Seat emphasises its Spanish origins so much because it is in fact just another subsidiary brand of the German Volkswagen group. The Seat Ibiza has been designed in Spain, but to reduce costs parts all parts come from the German parent. And thus Seat does everything is can to give its car a unique personality.
Of course, this starts with its looks. From now on, even the smaller Seats share the abstract yet refined style with the larger models. Despite the modest measurements, the Ibiza looks self-assured and all grown up; because with the mature design that image comes along for free.
For the photo shoot an Ibiza "FR" has been used. That means the car has the sporty looks of the fast Seats, but not the expensive mechanics. Besides this sporty version, the Ibiza is now also available in a luxurious version named "Xcellence".
Although the length of the car hardly increased, the width and wheelbase did grow. What this means becomes apparent right after getting into the car. Thanks to the extra width the driver and passenger no longer sit shoulder to shoulder. Together with the high build quality this causes the Ibiza to feel less like a compact or economic car on the inside.
The longer wheelbase translates into more legroom in the rear, which means the Ibiza now comfortably seats four adults.
Once, the sub-brands of the Volkswagen group were only allowed to use deprecated technology so sales of the Volkswagen brand wouldn't be affected. That time is long gone and that means the Ibiza can now be fitted with all modern luxury and safety features one comes to expect in a car in this price range.
And sometimes a bit more than that! Think about dual zone climate control, LED headlights and a reversing camera. Truly smart are the GSM amplifier (better phone reception inside the vehicle) and the induction charger (charge a mobile phone wirelessly (if the phone is compatible)).
The optional "Beats" audio system deserves a special mention. At a fair price it offers a sound quality that almost rivals that of so-called "premium" audio systems from a higher segment. Or to put it in less subtle words: with Beats audio the Ibiza offers the best stereo in its class!
It's just the electronics that are state of the art, Seat also fits the Ibiza with the latest engines the parent company has to offer. That said, the "1.0 MPI" is best to be ignored; it uses dated technology and therefore seems cheap to buy but in fact it's relatively slow and thirsty to run.
Rightfully so, Seat emphasises the "1.0 TSI" engine which develops 95 or 115 PS depending on the chosen version. The latter suits the Ibiza the most. At low revs this small engine is torque strong and easy to drive. When pushed a bit harder the three-cylinder engine focusses all of its anger on the front wheels and then the car really takes off!
However, its biggest asset is its fuel economy. Despite a very demanding test drive with country roads and city traffic, the car used exactly 5 litres per 100 km (56 mpg). The only downside of this engine is the typical three-cylinder noise; other carmakers manage to mask this more effectively.
For comparison, the top model with the "1.5 TSI" four-cylinder has also been tested. This engine alone gives a better feeling about the entire car! However, the higher price and the higher fuel consumption are not worth the extra power. That's why the 1.0 TSI (115 PS) is the wise choice.
Fun to drive
An important goal when designing the new Ibiza was to offer more fun and more comfort. As a starting point, Seat was the first to use a new platform ("MQB A0") for compact cars, on which the future Volkswagen Polo and Audi A1 will also sit.
Thanks to a wider track, larger wheelbase, lower centre of gravity and a 20% stronger chassis, handling has improved dramatically. The new Ibiza feels solid and stable as if it is a much larger car. Especially on the motorway this makes the car more comfortable.
How much fun to drive the Ibiza really is, depends on the chosen version and mode. The versions with a 1.0 litre engine feel lighter in the front and therefore more agile. The 1.5 litre version feels more grown up and more sturdy.
On top of that, at the push of a button one can choose a normal, economic or sporty mode. The difference between these modes is clearly noticeable. In sports mode steering is more direct for better communication between the car and the driver.
However, no matter how much feedback the Ibiza delivers and how well it is planted on the road, the real fun is lacking. For this test drive Seat planned a long route over winding roads around Barcelona that never seemed to end. This proved the car is beyond capable, but the excitement simply never kicked in. The new Ibiza is simply too solid, too comfortable and too mature.
For the real excitement one has to wait for the special editions, because traditionally various sporty versions will appear. This is just the beginning!
The Ibiza has always been Seat's party piece, which combines comfort and fun to drive like no other. The fifth generation of the Ibiza mainly improved on comfort. Its looks are more refined, the cabin space has increased significantly and the spec list is modern and complete. All of this together makes the Ibiza feel bigger than it actually is.
When it comes to handling, emphasise is also on comfort. The new engines are quiet, strong and relatively frugal. Handling is stable and reassuring. However, this means the Ibiza isn't as playful as before. This doesn't necessarily have to be a problem, because more than ever the Ibiza is all grown up and reassuring to drive. Yesterday's party animal has matured and makes a better companion on long drives than ever before.