SEAT Ibiza 2017

One of the best superminis around.

The hatchback is made in Spain, but I got an early drive of it in Liverpool and North Wales, of all places. It wasn’t quite the usual launch setting of Barcelona, but SEAT’s UK media event was blessed with the Mediterranean-like sun during the two days I had with the new Ibiza.

The car looks sharply dressed; it sits lower and has a distinctly sporty, non-stuffy youth-oriented vibe. And that is exactly what SEAT wants; its whole aim is to capture the youth market, or at least it wants people who are young at heart to buy its cars.

Even though the SEAT is part of the Volkswagen Group, the Ibiza is as far away from the similar VW Polo as chalk is to cheese. The Polo is all grown up – almost like it was born with a tweed nappy. The Ibiza just rocks its stuff and doesn’t care about being ‘mature’. I love it. You can be grown up but you don’t need to take life too seriously either. We’re here for a short time, right? Yep, SEAT’s got that one nailed.

So, you’re probably getting a taste of the new Ibiza now? Yes, it’s stylish, but it’s also composed and comfy and comes packed with equipment. It rides well, too, due to the excellent suspension that irons out road imperfections. And we all know there are many of those in the UK.

The five-door hatch isn’t the quickest or even the most dynamic in its class, but who cares? This is no sports car – it’s just a funky, fresh, sexy machine with verve oozing from every metallic pore. But, there are some noticeable changes to the way it feels to drive compared with the exiting Ibiza. For instance, the driving position in the 2017 SEAT Ibiza is far better. You feel seated more centrally, so your feet are more intuitively connected with the pedals. The switchgear falls to hand more naturally, too.

The steering is easy and pleasurable, but you don’t get as much feedback as you do in, say, the all-new Ford Fiesta. That said, the small SEAT has oodles of ability, and because the whole car is so light, it’s nimble - and that equals fun. It really is a grin-inducer, especially with its sweet-shifting five-speed manual transmission and chirpy 1.0-litre petrol turbo engine. Even with the lesser-powered 95ps power unit, on test here, the turbocharger means it doesn’t feel short of performance. Zero to 62mph arrives in 10.9 seconds and the top speed is 113mph. Best of all, the car is hushed, meaning it’s very chilled-out to drive for long periods. The thrum of the three-cylinder engine is barely audible, but when it is evident, the sound is entertaining rather than exasperating. Another positive point for the new SEAT Ibiza is how cheap it is to run. The 1.0 TSI SE I drove will do 60.1mpg on average and emits just 106g/km of CO2.

The latest SEAT Ibiza is also more practical than ever. Its new under-the-metal platform makes the hatchback larger, meaning there’s room for four adults - or five-up if you have two adults in the front and three small kids in the rear. The Ibiza’s boot has also swollen by 63 litres to 355 litres, meaning the load capacity is almost as generous as some vehicles in the segment above. For example, the larger and more expensive Mazda3 only provides nine more litres of space.

The new SEAT Ibiza’s cabin is energetic, yet pragmatic, with layers of soft plastic giving the car a refined guise. Peer a little closer, though, and there are some cheaper synthetics on top of the dashboard and the doors, but these don’t put a dampener on the party. That’s because the car’s awesome infotainment system knocks everything else in the cabin into the shade. The eight-inch touch screen is crammed with features, although you have to buy FullLink smartphone connectivity as a £150 option on the SE model I drove. While I’m on the options list, it extends to additional safety technology, such as adaptive cruise control, tiredness recognition, parking sensors and pedestrian detection.

The SEAT has really upped its game when it comes to the new Ibiza. It’s sporty, fun, spacious, safe and economical. It’s cheap to buy, too. The car is also one of the best-looking superminis on the motoring market. The only thing the Spanish automaker could do better makes some, if not all, of its safety options standard. But, considering the 2017 Ibiza 1.0 TSI SE is priced at only £14,595, then that can be forgiven for now.

Pros ‘n’ Cons

  • Fine-looking √
  • Fun √
  • Kit √
  • Performance √
  • Some cheap plastics X

Fast Facts (New Ibiza 1.0 TSI SE – as tested)

  • Max speed: 113 mph
  • 0-62 mph: 10.9 secs
  • Combined mpg: 60.1
  • Engine layout: 999cc three-cylinder petrol turbo
  • Max. power (PS): 95
  • CO2: 106 g/km          
  • Price: £14,595

Written by motoring journalist, Tim Barnes-Clay.

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