"The Ibiza ST certainly lives up to the Spanish firm's sporty image. It retains the hatchback's stylish looks and is good to drive, but is not as spacious as rivals."
The SEAT Ibiza ST manages to show that a supermini estate car doesn’t have to be clumsily styled and mundane to drive. It looks sporty and desirable and is almost as fun on the road as the standard Ibiza. But then looks aren’t everything, and while the sleek exterior certainly turns head, the interior space and boot capacity isn’t as generous as rivals from Skoda and Renault. The ST also won’t be top of any practicality rankings, either – although it is definitely the most practical model in the Ibiza range. But if you’re shopping around for a small family estate that has a little bit of extra flair, the ST could well be the car for you.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
The most economical model in the ST estate range is the diesel 74bhp 1.2-litre TDI CR Ecomotive, which returns 80.7mpg and emits a road-tax-free 92g/km of CO2. You can also choose between 84bhp 1.4-litre and 104bhp turbocharged 1.2-litre TSI petrol engines, which are less efficient. And as well as the 1.2-litre TDI, you can also get a 104bhp 1.6-litre TDI diesel that returns 65.7mpg in economy and emits 112g/km of CO2. Servicing costs and insurance groups are reasonable, too.
Interior & comfort
It's actually easier to climb into the back of the Ibiza ST than into the standard hatchback, thanks to the rear doors being 15mm longer. But while the sloping roof may look good on the outside, it also reduces the amount of headroom for passengers in the back, which is already a bit cramped thanks to the ST being the shortest car in its class. Certainly adults may not relish longer journeys squeezed into the rear. You can get the ST's suspension adjusted for a sportier ride, but that does make it much harsher for anyone riding inside the car. The standard setting is by far the more comfortable option.
Practicality & boot space
Even though the Ibiza ST estate does indeed offer the most boot space in the Ibiza range, it lags behind class leaders such as the Skoda Fabia estate, which offers an extra 50 litres of luggage capacity. And even though it's longer than the likes of the Renault Clio Sport Tourer, it offers less space than the Clio as well. With its standard-fit 60/40 split-fold rear seats still in place, the Ibiza offers 430 litres of space (compared to the Clio's 439), and with the back seats folded down that expands to 1,164 litres (113 litres less than the Clio). Also, the seats don’t lie completely flat, so loading long objects isn’t as easy as it could be. On the plus side, the suspension has been altered so that the ST can handle extra weight without an impact on the comfort of its ride or the accuracy of its handling.
Reliability & safety
SEAT's reliability is a game of two halves. First, as part of the Volkswagen Group of car manufacturers, the ST estate is constructed using parts and components that have been tried and tested across a wide range of well-established models from VW, Skoda and Audi – and SEAT. So you can expect reliability for the Ibiza ST to be very good, and it does have an interior that feels solidly built. However, the second part is that SEAT, almost perversely, doesn’t tend to do well in owner satisfaction surveys. SEAT itself ranked only 27th out of 32 in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey's manufacturer rankings, with reliability being one of the main problem areas for current owners. SEAT also fails to get any of its cars into the list of the top 100 cars, with the standard fourth generation Ibiza placing 144th in the top 150. In reality, what this means is that while the Ibiza ST should prove to be reliable enough, it may not prove to be as dependable as cars from the rest of the VW Group. The same goes for safety – it's undoubtedly safe, having been awarded a maximum five-star rating in Euro NCAP crash tests, but it doesn't have as much safety equipment as many of its rivals. It only comes with four airbags as standard, as curtain airbags are optional extras, as is electronic stability control.
Engines, drive & performance
Alas, the Ibiza ST's engines can’t fulfil the sporty promise than the ST's sleek exterior dimensions show. For instance, the top-of-the-range 1.6-litre diesel may be quiet and smooth but it really does feel underpowered under acceleration and its performance isn’t up to scratch, accelerating from 0-62mpg in 10.9 seconds, which is not as quick as the 1.2-litre TSI petrol. However, it is the best combination of efficiency and performance available in the range, and it is a great cruiser. It will return 65.7mpg when driven on the motorway, too. But it is a SEAT, so the ST does offer a fun ride, with good handling and responsive steering. The handling does suffer slightly compared to the standard Ibiza because of the extra weight of the large back end, though, and there is more body roll when driving through corners.
Price, value for money & options
You’ll have to pay a little more for the Ibiza ST's good looks, as it costs more than rivals like the Skoda Fabia estate. But you do get a lot of choice for your money. The SEAT Ibiza ST estate comes in a choice of four main specification levels – entry-level S, mid-range SE, Toca and top-of-the-range FR. Under the bonnet, you get to choose between two petrol and two diesel engines, and whichever model you choose, air-conditioning, roof rails and an MP3-compatible CD player are all included as standard equipment. Resale values on the used car market should be relatively good, too, on par with the Skoda Fabia but not quite a match for a Volkswagen.