SEAT Ibiza (2012) review
by David Finlay (3 May 2012)
There is more to it than this, as we'll see, but the mid-life revision of the SEAT Ibiza is very largely about styling. Place one of the new cars alongside a 2008 original and they look extraordinarily different considering they share the same bodyshell.
Most of the changes are at the front, where the Ibiza now has more purposeful-looking headlight units and lower diagonal bars which point outwards rather than, as before, inwards. The effect of these two alterations alone (and they're not the only ones) is to make even the most basic Ibizas look sportier and more feisty. Subtler revisions at the back, again including new light units, helps the overall effect.
The interior hasn't been left alone either, though it's difficult to identify the differences if you haven't been told about them in advance. If you're very familiar with the previous Ibiza you're most likely to notice that the instruments are not as they once were. In 2012 form they look quite smart, but it's not particularly helpful that the markings for 20, 40, 60mph and so on are clearer than the ones in between when two of the UK's most common speed limits are 30 and 70.
Owners of the 2008-2011 Ibiza may have found themselves cursing the glovebox, which was big enough to hold the owner's manual and not much else. SEAT has addressed this issue (not as trivial as it might seem) and doubled the glovebox's capacity, while also giving it an interior light.
Mechanically, there are hardly any changes, and you still get a choice of three-door (SC), five-door and ST (estate) body styles, but the trim levels have been revised slightly. They start with E, and a 1.2-litre petrol Ibiza SC in this form still costs £9995, as previously. This is under the bottom price of the closely related Volkswagen Polo by a small margin, and of the Audi A1 by enough to pay for a nice holiday, but it's undercut by the most basic Ford Fiesta, Skoda Fabia and Vauxhall Corsa.
Next up is the S A/C, a name originally used to distinguish Ss fitted with air-conditioning from those that weren't; nowadays they all are. SE follows that, and at the top of the pile - at least until a new high-performance Cupra goes on sale - is the sporty FR which is starting to look like a sub-range all on its own.
The expansion of the FR line-up has been achieved partly by applying it to ST estate models for the first time and partly by adding two turbocharged 104bhp engines (a 1.2 TSI petrol and a 1.6 TDI diesel) to a list which has until now consisted only of a 141bhp 2.0 TDI and a 148bhp 1.4 TSI.
Of these, the 1.2 TSI is expected to be the most popular. It's not particularly quick in a straight line, but its impressive spread of power means that it reacts well to throttle pedal commands at almost any speed, and while the Formula Racing tag (for that is what FR means) may seem hyperbolic, this is nonetheless a very agreeable mildly-warm hatch.
If running costs are a major issue, the Ibiza to go for is, as before, the Ecomotive. It's not cheap, it's fairly noisy and, with a 1.2-litre three-cylinder diesel engine producing just 74bhp it's rather slow, but for all that it's quite good fun to drive, and with official CO2 emissions of just 92g/km it's exempt from both Vehicle Excise Duty and the London congestion charge.