Seat is a bit of an oddball car maker. Nobody is quite sure what it stands for. It’s supposed to be the sporty arm of the Volkswagen Group, a kind of lower-premium Alfa Romeo, but few people really get it. It’s a shame that the brand seems to be constantly in turmoil because its cars are generally pretty decent, with the Ibiza one of the best of the lot. It has a sharp design, a smart cabin and decent dynamics, and comes in three or five-door hatchback forms (the former known as the Ibiza SC), while there’s also an estate edition called the Ibiza ST.
The model is based on the same platform as the VW Polo and Skoda Fabia, both of which make great alternatives to the Seat. For its sharper design, similar driving experience and keen pricing we’d say the Ibiza is the best all-rounder of the trio but if you can stretch to a Polo, you’ll find the VW’s cabin quality is better. An even better all-rounder, though, is the Ford Fiesta; it’s the class leader when it comes to driving fun and it’s terrific value, too.
All of these alternatives offer a wide array of engine and trim choices. The same is true of the Ibiza, though. If it’s pure parsimony you crave, there are ultra-frugal diesels available including a three-cylinder 1.2 TDi or a similarly economical 1.4 TDi, both of which are labelled Ecomotive and both of which are free of road tax. There’s also a 1.6 TDi. It’s not road tax-free but with 65mpg potential, it shouldn’t ruin you financially.
While the diesels are very good so, too, are the petrol units. Although the entry-level normally aspirated 1.2 is a bit slow, the 1.2 TSI is much perkier while the 1.4 TSI is positively zesty. With its free-revving nature and 148bhp peak power output, this is the one we’d go for but if ultimate poke is your thing, the 178bhp Ibiza Cupra should be your goal.
Whether you buy your Ibiza with three doors or five will be dictated by whether style matters more than practicality. If the latter is key, the Ibiza ST estate is a stylish little load lugger that comes with most of the engine options of the regular Ibiza hatch. The hatchback is much more common though. It’s especially popular with young drivers, hooked by the car’s youthful styling and tempting prices, while most editions are pretty well equipped.
While any variation on the Ibiza Mk 4 theme is worth a look, it’s the facelifted versions that are the best. These arrived in spring 2012, the original model having first arrived in July 2008. Whatever you go for, find an Ibiza with the optional multi-media dock on top of the dash, which allows you to splice your TomTom into the car’s systems so you get an integrated sat nav without having to fork out for a factory-fit system.
What to look out for when buying a used Seat Ibiza
While the electrics are generally dependable, the powered windows can take on a mind of their own, either refusing to budge or going up and down of their own accord. Trim creaks and rattles can also crop up, while lots of wind noise from the front window seals can be an issue – especially on three-door cars.
Weird clunks from the power steering don’t signal anything is about to give up; it’s just a characteristic of some Ibizas. A stroppy stereo which refuses to talk to whatever MP3 player is plugged in, is too.
A single recall shouldn’t give much cause for concern. It came in June 2012 and affected Ibizas built between April 2010 and November 2011. A faulty catch meant their bonnets could fly open.
The one to buy
Seat Ibiza SC FR 1.4 TSI DSG
- 1390cc, 4 cylinders
- 148bhp @ 5800rpm
- 162 lb ft @ 1250rpm
- 7-speed semi-auto
- 0-62mph in 7.6sec
- Top speed:
- 47mpg (combined)
- Road tax band:
- E (£125)
- L 4066mm, W 1693mm, H 1424mm