What is it? Major refresh of big-selling supermini.
Key features: Completely redesigned interior, more efficient engines, latest connectivity options.
Our view: A comprehensive mid-life update for the SEAT Ibiza, which concentrates on adding useful upgrades rather than visual tweaks.
Type of review: First UK drive
SEAT has had a busy 2015. A new Cupra performance version of the core Leon model has been joined by the brand’s first dipping of a toe into crossover waters with the all-wheel-drive Leon X-Perience. This will accelerate next year with the launch of the first SEAT SUV, and simultaneously the dealer network is getting a whole new look to reflect the brand’s €3.3bn investment in its future.
The Ibiza supermini, however, has so far remained outside all the major changes, despite the fact that this and the Leon are SEAT’s core models, more than five million Ibizas sold globally in the seven years since the car launched.
So now the supermini is getting a facelift, a comprehensive update running across all three versions, the three-door SC (Sport Coupe), five-door hatch and estate ST (Sports Tourer).
Mind you this is not immediately obvious when one first views the car. Exterior changes are few, not even extending to the usual facelift staples of new front and rear bumpers. The only differences between the outgoing Ibiza and the new one are LED daytime running lights (but only from SE, the third of seven trims, upward) and the opportunity to personalise one’s vehicle through choosing one of six exterior colour packs, including two shades dubbed ‘Bismuth’ and ‘Velvet’. These can be added to new Chilli Red, Mediterranean Blue or Moonstone Silver paint colours while there are also new alloy wheel options, dubbed ‘Design’ in 16-inch sizing and ‘Dynamic’ in 17-inch variants. No body profile changes, however.
Matters are very different when one slips inside the Ibiza, where clearly, most attention has been focused. Quite simply, it has been ‘Leonised’, effectively adopting the interior of its Leon larger sister. This extends to the steering wheel, instrumentation and the surfacing, which is of higher quality than previously.
There is a lot more occupant-aimed technology too. The five-inch colour touchscreen can be enlarged to 6.5 inches on SE models and above. This then forms the base for a number of options starting from the basic Media System Plus with its sat nav and voice control, up to offering the very latest connectivity through ‘Full Link’, plugging in smartphones to control their Apps on the car’s touchscreen whether through Apple’s CarPlay or the Android MirrorLink. SEAT is even offering ‘Connect’ versions of the Ibiza that come ready supplied with a smartphone made by the brand’s technology partner Samsung.
There are some ten engine options in the latest SEAT Ibiza – seven petrol units and three diesels. All are Euro-6 emissions compliant, and six are completely new units. The ‘showstopper’ is likely to be the three-cylinder 1.0-litre EcoTSI petrol, which in 94bhp form promises CO2 emissions of only 94g/km. The Ibiza is the first supermini right across the Volkswagen Group to receive all versions of the 1-litre unit, naturally aspirated and turbocharged, in 74, 94 and 109bhp power outputs, the latter matched to a DSG gearbox.
The TDI diesels are no less impressive, however, the former 1.2-litre version for example growing to 1.4 litres but with improved fuel economy and emissions, to a quoted 83.1mpg and 88g/km in Ecomotive form.
At the UK launch The Car Expert tried out two more models from the extensive range, the 1.2 TSI petrol with 109bhp, and the most powerful of the three 1.4-litre diesels, producing 104bhp.
The petrol unit was particularly refined and suitably swift, while the diesel sounded rather coarse on first start-up but soon settled into a smooth tickover and proved particularly impressive once on the road.
In efficiency terms it still sits under the tax-busting 100g/km marker with emissions of 95g/km, while its combined cycle mileage is listed as 78.5, just 5.6mpg less than the Ecomotive. Balanced against the penalty is a 0-62mph time sliced from the Ecomotive’s pedestrian 13 seconds to just under 10 seconds. The 104bhp variant certainly feels more lively.
The engineering changes have continued to the chassis. Retuned springs, dampers and anti-roll bars are joined by a speed-sensitive electric power steering system. For the first time on the Ibiza and currently only on performance-oriented FR models, one can choose as a £265 option the SEAT Drive Profile active damping system, which offers comfort or sports suspension settings and also alters the power-steering response.
Both our test cars boasted the Drive Profile and it adds an extra element to an assured on-the-road performance. The steering could do with a little more weight, though of course even in FR trim this car is not really intended to be flung through a challenging series of B-road sweepers. Such tests will wait for the Cupra hot-hatch variant, which was unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September and is due later in the year with an increased power output of 189bhp.
SEAT Ibiza prices start from £10,000, which buys the 74bhp 1-litre petrol SC version in E trim. Five-door pieces start from second-level S A/C grade with air conditioning, at £12,315, the ST estate adding another £700.
As its title suggests S A/C (an increase of £1,865 for SC buyers) incudes air conditioning, but also a number of other useful upgrades such as Bluetooth, DAB radio with audio controls on the steering wheel and electrically adjustable heated door mirrors.
However it’s definitely worth trying to stretch to the third SE level, which adds £695 to the price of a five-door, but swaps the steel wheels for alloy versions, the halogen headlamps for twin variants with LED daytime running lights, and adds LED tail lamps, extra detailing, a colour touchscreen version of the Media System and leather on the steering wheel and gear-knob.
For its part SEAT believes the best-selling trim will be the next level up, Vita, which adds larger alloy wheels, a ‘Driver Pack’ comprising cruise control, hill hold control and a tiredness warning system, and rear parking sensors. All this comes for just £425 extra.
In summary, the SEAT Ibiza mid-life facelift is suitably comprehensive. It chooses not to make various exterior tweaks for the sake of it and concentrates on adding useful upgrades, not least in the currently highly trendy arena of connectivity in which this car now propels itself to the forefront. Certainly the Ibiza should continue to play a major part in achieving SEAT’s bold growth ambitions.
SEAT Ibiza – key specifications
On sale: October 2015
Range price: £10,000-£18,570
Insurance groups: 8E-18E
Engines: Petrol 1.0×3, 1.2×2, 1.4. Diesel 1.4×3.
Power (bhp): 74/94/109, 89/109, 148. 74/89/104.
Torque (lb/ft): 70/118/148, 118/129, 184. 155/170/184.
0-62mph (sec): 14.3/10.4/9.3, 10.7/9.1, 7.6. 13.0*/11.4/9.9.
Top speed (mph): 107/119/122, 114/122, 137. 107*/113/119.
Fuel economy (combined, mpg): 54.3/68.9/64.2, 57.6/54.3, 58.9. 83.1*/76.3/78.5.
CO2 emissions (g/km): 118/94/102, 116/119, 110. 88*/99/95.
Key rivals: Vauxhall Corsa, Ford Fiesta, Peugeot 208, Renault Clio.
Test Date: November 2015.
* = Ecomotive variant.