SEAT Ibiza ST 1.2 TDI
SE E Ecomotive review
by David Finlay (9 March 2011)
The SEAT Ibiza ST Ecomotive (to give it a more manageable title than the official one) is a combination of two cars we've reviewed before, namely the Ecomotive hatchback and the ST estate. Each has its own appeal, but I must say that bringing their best features into one package creates a car I've enjoyed spending time with.
From the front, the ST is indistinguishable from the three- and five-door Ibiza hatches. Its rear-end design makes it look rather more homely than either of those cars but also leads to an extraordinary increase in luggage room, from 430 litres with the rear seats up (compared with 290 litres for the hatch) to 1164 litres when they're folded down.
If you can't picture space in litres, first of all don't worry, since I doubt that many people can, and second of all be assured that this is a whole heap of room. Very few cars in the segment can get close to it.
The above applies to all Ibiza STs. What makes this one (and the cheaper and less well-equipped S) different from other cars in the range is that it emits just 92g/km of CO2 on the official cycle and is therefore exempt from Vehicle Excise Duty, the London congestion charge and, in some places, parking charges.
The same test gives the Ecomotive a combined economy figure of 80.7mpg, thanks to its small but efficient 74bhp 1.2-litre turbo diesel engine, a stop/start system and various extra features such as improved aerodynamics, low-rolling resistance tyres and revised gearing.
Are you going to get 80.7mpg out of the car? Probably not, if my experience is anything to go by. In a wide variety of driving conditions I never came anywhere close to it. But it was quite normal to achieve over 60mpg, even on a long motorway journey during which the Ibiza was buffeted by headwinds and sidewinds and I don't know what kind of winds.
The official figure may be a distant dream, and the actual amount of CO2 produced (as opposed to taxed on) is probably way above 92g/km, but any car that can be relied on to beat 60mpg on a regular basis is okay with me.
I covered very nearly 1000 miles during the course of a week and enjoyed all of them. This is a very pleasant car to drive, with more supportive seats than you might expect, far lower levels of engine noise than three-cylinder Volkswagen Group diesels were producing up until very recently, and excellent ride quality. It handles pretty well, too - if SEAT has had to make any compromises to the rear suspension to account for the possibility of heavy loads, they're not apparent in the way the car goes round corners.
The only things that made me grumble about the car were the visibility (not great, but at least better, at the rear anyway, than in the hatchbacks) and the fact that if you use the power socket in the centre console - to charge a mobile phone, for example - it's not possible to put anything in the driver's side cupholder, which struck me as a surprisingly slapdash piece of design.
A more fundamental problem, especially considering how little the car costs to run, is that it's the most expensive ST you can buy, with a list price at the time of writing of over £15,000. That's a lot for a small SEAT: it's still - just - possible to buy an Ibiza for a four-figure sum, and the ST Ecomotive is within £1000 of the very perky 148bhp 1.4 TSI turbo petrol three-door.
The ST Ecomotive makes financial sense if you need to carry a lot of luggage into London's congestion charge zone several times a week. You might also be tempted by it if you are so rabidly opposed to the system of taxation that you would resent the £20 the Government would annually extract from you (from year two onwards) if you picked the second most economical ST instead.
If neither of these apply, I can't help thinking of a phrase that's been applied to many other low-CO2 specials, not just this one: it's an expensive way of saving money.