If you want a supermini in your life, you’ve got a lot of choice. The trouble is, each has its own off-putting details.
The outgoing Ford Fiesta is pretty dated, and it’ll be a while before the next one’s here. The Skoda Fabia is worthy, but just a bit dull, and the same goes for the Kia Rio and Hyundai i20. The VW Polo meanwhile is about to be replaced too. So what should you buy?
For us, one of the most tempting options would be the Seat Ibiza. Taking bits from the ever-versatile VW Group toy box and chucking in a little (stereotype alert) Spanish flair, the Ibiza’s always been a fun option that manages to be sensible at the same time. And now, there’s a new one.
Handsome, isn’t it? Yes, I know it looks rather a lot like a Leon that’s shrunk in the wash, but you can’t deny that the resulting car is a sharply sculpted thing. I like it, and the outgoing car now looks borderline goofy in comparison.
Based on VAG’s new MQB A0 platform, it’s bigger than before, with the width up by 87mm and the wheelbase increased by 95mm. As a result it’s noticeably roomier inside, and boot space is up by 63 litres to give the car a class-leading 355 litres. Lovely.
So, boring practical stuff dealt with, what’s it like to drive? Naturally, we grabbed the keys to the most powerful version - the 148bhp, 1.5-litre ‘TSI Evo’ - in high-spec FR trim first. It’s not homologated just yet (it’ll be available later in the year) but expect a 0-62mph time in the mid to high 7s based on the power-to-weight ratio.
So it’s no slouch, and it tackles corners rather nicely too. The lower, stiffer sports suspension brought by the FR trim level keeps body roll nicely in check, and in Sport mode the steering is quick and well weighted, if - you guessed it - a tad numb.
There’s no fancy torque vectoring by braking shenanigans here - as seen in some hotter VAG products - but front end grip is decent, and while pushing into understeer territory isn’t too hard, it does take a fair bit of doing.
It’s an entertaining, nimble little brute, but there’s one thing threatening its warm hatch credentials: the engine. It’s smooth, refined and amazingly quiet, all of which are great attributes when the 1.5 is fitted in something like the new-ish VW Golf. But not for a mildly sporty Seat.
It feels a step down from the 1.4 it replaces, which had a punchy mid range and pleasingly muscular intake noise. The 1.5 is a better engine overall, but the more linear unit doesn’t seem as up for being thrashed, and at 5000rpm or so it briefly lets a harsh resonance ring through the cabin.
So the most powerful version of the Ibiza (Seat isn’t planning a Cupra version for now, boo etc) is not the one to go for. Our pick of the range would be the 113bhp 1.0-litre in FR trim, which we, err, haven’t driven yet.
The eight-inch touch screen-based ‘Media System Plus’ - standard on SE Technology trim and up - looks amazingly sharp, yet still has useful rotary controls for the volume and another for the map scale. The last Ibiza’s sat nav on the other hand was just a little standalone box which you mounted on the top of the dash, so this is a big step up.
We have however tried the 94bhp version in ‘Xcellence’ trim, and found its fizzy little three-pot to be great fun to thrash. It’ll be more than powerful enough for most folk, but the pokier version drops the 0-62mph time from a relatively sluggish 10.9 seconds to a decent 9.2.
On the tech front, you won’t be disappointed. Seat is well aware that this is a car that’s hugely popular with da yoof (43 per cent of buyers are aged 17-25), and as such has festooned it with an impressive amount of toys for a supermini.
Certain models get two USB ports, located in the centre console and not hidden away somewhere stupid. Wireless phone charging is available, and so is a ‘Full Link’ option for Apple Car Play, Android Auto and Mirror Link.
Most importantly though, it’s just a lot nicer inside. Recent Seat cabins have tended to be on the drab side, but that’s not the case with the new Ibiza thanks largely to the massive coloured trim piece that stretches across the dash, which is surrounded by the usual complement of expensive-feeling VAG bits and pieces. On some versions you can even choose between white or red ambient lighting.
If all this sounds like your cup of tea, you’ll be pleased to know it’s available to order now. The range kicks off at £13,130 for the 74bhp 1.0-litre S, while the 113bhp FR will set you back £16,630.