Significant interior revisions and new tech enhance an appealing package and ensure the SEAT Ibiza remains class-competitive, particularly when the new model broadly matches the old car on price. If you’re planning on carrying passengers or luggage regularly, the more potent 108bhp engine may make the better bet.
As facelifted cars go, the new SEAT Ibiza doesn’t appear to shout too loudly on first impressions. But step inside and it’s - mostly - all change. The big-selling supermini gains new tech, plus a new interior, addressing one of our key criticisms of what otherwise remains an Auto Express favourite.
The fifth-generation Ibiza has been on sale since 2017, but the market has moved on, particularly in terms of interior quality and tech. So the remodeled dash is a welcome change; it injects extra flair into the mix, and houses some significantly overhauled tech.
All models feature new infotainment plus full smartphone integration, and every version from SE Technology upwards gains a large 9.2-inch screen, which displays clear, sharp and vibrant graphics, and it’s responsive to the touch. This new screen is in a far more useful position than before, making it easier to operate without needing to look down. By installing it slightly proud of the dash SEAT has also made it possible to rest your hand on the top, making operation easier.
This matters in a world where buyers expect more from the myriad screens in their cars, and SEAT’s system delivers. Navigation comes as standard on all models, bar the SE trim, and is simple to use and offers accurate mapping, although with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto fitted across the range, that’s a moot point for an increasing number of drivers. All models are compatible with the SEAT Connect app, which records driving data and parking position, allows you to lock and unlock the car, and can sound theft or speed alerts. FR Sport and XCELLENCE Lux trims boast a customisable 10.25-inch Digital Cockpit display, too.
The Ibiza’s interior is pretty much all new ahead of the driver and passenger. That means a new soft-touch dash top, a silver trim panel that runs the full width of the car and new air vents which feature LED illumination - red for FR, burgundy for XCELLENCE. There’s also a nappa leather steering wheel that contains a slightly fiddly array of buttons to operate the audio system and cruise control. At least the Ibiza retains physical controls for the air-con system.
While the dash looks and feels very different, there’s no change when it comes to practicality meaning the Ibiza remains one of the more spacious models in the class. Four six-footers can sit in relative - for the class - comfort, though if you’re going to carry three people in the back, it’s best if they’re kids. Although again, this is par for the course in a five-door supermini.
Open the boot by flipping the SEAT badge, and the same 355 litres of room is revealed, which is a good chunk more than you’ll find in a Ford Fiesta or MINI Hatch.
Other changes brought as part of the facelift are more familiar fare: three new alloy wheel designs, a pair of new paint finishes (Sapphire Blue and Asphalt Blue), LED lighting fitted to all models, and new badging that sees Ibiza displayed in a new handwritten font.
Mechanically, little has changed. The Ibiza is offered with a choice of two 1.0-litre TSI engines in 94bhp and 108bhp flavours, the latter with a seven-speed DSG as an option. A 79bhp engine will be available in due course.
Behind the wheel of the expected best-seller, the 94bhp 1.0-litre in FR trim, it’s clear there’s more than enough for most buyers’ needs. The 1.0-litre takes a little stretching to get the most from it, though performance is perfectly adequate for round-town driving; that said, it’s easy to get caught in the wrong gear when the turbo is off boost. At least the five-speed manual gearbox is slick, though you’ll need to choose the 108PS (107bhp) engine if you want an extra ratio.
The FR and FR Sport models come with sports suspension, while all other models have a softer setup. We found the ride a little brittle at lower speeds, and the 17-inch wheels had a tendency to drone on some stretches of tarmac.
The Ibiza is a fine handling supermini though, with a great chassis, responsive steering and sharp handling. The 44 per cent of buyers who’ll choose the FR (and the further 17 per cent selecting FR Sport) will probably find the sportier looks and more focused drive of these models is well worth paying for.
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