The fifth generation of SEAT's Ibiza range of superminis has just arrived in the UK with SC three door, 5-Door and ST estate body styles. Sharp new styling and sharper prices to suit the cost conscious market conditions means the Ibiza should achieve around 20,000 annual sales in the UK, roughly half of all SEATs sold here.
Price reductions range from £300 to £1,100 with the range starting at £9,995 and rising to £17,085 depending on engine size, body style and specification.
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To achieve these attractive new prices the equipment levels have been adjusted but so customers can still choose their ideal specification, depending on their budget, the range of extra cost options has been increased.
There are four trim levels, E, S A/C, SE and FR, and the Ibiza ST estate is now available with the FR trim. The most popular equipment level is traditionally SE followed by the sporty FR. The cheapest E level appeals to a minimum number of buyers and is used as an advertising price-leader for the range as 68 per cent of UK Ibiza customers are retail buyers.
The most popular body style is the sportier looking SC three door which up to now has accounted for 44 per cent of sales, a whisker ahead of the 43 per cent achieved by I think the more user-friendly 5-Door versions.
The ST five door estate also appeals to me because it retains a sporty profile and yet it accommodates with ease all the family clutter, the dog, or the mobility aids of the less mobile.
The ST has a very low rear sill over which to lift items and its square load space provides 430-litres of room with the rear seats in place rising to 1,164-litres with the split rear seats folded down. Towing weights go up to 1,200kg depending on the model.
Seat Ibiza engines
As for petrol and diesel engine options these are well known throughout the Volkswagen Group and consist of 1.2-litre normally aspirated petrol units with 60 or 70PS power outputs, 1.4-litre 85PS petrol, the highly rated new 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol unit with 105PS and a 1.4-litre turbo petrol 150PS unit. Diesel customers have the choice of the 1.2-litre TDI 75PS unit, the 1.6-litre TDI 105PS and the 2.0-litre TDI 143PS engine.
Most engines have five speed gearboxes as standard but the most powerful petrol and diesel units are mated with six-speed manual transmissions. A high-tech seven-speed DSG auto box is available with the 1.2 TSI 105PS and 1.4 TSI 150PS petrol engines. Engine and transmissions options vary depending on the body style chosen.
Around 75 per cent of Ibiza sales in the UK will be for petrol powered models and the 1.4-litre 85PS normally aspirated unit will dominate choice with 60 per cent of sales.
With a wide range of performance the insurance group ratings vary from just 3E to 22E.
Seat Ibiza styling and interior
Competing in the supermini sector against the likes of the Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa, Peugeot's new 208 and VW's Polo the new Ibiza maintains the sporty looks associated with the SEAT brand and their many years involved in touring car racing.
But now the body has an edgier look to it with sharp crease lines for the front wings and a new centre crease line for the bonnet. There is a new style of headlight with signature daytime running light strips, a squatter wide front grille and a larger wide and angular lower grille. There are new lighting units at the rear and a subtle angular rear bumper.
Inside the car has a bland interior, lots of dark hard and soft feel textured plastics which look durable rather than inviting.
The fascia panel is brightened with the use of new graphics for the instruments and of most use is the much larger glovebox, which following customer feedback, is twice the size of the previous layout.
Driving the Seat Ibiza
As with SEATs of the past the ride is still on the firm sporty side but not as hard as before but the Ibiza will still give a stiff account of itself on poorer roads surfaces. As always my advice is to stay away from opting for larger wheels, the best size will be the 15-inch ones. I was not impressed by the fact that if a customer wants that all important spare wheel it shows up on the options lists as a £95 extra cost item.
At the UK press launch this week, SEAT supplied a selection of new models but not all versions. First to be put through its paces was the SC three door 1.2-litre, 70PS petrol unit, the second best selling engine, and the model had the S A/C trim level with an on-the-road price of £10,930.
Officially this model will return 52.3mpg but with no on-board computer I could not record a more realistic figure but I reckon it should return around the 40mpg mark. With a 5E insurance rating this version is cheap to buy and run with no more than adequate performance with a 101mph top speed and zero to 62mph taking a lengthy 13.9 seconds.
With CO2 emissions of 125g/km the VED road tax is £0 for the First Year rate and then £100 per annum after that. In the unlikely event of this model being used as a company car then the BIK tax rate is 15 per cent.
Next in the testing line was the was the Ibiza ST five door sports estate with the most popular engine in the whole range, the 1.4-litre 85PS petrol unit and traditionally the powerhouse choice of 60 per cent of Ibiza UK customers.
Of course the performance is a shade better than the 1.2-litre 70PS unit with a top speed of 110-mph, zero to 62mph takes 12.4 seconds, officially it will return 47.9mpg and because my test car had a computer I can tell you the real-life consumption was an acceptable 42.5mpg. With CO2 emissions of 139g/km road tax is £120 and BIK company car tax 18 per cent.
The price of this model is £13,205. Insurance is rated as 9E. Again this unit is no ball of fire but it will fit the bill for most people. I liked the ST estate body style because it offers the most flexibility for daily use and even when the full extent of the estate's carrying capacity is not being used it drives like a five door hatch.
Star of the engine line-up is the 1.2-litre TSI 105PS turbocharged petrol unit, a much more modern low CO2 unit and with maximum torque of 129lb ft delivered from 1,550rpm it is much more responsive and nicer to drive despite its small engine capacity. I tried this unit in the 5-Door body style with the most popular SE trim level.
Strangely this SE model with this engine only comes with the high tech DSG seven speed auto gearbox, no manual transmission is available unless you take the higher FR specification. However the test model is priced at £14,105 but if the higher spec FR manual version with this engine is chosen then the price is £13,965 because the manual gearbox is around a £1,000 cheaper.
As tested with the DSG auto box top speed is 118mph but the zero to 62mph time drops to just 9.7seconds and the official fuel consumption jumps up to 53.3mpg. On the same test route my figure was 42.4mpg, virtually the same as the older 1.4-litre engine but much faster and much better response and flexibility.
With CO2 emissions of 124g/km VED road tax is £0 First Year rate, then £100 per annum. Company car tax is 15 per cent. Insurance is rated at 12E.
Of the three models tested the latter would be my overall choice because of the great modern technology engine, fast and seamless auto transmission and easy to live with five door hatchback body.
Seat Ibiza MILESTONES
SEAT Ibiza 5-Door SE 1.2 TSI 105PS petrol, DSG-auto
Engine/transmission: 1.2-litre, four cylinder turbocharged petrol, 103bhp, 129lb ft of torque from 1,550rpm, 7-speed DSG twin clutch auto
Performance: 118mph, 0-62mph 9.7 seconds, 53.3mpg, (42.4mpg on test), CO2 124g/km, VED road tax £0 First Year rate then £100, BIK company car tax 15%
Insurance group: 12E
For: Great engine, much more worthwhile considering than older non TSI petrol units on offer, well equipped, competitive price, smart new exterior styling
Against: Bland and dark interior, firm-ish ride and unsettled on poorer road surfaces.