For years, the Ford Fiesta has reigned supreme as the UK's best-selling supermini. Now it's facing its toughest challenge ever in the shape of the latest Seat Ibiza...
Launched in 2017, the Ibiza is a real step up from the previous model. Priced from £13,410 to £16,715, it's won several accolades including the Best Supermini title in the UK Car of the Year Awards 2018.
Unlike most competitors, Front Assist (Seat's version of autonomous emergency braking or AEB), is fitted as standard across the Ibiza range. This safety system uses radars to scan for potential hazards such as pedestrians, warning the driver if one is spotted, and applying the brakes if no action is taken to avoid it. The Ibiza achieved a maximum five stars in Euro NCAP crash safety tests.
Rivals include the Ford Fiesta, Nissan Micra, Vauxhall Corsa, Renault Clio and Volkswagen Polo. Insurance group range for the Seat Ibiza: 2-19.
The fifth-generation of the popular Ibiza now bears more of a family resemblance to the Leon, next up in the range. Only available as a five-door, it boasts sharp, sporty styling. Up front, Seat’s signature LED triangular lights are very much in evidence, but it's the spacious interior that impressed me most.
There's plenty of room - for adult passengers in the back too - while the boot has a total capacity of 355 litres, which is big for a supermini. Load capacity stretches to 823 litres with the rear seats folded. The car is well built. My only gripe is that there are no soft-touch plastics used in the cabin, which makes it feel a little basic. The Ibiza is available in 10 colours, but I'd say it looks particularly good in vibrant Eclipse Orange or Mystery Blue.
There's a good range of petrol and diesel engines available for the Seat Ibiza, starting with a surprisingly gutsy 1.0-litre 74bhp ‘MPI’ non-turbocharged petrol engine, followed by a more powerful three-cylinder TSI 1.0-litre turbo petrol (94bhp or 113bhp). There's also a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol unit, but it's only available in sporty FR trim.
I'd recommend going for the thrummy and very willing 94bhp 1.0-litre which is a great all- rounder. Capable of 0-62mph in 10.9 seconds (but feeling much nippier), it can go on to a top speed of 113mph. Fuel economy is 60.1mpg on paper (closer to 50mpg in real world driving) with low CO2 emissions of 106g/km. It comes with a five-speed manual gearbox, which is slick enough, but a six-speed is more the norm these days.
If you spend much of your time on the motorway and you're looking for the best fuel economy, then the frugal 1.6-litre diesel engine might be a better bet. Available with either 79bhp or 94bhp, they both can return as much 74.3mpg, while CO2 emissions are a low 99g/km.
There are six trim levels - S, SE, SE Technology, SE Design, FR and EXCELLENCE. I’d suggest avoiding the entry-level S spec, because though it includes Bluetooth, air-conditioning and front electric windows, there's no infotainment touchscreen.
The SE adds a small 5.0-inch screen, LED running lights and alloy, but you need to go up to my recommended spec (SE Technology) where you get a big 8.0-inch touchscreen with sat nav, plus LED daytime running lights.
Opt for FR if you want a sportier look and driving experience (this trim comes with sports seats, a drive mode selector and twin exhausts), while the top-of-the-range XCELLENCE boasts Alcantara upholstery, 'Keyless Enter and Go' and tinted rear windows. Naturally, the Ibiza is fully connected with Apple Car Play, Android Auto and Mirror Link access, but you will need an infotainment screen.
How does the Seat Ibiza drive?
I tested the most popular model with the 93bhp 1.0-litre TSI petrol engine and five-speed gearbox. Start her up and it’s immediately obvious that the new Ibiza is very refined. There’s a subdued thrum from the three-cylinder engine, but nothing more unless pressed hard.
The ride quality is up there with the best in its class, but the biggest surprise of all is that it feels planted on the road with well-controlled body roll, making it a genuinely engaging car to drive. Its lively little engine pushes it along at more than enough speed for most, while light steering and good visibility make it ideal for the city too.
Wind noise is well suppressed, though tyre noise is noticeable at speed. In short, I think the Ibiza is a great balance between a fun driving experience in and out of town - and comfortable motorway cruiser.
Seat Ibiza: the verdict
The Seat Ibiza is a revelation. Stylish, safe, spacious, refined and entertaining to drive, it’s competitively priced and arguably the best supermini on the market.