First Drive: SEAT Ibiza 2012
Key features: New look, revised interior, simplified range
Our view: SEAT is enjoying some good times on the UK market at present, with three consecutive record market shares for the Spanish member of the VW Group. Contributing the greatest to this is the Ibiza supermini, SEAT’s best-selling model in all but one year, and shifting more than 19,000 examples in 2011.
To keep that momentum going, SEAT has applied a refresh to the Ibiza, all three varieties (five-door, three-door SC and estate-like ST) getting the treatment. But in all honesty it’s pretty mild, centring on revised visuals, cabin and equipment changes and simplifying the range structure.
The visuals first – the press pack talks about ‘”considered alterations” and “radical changes not being required…”, or in other words, spot the difference. In fact it’s the first application to a production car of SEAT’s latest design direction, seen on the Toledo concept at the Geneva show in March and created by new design director Alejandro Mesonero-Romanos. He’s filled the shoes of Luc Donckerwolke who has moved up to look after parent company VW.
The changes are subtle, centring on the usual head and tail-light mods and gentle resculpting. Perhaps the most obvious change is at the front end with a mirror-image effect between the upper and lower grilles – this works well, giving the car quite a purposeful stance.
SEAT also claims to have reworked the interior with a new steering wheel, redesigned graphics and changes to the climate control system. However we find the cabin a bit of a disappointment, the twist dials and rather too obviously plastic surfaces somewhat dated compared to some of this car’s current rivals. It’s quite practical though – with a larger 10.7-litre glovebox and in the five-door hatch 292 litres of luggage space.
There is no shortage of propulsion options, with five petrol and three diesel units on offer – depending on choice coupled to manual or auto gearboxes including the twin-clutch DSG unit. Included are the frugal and emissions-very friendly Ecomotive models, the smallest 1.2 diesel stretching fuel consumption past 80mpg and sliding emissions to 92g/km.
Favourite among the cars we tested, however, is the 1.4-litre petrol engine, with 84bhp on offer. Diesels don’t hold nearly as much sway in the supermini sector as they do in other categories, and SEAT expects to sell the most Ibizas with this petrol unit.
It’s no surprise, as the 1.4 engine in the ST model we drove combines enthusiastic road manners with a decent 62mph sprint time of a little over 12 seconds, and very reasonable fuel economy of almost 48mpg – emissions by the way are 139g/km.
On the road the Ibiza is a very well behaved companion. It rides with excellent composure and is very easy to work through twisty bits of road – perhaps a little too easy in fact, with not a lot of feeling through the wheel.
SEAT has tried to simplify the choice for customers – there are now four trim levels, and the entry-level E grade is only available on the three-door SC model. Choose S/AC, available across all three body styles, and you gain air conditioning, split-fold rear seats, an alarm and an extra inch on the wheels and tyres, growing to 15 inches. ST versions also get black roof rails and some extra storage.
SE, again on all three bodies, adds a host of equipment with perhaps the highlights leather on the steering wheel, a trip computer, alloy wheels and front fog lights.
Finally there is the sport-orientated FR trim, for the first time offered on the ST as well as the three and five-door. The wheels grow to 16 inches with low-pro tyres, there are bespoke front and rear bumpers, sporty seats, twin exhausts, and more mechanically useful additions including an Electronic Stability Program, sports suspension and cruise control.
As stated at the start of this feature, this is a very mild facelift, but it’s being applied to a competent car that in the main still holds up against more recent rivals. The Ibiza is not a car for exciting driving, perhaps not quite living up to the traditional sporting image of SEAT in this respect, but for buyers wanting an easy-to-live-with, practical supermini, it’s definitely one for the shortlist.
Model Tested: Seat Ibiza
On Sale: May 2012
Engines: Petrol 1.2 x 3, 1.4 x 2, Diesel 1.2, 1.6, 2.0
Power (bhp): 59/69/104, 84/148, 74, 104, 141
Torque (lb/ft): 80/83/129, 97/162, 133, 184, 236
0-62mph (sec): 15.9/13.9/9.8, 12.4/7.6, 13.9, 10.9, 8.2
Top speed (mph): 96/101/118, 110/132, 107, 117, 130
Fuel economy (combined, mpg): 52.3/52.3/55.4, 47.9/47.9, 80.7, 65.7, 60.1
CO2 emissions (g/km): 125/125/119, 139/139, 92, 112, 123
Key rivals: Renault Clio, Peugeot 208, Vauxhall Corsa
Test date: May 2012
Words by: Andrew Charman