SEAT Ibiza hatchback
Price £11,180 - £17,445
- Looks great
- Decent range of engines
- Fun to drive
- Some poor quality interior trim
- Cramped rear seats
- Skoda Fabia is better value
At a glance
"The SEAT Ibiza offers good looks and a fun drive for a reasonable price, making it a strong rival to the Ford Fiesta."
The SEAT Ibiza is a stylish supermini and a rival to cars like the Hyundai i20 and Vauxhall Corsa. It's credentials are excellent – SEAT may not be a particularly mainstream brand in the UK but it's owned by Volkswagen, and the Ibiza is based on the Volkswagen Polo – so should feel solid and well built.
As well as the standard five-door supermini, there's a more sporty three-door coupe called the SEAT Ibiza SC, and a more practical estate version called the SEAT Ibiza ST. But the five-door hatchback offers a decent amount of space and a reasonable sized boot, so should be more than enough for people looking at cars like the Ford Fiest or Renault Clio.
It's a lot more fun to drive than the VW Polo on which it is based, and it has a lower price than its sister car, too. It has a fantastic range of economical engines and the interior is well laid out and robust – but there are some downsides. Interior quality is no match for the Volkswagen Polo, as some of the trim in the Ibiza feels a bit cheap. Also, although it's fun to drive, it's not a match for the Ford Fiesta. And while it's competitively priced, the Skoda Fabia – which is also based on the Volkswagen Polo – is better value for money.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Great range of efficient engines ensure the Ibiza is cheap to run
The SEAT Ibiza comes with a choice of five petrol engines and four diesel engines. The most efficient petrol models are the 105bhp 1.2 TSI, which emits 119g/km CO2 and returns 55.4mpg – and the 140bhp 1.4-litre TSI, which emits 109g/km CO2 and returns 60.1mpg. The latter is only available in top spec FR Edition trim and uses ACT, which stands for active cylinder technology, to automatically deactivate two of the engine's four cylinders to conserve fuel when the car is cruising at a steady speed.
The 1.2-litre diesel engine is the most efficient in the range, though. In standard form it emits 102g/km of CO2 and returns 72.4mpg, but in Ecomotive trim those figures improve to 92g/km and 80.7mpg, making it exempt from road tax. All the other engines in the range provide strong economy and CO2 figures as well, while Ibiza insurance groups are low, too, helping keep you keep your premium down.
Interior & comfort
Comfort levels are average at best thanks to the firm suspension set up
In order to make the SEAT Ibiza a bit more sporty than the Volkswagen Polo, its engineers have stiffened up the suspension. This makes it a bit more fun to drive but it means you feel bumps in the road a whole lot more, too. It's not uncomfortable but you will notice the difference when driving over a poorly maintained road, and the Ibiza can be slightly jittery at motorway speeds.
The 1.2-litre diesel engine is a little gruff, too, and gets quite noisy under acceleration – the bigger 2.0-litre diesel is much smoother and quieter, and is a better option if you’re going to be doing a lot of longer journeys. Generally the Ibiza does a good job of blocking out engine, wind and road noise. The interior is well put together but some of the plastics feel a bit cheap compared to the more upmarket Volkswagen Polo.
Practicality & boot space
Rear seats are a little cramped and boot space is average
The Ibiza is a supermini – and one that's focused on style and a fun drive – so it wasn’t designed with practicality as a priority. There's not a huge amount of space in the rear, so taller passengers are likely to find it a little uncomfortable, but that's not uncommon in a car of this size.
The boot has 292 litres of luggage capacity, which is marginally bigger than the space in the Ford Fiesta and is about average for a supermini. Fold down the back seats and the load area expands to 847 litres – which is a little on the small side – the Peugeot 208, by contrast, boasts 1,152 litres with its rear seats down.
Also disappointing is the stereo, which is difficult to use and has fiddly controls.
Reliability & safety
Top class safety and Volkswagen-assured reliability
You can be sure the level of safety on offer from the Ibiza is faultless – it picked up the maximum five stars when it was put through crash safety tests by Euro NCAP. It comes with a full range of airbags, and a host of safety equipment like anti-lock brakes (ABS) and electronic stability control to prevent the car spinning out of control should it start to skid.
As SEAT is part of the Volkswagen Group, the Ibiza is build from the same quality of parts that goes into Volkswagen, Audi and Skoda cars – all of which have excellent reputations for reliability, so the Ibiza should prove to be entirely dependable. However, SEAT customers don’t rave about their cars the way the owners of cars from its sister brand Skoda do. SEAT came 27th out of 32 in the manufacturer rankings from the latest Driver Power customer satisfaction survey. And not a single SEAT model managed a place in the Top 100 cars league table.
Engines, drive & performance
Quick engines and sharp handling make the Ibiza good fun to drive
The SEAT Ibiza is a lot of fun on the road – especially in comparison to its sister car, the Volkswagen Polo. The driving position is low down and sporty, the steering is sharp, there's plenty of grip and it handles well. The engines are excellent, too, providing plenty of power so that driving the Ibiza feels effortless. The only exception is the smallest diesel engine – the 1.2-litre TDI – which needs quite a lot of throttle to get anywhere, making it a bit noisy and tiresome. That version aside, the Ibiza is pretty nippy – and higher spec FR models are genuinely fast. Still, if a fun drive is your main priority when choosing a car, we’d advise you to take a look at the Ford Fiesta, which is easily the class leader in this category.
Price, value for money & options
Cheap and well equipped but the Ecomotive version is pricey
The SEAT Ibiza comes with a choice of five spec levels, all of which have reasonably good equipment levels. Version start at the base S A/C and range through Toca, SE, FR, and FR Edition. All models come with air-con and a USB connection as standard, while Toca and SE models also get alloy wheels and a leather steering wheel. FR models get cruise control, a number of styling upgrades, sports seats and sat-nav. The Ibiza is competitively priced – it's cheaper than the Volkswagen Polo, but it faces stiff competition from the likes of the Ford Fiesta and Peugeot 208.
Models fitted with the ultra efficient Ecomotive engines come at a premium – so make sure the benefit of potential fuel savings outweighs the bigger list price. Also bear in mind that while the Ibiza is cheaper than the Polo, it's unlikely to hold on to its value as well, so if you’re likely to sell the car after three or four years then the Volkswagen may work out cheaper in the long run, as you won’t lose as much money when it comes time to sell it on.
What the others say
"With 104bhp and 250Nm of torque on tap, the TDI CR certainly has more punch than the 79bhp Ecomotive model, but it still doesn’t feel particularly fast. While it's comfortable at town speeds and happy to cruise on the motorway, you’ll find yourself hanging onto the gears much longer than usual in order to make progress."
"SEAT has spiced up the Ibiza with a distinctive new model from July 2008 boasting a roomier, better quality interior and a simplified model range. It ranks among the best in class for interior space and practicality while those sharp lines in the styling also promise an engaging drive."
"Undoubtedly the Ibiza's most attractive feature is its pricing, but the quality of the ride and handling is impressive. It's also cheap to run, sturdy, safe and well equipped."