The Seat Ibiza was introduced to the UK in 1984, and while it offered a more latin flavour of supermini, it was those buyers looking for a budget option who found favour with the little Seat. However, it was still a case of always the bridesmaid and never the bride, with the nippy Ford Fiesta and grown-up VW Polo dominating the class.
Finally, five generations later, that might be about to change.
The battle lines are drawn from the moment you set eyes on the new Ibiza. Where Ford decided to evolve its design of the 2017 Ford Fiesta, Seat has chosen revolution, albeit with design cues taken from the bigger Leon.
In the sporty FR trim tested here, it gets a more pronounced rear bumper with dual exhausts and 17-inch alloy wheels, and distinctive LED lighting signatures that can be found on all models except the entry level S. The Ibiza is no shrinking violet in the looks department.
The interior continues the sharp looks – particularly the dashboard design with its variety of surfaces and FR trim, which adds a red stitched steering wheel and more heavily bolstered seats. That said, hard plastics can be found throughout the cabin and cheapen the overall feel. Nothing is about to fall off, but a few softer material choices would have made all the difference.
In terms of practicality, this Seat has big door bins and plenty of cubbies dotted about for all of life's miscellanea.
While the exterior is shorter than before, the interior boast 35mm more rear legroom. Head room is also good for those of a taller persuasion. This generation Ibiza comes as a practical five-door model only. A generous 355-litre boot is ideal for family life and bigger than that of the Citroen C3 and new Ford Fiesta.
Visibility isn’t bad, and thanks to its compact size, makes it an easy car to park.
How does it drive?
Very well, as it turns out. The turbocharged 113bhp 1.0-litre Ibiza is happy to dart through busy city traffic, with a small delay before its turbo comes into play, quickly giving way to a burst of acceleration.
An enthusiastic thrum narrates opportunistic exits from junctions, but dies away once up to speed.
More open roads show that this engine has a good turn of pace, and the slick six-speed manual transmission is quite long-legged, so you won’t be continuously reaching for another ratio.
Find some twisting tarmac and the new Ibiza strikes a decisive blow in the Fiesta’s own backyard, proving to be a really enjoyable thing to chuck into corners.
Sport Mode on FR cars and above sharpens the throttle response and adds weight to the already well-judged steering, so you can very precisely place this car on the road and enjoy its high grip levels. There’s a bit of body roll, but the whole experience is rather grin-inducing.
The ride over rutted tarmac is a bit bumpy on the 17-inch alloy wheels of FR trim, and they contribute to the road noise entering the cabin, but most will be fine with that given the added style they bring. Generally speaking, the Ibiza settles down for lengthy motorway stints without issue.
Should I buy one?
Yes! The new Seat Ibiza is not only a step up from the car it replaces, but now contends for class leadership. It provides practicality without being dull, an enjoyable drive without sacrificing comfort, and is desirable without breaking the bank. Entry-level cars cost from £13,130 or FR trim starts at £16,630.
For years this model has lived in the shadow of highly accomplished rivals, but that’s all about to change. The all-new Seat Ibiza has arrived, and everyone should take note.
Gallery: 2017 Seat Ibiza 1.0 115 FR