Eco Hatchbacks Like The Seat Ibiza Are Way More Fun Than You Give Them Credit For

I'm one month into a six-month loan of a Seat Ibiza 1.4-litre manual, and while that doesn't sound exciting, I genuinely get a buzz out of driving it

Cars nowadays vary so much that it’s hard for people to choose which model is right for them. There are Crossovers, SUVs, GTs, Shooting Brakes…you get the idea. One of the few constants in the automotive world have been lightweight hatchbacks, which offer practicality and decent driving dynamics in an appealing little package. There have been, and always will be, fast hatchbacks like the Peugeot 205 GTi of the 1980s (there are too many modern hot hatches to mention now) and super-economical hatchbacks like Bluemotion Polos and three-cylinder Ford Fiestas. In between these extremes sit cars which offer the best of both worlds; economy and pace.

One such example is the car you see pictured, the Seat Ibiza 1.4 FR ACT (Active Cylinder Technology). We’ve got this car for six months and I’ve had the pleasure of putting exactly 1858 miles on the clock since it was delivered to me new just over a month ago. In this time, I’ve driven the Ibiza through and across London countless times, to the south of England and all the way to Edinburgh and back. This has given me a pretty good feel for the car and so far, I’m impressed.

Seat - Eco Hatchbacks Like The Seat Ibiza Are Way More Fun Than You Give Them Credit For  - Blog

Before I get into life with the car as a daily driver, a quick intro is in order. CT’s new Ibiza is fitted with a 1.4-litre four pot with 140hp. The interesting thing about the engine is that active cylinder technology, which means that two of the four cylinders shut down when the engine isn’t under hard load (coasting in gear, for example). The transition between two- and four cylinders takes less than 40 milliseconds and Seat says that the system can save up to one litre of fuel over 60 miles of careful urban driving.

Seat - Eco Hatchbacks Like The Seat Ibiza Are Way More Fun Than You Give Them Credit For  - Blog

Despite its green credentials, the Ibiza is a peppy car; 0-62mph takes 7.8sec and it’ll top out at 130mph, which isn’t bad for something that’s capable of - on paper at least - 60mpg. The car is also, I think you’ll agree, good looking.

The FR trim we’ve got here adds red seatbelts, red brake callipers, 17-inch alloys and tinted rear windows. The twin pipes on the rear are also a nice touch. Inside, kit on the FR includes sat-nav, cruise control, electric windows up front, three pedals and a manual gearbox.

‘As a long-haul cruiser, I’m amazed just how well the 1.4-litre engine pulls up hills and past slower-moving traffic’

So what’s the car like to live with? For the purposes of the team and I (not that I’ve given any of the guys a shot behind the wheel just yet), the Ibiza is exactly right. I opted for the six-speed manual ‘box in the ordering process so driving the car is always pretty fun.

I managed to salvage wooden flooring from a lady who was chucking it out
I managed to salvage wooden flooring from a lady who was chucking it out

The Ibiza is refined, quiet and composed and comes with a nice and simple interior - the plastics are soft-touch on the whole. The car is also practical, thanks to five doors, and a deep boot means I’ve already been able to transport a load of flooring to my flat.

Reaction from friends, family and the other half has been completely positive (it’s a fairly non-offensive car, I suppose), which is a great start to new car ownership. But the thing that’s impressed me most is how genuinly fun the Ibiza is to drive. Sure, 140hp is nothing these days (I’ve currently got a 550hp Jaguar XFR-S waiting to punish me outside), but in a car as composed on its limit as the Ibiza is, the benefit is that you’re able to drive the nuts off the thing without ever overstepping the mark. If I were to drive the Jag on its limit (far beyond my capabilities), I’d probably be typing this piece from a hospital bed….

Here's a shot of the XFR-S, a car which I'm convinced is trying to kill me...
Here's a shot of the XFR-S, a car which I'm convinced is trying to kill me...

So far, I’m averaging 38.9mpg from the Ibiza. That’s a long way off the quoted 60mpg figure, which is a little disappointing, but I’m hopeful the numbers will creep up soon; the engine’s still new and needs to loosen up a little, and most of the mileage has been at 80mph (just under 3000rpm in sixth gear) with the air-con on.

As a long-haul cruiser, I’m amazed just how well the 1.4-litre engine pulls up hills and past slower-moving traffic. In-gear acceleration is surprisingly strong thanks to the unit’s forced induction. Around town and on B roads, it’s the same story; strong performance and little need to change down a gear because of the car’s wide torque band.

Seat - Eco Hatchbacks Like The Seat Ibiza Are Way More Fun Than You Give Them Credit For  - Blog

Behind the wheel, visibility is great, which means there’s little need for parking sensors. Good job, because our car doesn’t have them anyway (in fact, we’ve only got the £100 full-size spare wheel option ticked).

There’s a removable Garmin sat-nav system as standard (this also shows car telematics), which isn’t a particularly good unit and nowhere near as precise and quick as something like a TomTom. I’ve spent a lot of time shouting at the unit when it fails to point me in the right direction, so I usually stick to Google Maps on my iPhone - a daring move considering the FR doesn’t come with USB connectivity, which would keep my battery topped up and my ears listening to the sweet sounds of, you guessed it, Phil Collins.

Seat - Eco Hatchbacks Like The Seat Ibiza Are Way More Fun Than You Give Them Credit For  - Blog

Overall, I’m very happy with the car so far, despite it not being equipped with a few of the gadgets I’ve become accustomed to. The Ibiza is fairly good on the wallet, genuinely fun to drive fast and very nimble. This car doesn’t break the bank to buy new either; with the £100 spare wheel option, the Ibiza FR ACT will set you back £16,760, which makes this Spaniard around £500 less expensive than the equivalent (but three-door) Audi A1.

The CT guys and I will bring you regular updates on this car, so if you have any questions or comments, let us know below.