d opt for the £15,295 1.0 TSI SE Design with its panoramic sunroof on top of the regular SE equipment. Move up to the 1.0 TSI FR and you get a more powerful 114bhp engine plus the extra equipment listed above, for £16,630. For £378 you can buy a service plan that covers the first and second services, while £498 buys a 30,000-mile plan (first, second and interim services).