SEAT Ibiza hatchback

£10,000 - £17,335

The SEAT Ibiza is the party animal of the VW Group's three superminis – the other two being the sensible Volkswagen Polo and budget-conscious Skoda Fabia. All three share many parts, so you’d expect the Ibiza to deliver not only fun, but also reliability. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite manage it. Owners have reported less-than-satisfactory experiences with their Ibizas, as well as with SEAT dealers.

Of course, not all owners have been unhappy with their cars, and for good reason. The Ibiza is a stylish looker, good value for money (price-wise it sits between the Polo and the Fabia) and huge fun to drive.

There are three body styles, but here we’re concerned with two: the three and five-door hatchbacks (the former known by SEAT as the SC). There's a powerful, range-topping SEAT Ibiza Cupra version as well, but we’ve reviewed it and the SEAT Ibiza ST estate separately.

Beyond the Polo and the Fabia, the Ibiza's other rivals include the stylish Peugeot 208, roomy Hyundai i20 and dependable Kia Rio. However, its toughest competitor is that brilliant all-rounder, the Ford Fiesta.

SEAT's relationship with VW means it has access to the company's range of smooth, punchy and economical petrol and diesel engines. Our favourites are the nippy 1.2-litre TFSI petrol and the powerful but economical 1.4-litre TFSI petrol. Both are turbocharged for strong yet efficient low-speed performance and relaxed cruising. There are less efficient but cheaper non-turbocharged alternatives, too.

The pick of the diesel engines is the 1.2-litre TDI Ecomotive. It's fast enough around town and on the open road, yet can achieve more than 80mpg fuel economy. The larger 1.6-litre TDI is quicker and better on motorways, but returns around 15mpg less.

Regardless of what engine you choose, the Ibiza is fun to drive, with direct, nicely weighted steering and suspension that strikes a good balance between firmness and comfort. Inside, the front seats are very roomy and the dashboard is well laid out. However, the rear seats are cramped and (in three-door models) difficult to access. This is worth considering if you regularly carry more than one passenger. Boot space is only reasonable, too.

The Ibiza is very well equipped, with air-conditioning, a height-adjustable driver's seat and a 60:40 split-folding rear seat all fitted as standard. There are no less than six trim levels, our favourite being the mid-range VISTA. This has 16-inch alloy wheels, cruise control and a touchscreen infotainment system.

The Ibiza is a safe car and has crash-test expert Euro NCAP's full five-star rating to prove it. Six airbags, electronic stability control with emergency braking assistance, hill hold control and tyre pressure monitoring, all as standard.

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