First UK Drive: Seat Ibiza

We test the latest Seat Ibiza and see if it's good enough to take on accomplished rivals such as the new Ford Fiesta and Skoda Fabia.

What is it?

The new Ibiza is Seat's fifth generation of the popular supermini. It is a totally new car – built from the ground up by the Spanish manufacturer based on the VAG's new MQB A0 platform. The new Ibiza has much sharper and more aggressive styling than the outgoing model, although it clearly retains Seat's DNA, as it is similar in looks to its big brother – the Leon.

What's under the bonnet?

Currently, only a 1.0-litre petrol engine option is available, with three different power outputs, although diesel engines will be on sale eventually. The best option for town drivers is the entry-level 1.0-litre MPI engine with 74bhp. For those wanting something slightly sportier, the range topping 1.0-litre TSI with 113bhp is great – particularly in sporty FR trim. However, the pick of the Ibiza range is the 1.0-litre TSI with 94bhp. A mix of performance and economy makes this the best choice, and represents the best value for money too. While the engine line-up is currently quite limited, a 1.5-litre TSI EVO model is expected by the end of the year. A 1.6-litre TDI will also make its way into the Ibiza, although no dates have yet been confirmed.

What's the spec like?

Seat currently offer four trim levels – S, SE, FR and Xcellence. Standard features on the entry-level S model include air-conditioning, automatic headlights, a 5.0-inch touchscreen and Bluetooth connectivity, starting from £13,030. The SE range starts at £14,000. It adds 15-inch alloy wheels, LED front and rear lights, front fog lights, a leather steering wheel and a front chrome grille. The sporty FR range starts at £16,015. Standard features include 17-inch alloy weeks, Full Link (MirrorLink, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto), DAB radio, front sport seats, sports suspension and a tiredness recognition system. Range-topping Xcellence models, starting from £16,715, include Full Link, 16-inch alloy wheels, Alcantara upholstery, keyless entry, front and rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera.

First UK drive: Seat Ibiza
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First UK drive: Seat Ibiza

Any rivals?

The supermini class is a very competitive market, meaning there are many tough rivals the Ibiza has to face. The Skoda Fabia and Volkswagen Polo are probably its closest rivals. The Skoda Fabia is one of the best superminis currently on sale, although for many young buyers – who the Ibiza is targeted at – it is just a bit dull. The new Volkswagen Polo, expected to go on sale later in the year, will probably become the toughest rival for the Ibiza. Rivals elsewhere include the popular Ford Fiesta, Citroen C3 and Vauxhall Corsa.

What's it like to drive?

In FR trim, the car we drove, the Ibiza was excellent. The FR's sporty profile and tweaked dynamics really do make a noticeable difference to the drive of the Ibiza. Even in 94bhp form, the 1.0-litre TSI engine still provided easily enough punch for most scenarios – the only place it noticeably lacks grunt is when accelerating up hills. The Ibiza's steering is direct and accurate, helped by the fantastic platform the Ibiza is based on. The Ibiza remains a very comfortable car, even in sporty FR trim, although putting it in Eco mode is the best option to make the ride even softer.

AOL Cars verdict

The new Ibiza is a brilliant supermini competing in a market where only the best is acceptable. It is fantastic to drive, attractive to look at and is surprisingly versatile for a car so compact. The only areas that let the Ibiza down are the price and the infotainment system, which can be difficult to use. Yet, these minor foibles shouldn't detract from the Ibiza's strengths. It is an excellent car, showcasing the brilliant MGB A0 platform and it deserves to do very well.

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