Ok, so you want a small car - you aren’t short of choice. Good value, sharp looks, and keen handling are amongst your top priorities. Many cars claim to offer all of this in the glossy brochure, but truth be told, there are a lot of pretenders out there. However, this Seat Ibiza looks spot on. Its eye-catching design is clean and easy to like, and the range of perky petrol engines should deliver something for everyone. Have a small family to consider? The Ibiza has you covered with one of the roomiest cabins in the class, but it's still got a lot to prove up against rivals like the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo.
|Body Style: 5 door hatchback||Seats: 5||MRP from £13,410 - £19,300|
Did you know? The Ibiza is Seat’s best-selling car – since 1984 over 5.4 million have been built.
From a model that has lived in the shadow of its classmates, to the best car in its class, the Ibiza has undergone a metamorphosis. As an all-rounder this supermini is a star player.
SE trim comes with all of the equipment you realistically need and can be had on very competitive monthly PCP finance. Sporty FR models are the most visually appealing, while top spec Excellence models add a more premium touch.
The interior boasts plenty of space - it's virtually on a par with a Ford Focus, in fact, for roominess - and is a comfy place to spend time, both in town and on the motorway. It’s only let down by some slightly cheap-feeling plastics and a firm ride in FR models, but given the fun, value and ease of use it offer, it's still Motor1 UK's favourite small car.
We Don't Like
FR cars are too firm-riding
Diesels are expensive
Seat isn’t playing it safe when it comes to design.
The Ibiza is a bold-looking car and borrows from the bigger Seat Leon with defined shoulder lines and clean creases. The Seat family face is a natural fit, incorporating a trapezoid grill and angular headlights. Proportionally it just looks right; domed bonnet, short overhangs, compact size.
Entry-level S trim cars pull off the dynamic design, too, although they do look a bit sorry for themselves in other departments – the 15-inch plastic wheel covers being a particular low point.
SE strikes a good balance with alloy wheels, LED taillights and a dash of chrome rescuing it from the poverty look.
In FR spec the Seat looks particularly sharp, 17-inch alloy wheels replace 15s and twin exhaust pipes are neatly displayed. Distinctive LED daytime running lights can be found on all cars except for the entry-level S trim.
Excellence is the top dog in the Ibiza lineup when it comes to plushness. It looks more reserved than FR cars with less flashy alloy wheels, but added chrome gives it a more aesthetically grown-up appeal.
The design revolution is invited inside as the cabin continues the modern theme. A contrasting dashboard element runs across the width, finished in a gloss black on FR cars, and adds to the design. FR models also enjoy a red-stitched sports steering wheel.
All cars get a touchscreen which keeps the console free of clutter. Thankfully, the air-con controls are still physical dials, which is preferable to having them in the touchscreen, as virtual controls – like those on the Citroen C3 – are difficult to use on the go.
What lets the cabin down is the hard, scratchy plastics. Most of the dashboard, door inserts and handles use it, and it cheapens an otherwise well built and nicely styled cabin – even in the most expensive Excellence trim. At least FR trim, with its alcantara upholstery, contrast stitching and gloss dash inserts has real appeal.
The new Ibiza is only available as a five-door. This might disappoint people wanting a sportier look, but it is great in terms of practicality. Nice wide-opening doors should make life easier when strapping in wriggling toddlers. There's also a pair of ISOFIX points for baby seats. Good head and leg room means that the rear bench happily houses adults as well as children; in fact, this is one of the roomiest cabins in the class, especially for rear passenger space.
Plenty of storage around the car makes room for all of life's gubbins. A decent glove box and large door bins are ideal for family life, as is the 355-litre boot, which is notably bigger than that of the Ford Fiesta, although you'll want to add the variable boot floor to make the most of it. S cars do without split-folding back seats, but SE and above get a 60/40 split; ideal for when you have something bulky to transport as well as passengers.
Unlike many rivals, every Seat Ibiza comes with a touchscreen display as standard. A 5-inch black and white screen is standard on the S, while SE and above get a colour 5-inch display that can be upgraded to an 8-incher, although FR trim and above gets the 8-inch colour screen with sat-nav and all the connectivity you could want as standard. That includes Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and MirrorScreen on FR and Excellence trims, but it can also be had as a £150 optional extra on SE and below. The only big disappointment is that DAB isn’t standard across the range – you have to pay extra to get it on S and SE, but it is standard on every other trim level.
The larger screen (pictured here) makes life easier on the move, but the system itself is generally straightforward to use. A nice touch is the colour-coded shortcuts in the corners, which take you to things such as navigation or audio regardless of what menu you are currently in. There are some niggles though; working out where to type a postcode is like solving the Da Vinci Code, and sometimes the buttons you want are hard to hit as they're tucked up right against the edge of the screen.
You can also have your Ibiza fitted with Beats audio. The premium sound system costs a few hundred quid, but is well worth the extra cash. Seven speakers make the most of 300W, and audio quality is amongst the best in this class. Goes without saying that you can connect your phone via USB or Bluetooth on any Ibiza.
The majority of engines for the Ibiza are derivatives of a 1.0-litre, or there's a 148bhp 1.5-litre 'warm hatch' FR. For those who would rather a diesel, they are on offer in the form of a 79bhp and 94bhp 1.6-litre.
The 1.0 non-turbocharged petrol engine serves up 74bhp which is fine if the car is going to spend its life around town.
Every other engine is turbocharged to boost power. The 94bhp 1.0 TSI engine is the one that does it all. Around town it’s punchy enough to take advantage of gaps in the traffic, yet it’ll hold its own on the motorway, too. It’s quiet on the move and the five-speed manual gearbox has a broad set of ratios. This would be our pick of the bunch.
A fizzy 113bhp is a good option; after a momentary lag, the turbo is ready to deliver and the three cylinders thrum characterfully as the car accelerates with enthusiasm. Settle down, and engine noise fades into the background, becoming barely noticeable. This engine is the only one in the range that you can have with the dual-clutch DSG automatic, which will be a great option if you're looking for a two-pedal small car for town commutes. It's a slick, smooth automatic 'box, and certainly one of the best in the small car class.
For all that, we would stick with the snappy six-speed manual since it's light, precise and suits the Ibiza perfectly.
If the 1.0 115 is still not fast enough, then check out the 148bhp 150 TSI model. This four-cylinder turbocharged 1.5-litre engine is a gem of a motor, giving the Ibiza near hot-hatch enthusiasm, as shown by its 7.9sec 0-62mph sprint time. It's a very grown-up feeling hatch that makes for an easy motorway companion, while also being 85 percent the fun of a 'proper' hot hatch like the Renaultsport Clio or VW Polo GTI.
Driven enthusiastically, the Ibiza's sensibly-weighted steering and high grip levels let you put the car exactly where you want it. There is a little bit of roll, but nothing to write home about. It feels engaging when driven at a pace and if you go for an FR car you can enhance this further with the standard variable driving modes. Select Sport and the steering gains more weight for added accuracy, and the throttle sharpens up, so you can make the most of this sure-footed little car.
As pleasing as it is when driven quickly, the Seat's refinement deserves equal praise. The manual gearbox is easy to use, the pedals are weighted nicely and the engines deliver their power smoothly, making the Ibiza easy to drive around town or on faster roads.
The only weak point is ride comfort. Stick to smaller wheels and lower trim levels and the Seat is pretty comfortable, soaking up the worst of the road's surface and letting you get on with things without being bothered by the road's ugliness. However, FR cars - while fun and stylish - come with sports suspension that makes things noticeably firmer, and which makes the car feel choppy and brittle over urban roads. If you want something that's got real handling verve, you'll likely be fine with the ride comfort in the FR, but for most buyers who might just want something that looks cool but isn't too bumpy, it could be a bit annoying. It's a shame, then, that you can't get the 114bhp or 148bhp petrol engines unless you go for the harder-riding FR trim, and that you can't add adaptive dampers as you can on the Ibiza's platform-sharing rival, the VW Polo.
Recommended engine: 1.0 TSI 95
Every Seat Ibiza comes with good levels of safety equipment. Autonomous emergency braking (which brakes for you if the car senses an imminent collision at under 30mph), active front headrests, and hill hold assist are all included.
Optional safety kit brings technology that you would usually expect to see on larger cars. Pedestrian detection keeps track of those around you and can apply the brakes in an emergency. Adaptive cruise control and a tiredness recognition system are also impressive things in this segment. It's a shame that parking sensors are optional on all but the most expensive model, and you'll have to pay £100 to get a space saver spare tyre, which we'd recommend you add to any car if it's not standard.
Euro NCAP gave the 2017 Ibiza the full five stars for safety.
What is a bit shocking is that the Ibiza only gets disc brakes at the rear if you go for FR trim, otherwise it's drum brakes at the rear even in top-spec Xcellence. This doesn't affect braking distance, which was fine on the Ibiza's we tested, but it does mean that the brake performance will fade more quickly under heavy use than if it was discs all round.
Also a bit surprising is that an alarm is optional on all but FR and Xcellence trims.
Mediterranean Blue is the only non-cost paint with white demanding £250. £530 will get you your choice of a few more dark colours. The handsome, metallic Desire Red and a variety of other metallic shades will set you back £650. There aren't any contrasting roof or fancy decal options as you get with some rivals, though - the Ibiza is pretty straightforward on that front.
Top-spec Excellence cars gain the option of Magenta but lose that handsome red. Why? Your guess is as good as ours.
There are four to choose from. It all kicks off with S, which makes do with 15-inch wheels with plastic covers, but Bluetooth, air conditioning and automatic headlights add a few luxuries.
SE adds 15-inch alloy wheels, a colour 5-inch touchscreen (over the monochrome version in S trim) and LED daytime running lights.
FR is the best looking as it brings sporty bodywork and 17-inch alloy wheels. Inside you also get a flat-bottomed steering wheel with racy red stitching, and more importantly you get the full-fat 8.0-inch sat-nav and multimedia system with all the functions you'd want, plus Alcantara upholstery and sports seats, which really lifts the appearance and general feel of the interior of the more drab-looking cheaper trims.
Excellence puts more of an emphasis on looking sophisticated. Additional chrome and machined 16-inch alloy wheels make the look more premium. A rear-view camera, DAB radio and keyless entry are among the highlights.
The trims are easy to understand, but there is still an extensive list of options that can be added to each. They’re not necessarily cheap either.
Size and Dimensions
1,780mm (including door mirrors)
Max towing weight without brake
540kg - 570kg
The 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrols are all very efficient. The most fuel efficient is, oddly, the 113bhp TSI, which claims a combined 60.1mpg and emissions of 108g/km CO2. The 94bhp model returns identical economy but is cleaner, emitting 106g/km CO2, but expect both to do around 45mpg in varied real-world use.
The cheapest and least powerful 1.0-litre is actually the most polluting and least efficient, although that is all relative. It will still do a good 57.6mpg and emit 112g/km CO2, but we'd avoid this engine if you can given how affordable the more fun and more efficient turbocharged engines are.
The four-cylinder 1.5-litre engine is also very clean, not least because it shuts off two cylinders when it doesn't need them. Even this semi-hot hatch manages more than 57mpg officially, and emits emissions of just 112g/km.
Despite higher official economy of well over 70mpg and emissions of just 99g/km, the diesels are more expensive to buy and - with taxes set to rise on diesel cars - are harder to justify over the petrols, even for company car users.
Reliability and Servicing
According to surveys, Seat has been a mixed bag of late when it comes to reliability. However, the Seat hasn't been out for long enough to judge its reliability.
All new cars come with two years' worth of Seat roadside assistance, and a 60,000 mile, three-year warranty.
Just over £13k will get you into a new Ibiza in the most basic S trim, and the cost rises to £17k for an Excellence car. These prices are competitive with the new Ford Fiesta, but are undercut by the Citroen C3 - check out our full triple test to see why the Ibiza is our pick of these three hard-hitting small cars.
Seat routinely offer great finance deals, so it's not hard to find a well-specced Ibiza for less than £200 per month if you've got a £2000 deposit; it's certainly one of the best value small hatches out there on finance or on list price taking into account the equipment and practicality on offer.
The cherry on top is that as long as you are over 19 years old, Seat will give you a year’s free insurance.
The diesel engines are a lot more expensive to buy than the 1.0 TSI 95 petrol that we rate as our favourite model, and as such are actually more expensive even for company car buyers. We'd say that, with taxes only set to rise for diesel cars, the 1.0 TSI 95 is the pick of the Seat range for business and retail motorists alike.
Excellence trim brings that touch of luxury with added chrome and alcantara upholstery.
Go for FR trim and you'll hardly need to add anything to have all the gadgets you'd want.
The 1.0 MPI Ibiza S might not have alloy wheels, but it does come with good standard safety kit. If you want good kit at the best price, FR trim is hard to beat and go for the 1.0 TSI 95.
Keen handling but isn't as well equipped as the Ibiza, and is short of room in the back.
Lots of customisation options but quirky looks aren’t to everyone’s taste.
It is getting old now and is outclassed by rivals.
Great finish inside and a slick drive, but you pay for it.