From £13,1309

A model upon which Seat has staked its future, the new Ibiza must now deliver in an extremely competitive market. So can the supermini upset the likes of Ford, Mini, Mazda, Nissan and others?

Find Seat Ibiza deals
Offers from our trusted partners on this car and its predecessors...
New car deals
From £13,130
Nearly-new car deals
From £15,775
Sell your car
In partnership with
Powered by

Seat is fond of talking about its three pillars to future success: the Seat Ibiza, the Seat Leon, the Seat Ateca.

Two of Seat's props are in indisputably fine fettle; the third, not so much.

The ‘double lateral blisters’ are in the same vogue as the Leon’s — and even featured on the previous Ibiza

The manufacturer may well have shifted 5.4 million superminis since 1984, but the outgoing Seat Ibiza – launched in 2008 – didn’t age nearly as well as Ford’s timeless Fiesta. By the time the Mazda 2 and third-generation Mini were launched in 2014, the Ibiza barely featured in our segment reckoning.

A ground-up rethink was required, and, true to form, that’s what Seat claims to have delivered with this, the fifth generation of the Seat Ibiza.

Naturally, the groundwork has all been done by long-term Volkswagen Group strategy, as manifested in the roll-out of the all-new platform on which the new car sits.

The not-at-all catchily named MQB A0 architecture is a smaller derivative of the firm’s ubiquitous mid-sized underpinnings and it is set to be the defining component in a raft of forthcoming models, not least the all-important Seat Arona CUV.

The new underside brings with it different dimensions, and a fresh look, too – one far more in keeping with the glossy styling of the Seat Leon and Seat Ateca.

Back to top

At least as important is an overhauled engine line-up. The previous Ibiza was the recipient of nearly 20 petrol and diesel motors in its lifetime, but none was deemed fit to be carried over. Instead, a trio of three-cylinder units constitute the new range, a new 1.5-litre four-pot, and a couple of 1.6 TDIs round off the list.

A better spread of performance and efficiency – not to mention refinement – ought to be at the centre of supermini’s improved criteria.

With the Seat top brass boasting that the company has set out to build the best small car in Europe, and our recent supermini group test having already given credence to the notion, the new Ibiza’s road test star potential is undeniably promising.

Over the next few pages, we’ll know if Martorell finally has the triumvirate of strong pillars on which it has willingly staked its prosperity. 



Seat Ibiza front end

Although it’ll garner much of the showroom attention, it is probably worth dwelling on the Ibiza’s styling least of all; not because it’s poor but because, by now, the Leon’s edgy collection of stylised creases and triangular motifs is a known and much admired quantity.

Instead, it is the five-door supermini’s new proportions that turn the neatest trick.

The space made available for mobile phones is capacious, but why is it lined with the sort of scratchy plastic that you fear will leave a mark on your phone’s touchscreen?

The previous model’s somewhat awkward, skinny stance has been superseded by an 87mm increase in width courtesy of the MQB A0’s larger size. The platform brings with it an additional 60mm of wheelbase length, too – although in total the car is 2mm shorter than its predecessor.

You’d swear it was lower (in fact, it is: by a single millimetre) but, of course, that’s just the better visual balance playing out. Among superminis, arguably the Ford Fiesta alone conveys a more appealing sense of stationary poise.

Enhanced size is not the only benefit of the new architecture. It is stiffer by around one-third compared with the old PQ25 platform. Although Seat makes no great boast about a reduction in weight, the Ibiza remains pleasingly trim, at 1047kg, despite its increase in scale.

Doubtless, this is helped by the (initially exclusive) deployment of three-pot petrol engines in the nose. The entry-level unit, the 74bhp 1.0-litre MPI, is carried over from the Seat Mii.

Ditto the more sophisticated turbocharged 1.0-litre TSI, although its 94bhp and 113bhp output variants are unique to the larger car. Along with forced induction, both benefit from direct injection and inlet and outlet valve timing for better response.

The more powerful version 1.0 TSI and the 1.5-litre unit get a six-speed manual gearbox, but its stablemates are relegated to a five-speed transmission. An optional seven-speed DSG automatic is also available but only attached to the 113bhp 1.0-litre triple.

All powerplants drive the front wheels exclusively and all versions of the Ibiza are suspended on the industry-standard front MacPherson struts and rear torsion beam.

The arrangement is passive although, predictably, the FR trim gets its own settings for a firmer constitution, as well as a Drive Mode select button that allows you to marginally adjust the throttle and electric steering response.

There were no such fripperies on our SE Technology test car, which even came on the stock 15in alloy wheels. 


Seat Ibiza interior

Mild styling differences aside, the Ibiza’s new cabin is an instantly recognisable carrier of the current VW Group gene.

Its new proportions – as they were obviously intended to do – firmly locate the car in the middle ground between the Mii and the Seat Leon, with the layout and ergonomics simply scaled to match.

We often dismiss supermini top trim levels as superfluous but the promise of plentiful kit and a splash of Alcantara might be just what the style doctor ordered

As both are eminently well-judged, they are to the car’s considerable benefit. Nothing that you come into contact with on a daily basis is poorly positioned or badly made, just as nothing you need to make immediate sense of is crude or illegible.

The incidentals are astutely handled, too: there is a large cubby for your phone, with easily accessible charging ports; there are reasonably spacious door bins; and there are two accessible if inevitably closely packed cupholders.

Almost as important, the aesthetic specific to Seat is also generally pleasing. Where the previous Ibiza felt a wee bit unbaked, both in look and feel, its replacement has ripened into a much more mature appearance.

Inevitably, this doesn’t preclude the use of cheap plastic – a commodity that the previous model had in abundance – but its deployment is cunningly concealed with either the appearance of soft-touch cladding or the clever use of matt (but not dull) finishes.

It helps, of course, that in SE Technology trim there is in the middle of it all a substantial and expensive-looking touchscreen, which tends to steal the focus from its cost-effective surround.

Seat’s Media System Plus is a recognisable evolution of the modular infotainment technology that the VW Group bundles with the MQB platform. The larger 8.0in touchscreen accounts for the ‘Technology’ in the SE Technology trim level. Lesser variants are equipped with a 5.0in touchscreen.

The upgraded kit comes with the same largely excellent sat nav system that features elsewhere in the group. The system itself, familiar from the Seat Ateca, has mostly dispensed with physical buttons, although (gratifyingly) the knobs for volume and selection remain, as do function shortcuts.

Less persuasively, Seat persists with casting sub-menu options to the four corners of the screen. It remains difficult to operate.

Otherwise, the set-up is good. Our test car came with the option of a 300W BeatsAudio stereo system, which adds a subwoofer and uprated speakers.

In the back, the car’s shrewd packaging continues. Liberating more space for rear passengers was obviously one of Seat’s primary targets and it has been confidently achieved.

The abundance of head room marks it apart from a number of big-name rivals and means that most adults will find themselves adequately accommodated for moderate journeys. Small children – much more frequent occupants of supermini pews – ought to have no cause for (legitimate) complaint.

The boot, for all the worthiness of its own 63-litre expansion, remains a predictable prospect in that there is a prodigious lip to navigate, a low floor to get stuff down onto and no flat load space to enjoy when you collapse the seats. But at 355 litres, it is impressive for the segment and decent enough to be thought of as the thin icing on a convincing cake.  

As for trim levels, there are six to choose from - S, SE, SE Technology, SE Design, FR and Xcellence. Entry-level cars get 15in steel wheels, height adjustable driver's seat, Bluetooth connectivity and hill hold control as standard, along with a monochrome 5.0in infotainment system. Upgrade to SE and you'll find 15in alloys, leather clad steering wheel and gear lever, and a colour infotainment system.

SE Technology cars get ambient interior lighting and Seat's 8.0in touchscreen infotainment system, complete with sat nav and a CD player, while SE Design models receive 16in alloy wheels, tinted rear windows, chrome exterior trim, a panoramic sunroof and a 300W Beats Audio system.

Sporty FR trimmed models add smartphone integration, 17in alloy wheels, gloss black exterior trim, a twin exhaust system, sports seats and suspension, DAB radio, cruise control and a Seat's driving mode controller. The range-topping Xcellence Ibizas get more convenience from the inclusion of rear parking sensors, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and ignition, and a rear view camera.


Seat Ibiza side profile

Esteem has been accumulating fast for the turbocharged versions of the VW Group’s parsimonious three-pot petrol engines.

The 89bhp format turned the buttoned-down Volkswagen Up into a quasi-hoot and the 113bhp variant had a great deal to do with the Ibiza FR toppling the new Fiesta a few weeks ago in our group test.

Stability bias is obvious in the shallower corners but it still feels very capably balanced if you come off the throttle at the critical moment

The 94bhp tested here isn’t perhaps quite as compelling as in those two showings, yet its virtues are palpably many. Prime among them is not so much the respectable peak output, but rather the 129lb ft conjured up at the opposite end of the rev counter.

The twist isn’t merely amenable or likeable – although plainly it is both – but crucial. Without its placid, perceptible swell at low crank speeds, the engine’s usability would be utterly overwhelmed by the incredibly long-winded ratios of the five-speed manual gearbox.

As it is, second gear is easily game for the national limit and third almost cracks 100mph – spacing that would traditionally have had such a small-capacity unit dithering.

But thanks to the turbocharger’s endeavour and the low kerb weight, the Ibiza is unimpeachably linear, taking practically the same time to get from 30mph to 50mph in fourth as from 50mph to 70mph, for example.

The result is not precisely brisk, but certainly there’s sufficient enthusiasm to make the car feel charitably receptive to prods of the accelerator no matter which gear you’re in. It’s a mild-mannered vitality that translates into remarkably stress-free progress – a sentiment augmented not only by the familiar effervescence of the gearchange but also by the all-round refinement of the three-pot.

Indeed, the motor is so unobtrusive and its transmission ratios so long that it’s easy to find yourself absent-mindedly sauntering down motorways in third gear.

Even with that tendency, we averaged 44.9mpg – shy of Seat’s combined claim of 60.1mpg, although a good indication that 50mpg-plus ought to be easily achievable if you put your mind to it. 


Seat Ibiza cornering

Perhaps more so now than ever, the supermini running order is dominated by cars that eloquently and understatedly combine benign comfort with accomplished handling.

To that impressive shortlist we can now assuredly add the Ibiza. Although the SE Technology model in question differed noticeably from the FR version that we tested recently, the same virtues largely held true: the model is impeccably mannered, wonderfully easy-going and scrupulously well tuned for what’s intended.

Initial roll is consummately controlled, with plenty of spare spring travel for soaking up bumps, even under pressure

If there is a fault, it crops up immediately in the over-assisted feel of the electrically powered steering, which at low speeds has the wheel spinning around the column with the synthetic benevolence of a 30-year-old Cadillac.

The trait is good for easy parking, typically bad for keen drivers. But over time, the attribute is simply absorbed into the amenably springy feel of the rest of the control weights, and if it ultimately lacks the tactility of a Fiesta’s rack, then it makes up for it with a fundamentally sound level of precision.

Elsewhere, the compromise between desirable sensations and agreeable serenity seems well struck.

Much like the interior, the chassis dynamic is best thought of as an unabashed attempt to rescale the first-rate efforts already made with the Seat Leon and Mii – and like those models, the result is an almost interminably likeable front-drive hatchback.

On 15in wheels and marginally softer suspension, the Ibiza on test demonstrated the kind of supple ride quality that was beyond its predecessor; one reliant on the rigidity and low weight of the platform as a foundation for the spring and damper softness slathered on top.

With its bedrock assured, the suspension can afford to be obliging without compromising its ability to gently hold the body level when it’s time to turn in at speed. This it does much like everything else: with low-key, low-effort and almost imperturbable panache.  


Seat Ibiza

It is to buyers’ benefit that Seat’s pricing is constrained as much by VW’s proximity as the surrounding market.

With the new Polo now above it, the Ibiza is intended to be keenly competitive within the mainstream, making its £13,130 starting price the ballpark from which most supermini ranges start.

Seat’s keen pricing means that the Ibiza’s residuals compare respectably with the Mazda 2’s but not the Mini’s

However, like the majority of its rivals, the entry-level car is a less-than desirable option, its kit paucity compounded by the dull-edge prospect of the turbo-less 74bhp MPI motor.

Realistically, then, the line-up starts at SE with the same 94bhp TSI unit on test for £14,595 – exactly what you’d pay for a 89bhp 1.5-litre Mazda 2 SE-L Nav.

If the absence of navigation is a deal breaker, you’ll have to shell out an extra £660 for the SE Technology trim we drove – the Ibiza that delivers the larger, 8.0in touchscreen (SE having to make do with a 5.0in version).

Given that a five-door Fiesta in Titanium trim with the 99bhp 1.0-litre Ecoboost aboard costs £16,515 and a five-door Mini One £15,250, that feels like solid ground for the mid-level Ibiza.

The sportier FR, with 113bhp, is similarly well placed versus the five-door Mini Cooper and Fiesta ST-Line.

Emissions and economy are par for the course as well, although the 112g/km and 57.6mpg (combined) claimed for the MPI engine offers an additional reason to avoid it.



4.5 star Seat Ibiza

Had Seat acceded merely to increasing the physical size of the Ibiza, the end game would probably be no less transparent: its previously adolescent supermini needed a prominent ripening if it was ever going to meet the uprated expectations of ‘generation downsizer’.

But family friendly packaging is just one appealing facet among many in the model’s overhaul.

Grown-up supermini shows its rivals how it’s done - in most respects

On top of its stiffer, cleverer platform, Seat has constructed a brilliantly modern compact car, one that seeks to absorb the gruelling boredom of everyday driving and return it as frothy, imperturbable ease of use.

In many respects, the Ibiza’s renovation reflects the fine job done on the Volkswagen Up and its siblings – namely, that deft downscaling of big-car feel – only more so. Seat’s supermini is a far more rounded prospect than its tiny stablemate (as it had to be) and more desirable because of it.

Its missing half star, though, is a reminder that the Ibiza is not complete: there are other contenders that steer and turn and invigorate a notch more convincingly.

But none provokes a buying impulse quite as consistently as the new class leader, which puts it ahead of the Ford Fiesta, Mini One, Mazda 2 and the new Nissan Micra.


Seat Ibiza First drives