SEAT Ibiza hatchback review
“Stylish and practical, the SEAT Ibiza is also good to drive, making it a top supermini choice”
- Spacious interior
- Handsome looks
- Quiet at speed
- Steering lacks feel
- A few hard interior plastics
- Some extras should be standard
British buyers go for superminis in their thousands and it's easy to understand why. For very reasonable monthly payments, there’s a range of practical five-door models that are fun to drive around town and on country lanes but perfectly competent as motorway cars too. As far as fuss-free motoring goes, they’re hard to beat.
We think the SEAT Ibiza is one of the best, taking the fight right to the Peugeot 208, Renault Clio, Vauxhall Corsa, Volkswagen Polo, MINI Hatchback and even the Ford Fiesta. A refreshed and updated Ibiza is set to arrive in summer, which should further strengthen its appeal.
New from the ground up for its 2017 launch, the current Ibiza debuted the Volkswagen Group’s most up-to-date supermini platform, stealing a march even on the latest Volkswagen Polo. It offers much more interior space than before, including a practical boot.
This hasn’t come at the cost of style – in fact, the Ibiza now looks a lot more planted, thanks mostly to its slightly wider bodywork. This has helped offset the fact that it's also 2cm taller, and there’s a strong resemblance between this car and the SEAT Leon – no bad thing. Sharp creases and small touches like door-mounted side mirrors all add up to a very modern and attractive car.
Because designers have been able to create extra space without sacrificing looks, the three-door Ibiza SC and ST estate haven't been replaced.
Delve into the driving experience and you may wonder if you need a bigger car. Even the small-sounding 1.0-litre petrol is more than willing when a turbocharger is fitted in the TSI versions. The suspension is supple enough to deal with poor road surfaces but firm enough to keep the Ibiza level through corners. The steering is a little lacking in feedback but the Ibiza feels so secure and refined on the move, that it’s very easy to forget you’re driving a supermini at all.
The story is similar inside, where there’s an appreciable air of maturity. It’s far from revolutionary but the arrival of SEAT’s Digital Cockpit instrument panel adds to the Ibiza’s contemporary feel - it's available in FR Sport and Xcellence Lux trims and as an option for other models. Build quality and ergonomics are spot on, while equipment levels look decent – though an alarm is extra on lower-spec cars.
One area in which there are no grounds for criticism is interior space. SEAT has made the most of the Ibiza’s enlarged mechanical underpinnings, making a small car that’s big inside. The rear seats will accommodate two adults or three children with ease, while the 355-litre boot is only 25 litres shy of the space available in the back of the Volkswagen Golf and SEAT Leon, cars in the segment above the Ibiza.
SEAT offers the Ibiza with a wide range of petrol engines. Entry-level cars get a 79bhp 1.0-litre ‘MPI’ engine but the majority of buyers choose a three-cylinder TSI 1.0-litre turbo-petrol. This is such a competent and willing engine that it even found its way into the latest Volkswagen Golf, and in the smaller Ibiza it appeals even more. You can have it with 94 or 108bhp, and the latter is now the most powerful option after the 148bhp 1.5-litre petrol engine was discontinued. Even the entry-level 1.0-litre ‘MPI’ petrol feels quicker than its lethargic 0-62mph figure of 14.7 seconds suggests; it’s free-revving in town and is fine on the motorway.
The 1.0-litre turbo petrol officially returns up to 54.3mpg or 52.3mpg in the higher power outputs, with the 79bhp just as efficient as the 108bhp option. A DSG automatic gearbox is also available with the 108bhp 1.0-litre petrol engine.
The range-topping hot Cupra model was discontinued after the previous generation but the 1.5-litre engine made the Ibiza feel like a mini hot hatch in the short time it was on sale, taking just 7.9 seconds to get from 0-62mph. In 2020 the sole diesel engine, a 94bhp 1.6-litre TDI, was also made unavailable, but the petrol engines will be best for the vast majority of buyers anyway.
Entry-level SE trim includes Bluetooth, DAB radio, air-conditioning and front electric windows, along with LED running lights, alloy wheels and a 6.5-inch colour infotainment screen. Unlike rivals, you can also choose a metallic paint colour for no extra cost.
SE Technology brings sat nav, together with an eight-inch infotainment screen and online features, and gets you more kit than the equivalent Ford Fiesta trim level, the Trend. FR bundles 17-inch alloy wheels, sports seats and suspension, LED headlights, a driving mode selector and a bodykit, and FR Sport adds bigger wheels, the digital cockpit and suede upholstery. Top-spec Xcellence and Xcellence Lux spec boast two-zone air con keyless entry, adaptive cruise control and all-round parking sensors with a rear-view camera.
The SEAT Ibiza will keep occupants safe, too, with a five-star Euro NCAP score after extensive crash-testing. Its adult occupant protection score of 95% is particularly high for a supermini, and the safety body has commended SEAT for fitting autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection as standard.
Overall, the latest SEAT Ibiza is a well-rounded package that sits near the top of its class. In our favourite SE Technology trim with a 1.0-litre TSI 94bhp petrol engine, it's a well equipped, thrifty and fun-to-drive supermini, and one that's definitely worthy of consideration.
Which Is Best?
- Name1.0 SE [EZ] 5dr
- Gearbox typeManual
- Name1.6 TDI 95 SE [EZ] 5dr
- Gearbox typeManual
- Name1.0 TSI 115 FR [EZ] 5dr
- Gearbox typeManual