SEAT Ibiza ST review
by David Finlay (27 September 2010)
There are many estate cars on the market, but few of them are based on superminis, the MINI, Renault Clio and Skoda Fabia being rare exceptions to the unwritten rule. SEAT had a small estate, the Cordoba Vario, back around the time of the storming of the Bastille, but more recently it has followed the general trend by providing no such thing. This year, that has changed, and in addition to the Ibiza five-door and Ibiza SC three-door you can now also pop in to your local SEAT dealer and emerge some time later with the Ibiza ST.
As others have proved, making a small estate look elegant is no easy job. Furthermore, regular readers will need to reminding that I can be rather testy on the subject of SEAT styling. But the Ibiza ST is smart enough, if understandably a little tail-heavy when looked at side on.
And no wonder. It's 18cm longer than other Ibizas, and every one of those cm is behind the rear wheels. The result of that is a substantial increase in luggage space; the hatchbacks manage around 290 litres with the rear seats in place, but the extra length of the ST brings the total up to 430 litres. SEAT is quick to point out that this is more than some hatchbacks one size up from the Ibiza provide, and it should know - its own León's boot is 20% smaller, though the León does have more rear legroom.
Fold down the 60/40 split rear seat and the Ibiza ST's capacity increases to 1164 litres, which puts it within striking distance of several compact SUVs even though it isn't as tall.
Traditionally, estate cars do not ride or handle as well as their saloon or hatchback equivalents, but in the case of the Ibiza there isn't much in it, at least if the car reviewed here is anything to go by. Although you can tell from the greater than normal vertical movement at the rear that the ST has been set up on the assumption that it may have to carry some heavy loads, it's capable enough on corners, and you would have to be particularly interested in and alert to handling characteristics to be able (or bothered) to spot the difference between this car and a regular Ibiza.
There are three trim levels called S, SE and Sport, all of them including air-conditioning and roof rails as standard (but unfortunately not ESP, which is going to cause some clucking and tutting at Euro NCAP). The engine availability depends partly on which trim level you pick, but across the range there's a choice of 1.2-litre turbo petrol and diesel engines, a 1.4 petrol and a 1.6 diesel.
So far, the only ST I've driven had the 1.6 diesel, and since its maximum output of 104bhp is the highest available you'll realise that SEAT isn't aiming for sporty drivers here. (Actually, SEAT's unfailingly humorous PR people describe the 1.6 as "potent", but I think they're having a laugh.) The really interesting unit is the 1.2 diesel, especially when it's fitted to the Ecomotive low-carbon special version, since this has a combined fuel economy figure of 80.7mpg and a CO2 rating of just 92g/km. Yikes.
Whether or not you achieve 80.7mpg yourself - and my bet is that you won't be doing so on a regular basis - the 92g/km statistic is assumed to apply no matter how you drive the car, and it means that you don't have to pay annual Vehicle Excise Duty. The only problem there is that the Ecomotive is pretty expensive. In fact, in SE form it's the costliest Ibiza ST there is at £14,910, as well as being the slowest, and if you buy it you'll be giving more money to SEAT than you would otherwise have paid the Chancellor of the Exchequer simply for the pleasure of telling him to eat your shorts.
The cheapest Ibiza ST by a long way is the 1.4 petrol in entry-level S trim. At current prices it costs £12,070, which compares well with the £13,510 asked for the next model up. It's the most expensive to tax (£110 both for the first-year charge and the annual VED payment) but you would have to keep it for more than a decade for this to become significant, and although it's also the least economical it might still be worth considering by people who don't rack up high mileages.