Seat Ibiza 1.0 TSI review
Seat's Ibiza has long been a popular model, and the fifth-generation model looks to have built on those solid foundations whilst also offering a blend of refinement and Spanish fun that the brand has become known for. With a number of highly-capable rivals in the supermini market, the Ibiza has much to do to remain competitive though. NGC tests the latest Ibiza to discover how it does.
Review by Chris Lilly
You will be hard pushed to find a poor unit amongst the Ibiza's range of engines, though there is a surprisingly large choice considering there are four basic types. There is one 1.6 litre TDI diesel unit - in two states of tune - and three petrol engines in the shape of two 1.0 litre powertrains, and one 1.5 litre option. All things considered, there might be too much choice since the range sees a 75hp 1.0 MPI petrol, 95 hp and 115 hp TSI petrols, and 80 hp and 95 hp diesels. That's a choice of five engines with only 40 horses separating the least and most powerful options. The only real outlier is the 1.5 TSI EVO engine, which though I've not driven in the Ibiza, is a peach in larger VW Group models, and will likely prove potent in the compact Seat. The model on test was fitted with what is likely to be the one of the most popular options - the 1.0 TSI 115hp. It provides plenty of pep, but retains good economy figures to keep running costs low. The three-cylinder unit is responsive, even when fitted with an automatic gearbox. It says much of the capabilities of the 1.0 litre TSI engine and seven-speed DSG transmission that I didn't audibly groan when the spec sheet came through letting me know that car due for test was set up as such. Normally the combination of small engine and auto 'box is not exactly a match made in heaven, but the punchy nature of the turbo-charged engine and smooth gear changes mean the combination works well - and is great in traffic. The whole drivetrain allows for a 0-62 mph time of a respectable 9.3 seconds, and a top speed of 121 mph.
Pitched as the fun-to-drive option from the VW Group's range, Seat's Ibiza needs to drive enthusiastically to live up to the reputation. Fortunately it does - and boy does it. The Ibiza is a willing little car to be thrown about a twisty road, with the Seat's chassis and suspension set-up superbly. It handles as well as far more powerful and sports-focused models, but all at more sensible speeds. The only car in its class that pips it in terms of outright dynamic driving ability is the Ford Fiesta, but it's a close run thing. In more normal situations the Ibiza does well too, channelling it's inner Polo to offer a refined ride. Steering is light, as you would expect from a supermini, but it's precise and offers good feedback. It's an easy car to drive about town and park, and enjoyable on the open road. It even settles down well at motorway cruising speeds, makes light work of broken road surfaces, and keeps body roll in check. It's a very good attempt at being a master-of-all-trades from Seat.
The stylish little Ibiza is very much an example of styling evolution over the last model, rather than a revolution. However, since it's still one of the best looking cars in its class that's no bad thing. The rear in particular is very pleasing to the eye, and the whole design is a good blend of interesting styling elements and refined aesthetics. This generation of Ibiza is only available in five-door specification, dropping the three-door hatch and bigger-booted estate options of the previous model. Under the skin sits a new platform for the VW Group, one that Seat has worked well with. The Ibiza is still proportioned nicely, with wheels pushed into the corners, and as such interior space is excellent for its class. There is a large boot to load up, with wide access and only a small load lip to lift objects over. In the cabin, rear passengers will be pleasantly surprised how much space there is, as good leg, head, and shoulder room make the Ibiza feel as though it sits somewhere between a traditional supermini and small family hatch. The floor isn't flat in the back, so it's a case of four adults or three children really, but Seat has managed to make the Ibiza feel like a very spacious small car.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
The Ibiza's seats are comfortable all-round, with the front pews providing plenty of support even over long distances. The driving position is easy to set up too. The dashboard makes the Ibiza a great place in which to sit, and gives occupants the impression they are in a large, more expensive car; back to that feeling of being in a car half a step above the supermini class. The large touchscreen system is easy to use and responsive, with supporting dials and touchscreen buttons around the screen offering shortcuts and accurate control. The glossy fascia livens up the cabin too, and Seat's steering wheel is nicely designed and of a good size. The quality of materials used isn't a match for those at the top of the Ibiza's class, but they don't feel bad either, and tend to be kept to lower elements of the cabin.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
The 1.0 TSI 115 hp engine tested in the Ibiza officially returns 60.1 MPG and 108 g/km CO2 according to the NEDC test cycle. In reality, the Ibiza averaged around 50 MPG during my time with it, dropping to a worst score of 45 MPG and achieving a realistic maximum of 55 MPG depending on driving styles. If taking care with your right foot, 50-52 MPG is easily possible, even over the course of a few hundred miles. It's a good score for its class, though not outstanding. The Ibiza's fuel economy will be easy to live with anyway. To tax, the Ibiza 1.0 TSI 115 hp costs Â£140 a year for its standard rate VED, with a first year cost also of Â£140.
The Ibiza has a few green tricks up its sleeve to keep economy figures at good levels. The downsized turbocharged engine is only a three-cylinder unit, and designed for efficiency. There is also engine stop/start to cut fuel use when waiting in traffic. The Ibiza is fitted with an Eco mode as part of its Seat Drive Profile, which lessens throttle response, changes the DSG gearboxes settings, and improves the impact auxiliary systems have on the system. The new MQB A0 platform on which the Ibiza is built not only provides increased stiffness for improved driving dynamics, it is also lightweight to improve efficiency. According to our calculations, the model tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 37.
Equipment levels on the Ibiza are good if not outstanding. Entry level models can feel a little frugal by current standards, though that's a reflection on how much the market has progressed. The Ibiza is certainly not a Spartan place in which to sit, with Bluetooth and USB connected stereo and air conditioning available as standard. The 15-inch wheels on the entry level are steel though, and the stereo screen is monochrome. Move up to SE and the 5-inch touchscreen is upgraded to a colour system, and leather steering wheel and alloy wheels are introduced as a standard feature. SE Technology is the entry point for the excellent 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with sat-nav, while SE Design adds a panoramic sunroof, privacy glass, and Beats Audio stereo to SE trim. Tested FR specification offers good value with a more stylish rear bumper, FR steering wheel and upholstery, automatic wipers, Seat Drive Profile, voice recognition with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 3D mapping, and 17-inch alloys. Finally, top of the range Xcellence trim adds black alcantara and leather effect upholstery, 16-inch alloys, rear view camera and front & rear parking sensors, dual-zone climate control, and keyless entry and start.
The Ibiza is comfortable, spacious, frugal, practical, and affordable, making it a sensible supermini choice. Crucially though, the Ibiza is also stylish and fun to drive - meaning it can please both the head and heart for buyers. It's one of the best cars in its class, and Seat's hard work in making the Ibiza as competitive as possible has really paid off.
Model tested: Seat Ibiza FR 1.0 TSI 115ps DSG
Engine / CO2: 1.0 litre petrol / 108g/km
Trim grades: S, SE, SE Design, SE Technology, FR, Xcellence
On-road price: £19,915 as tested
Warranty: Three years / 60,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.0 Stars