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Seat Ibiza (2008) unveiled

Published: 02 April 2008

Seat's new Ibiza – unveiled today in Barcelona – offers sleek looks from an ex-Lamborghini stylist and gadgets never before seen in the supermini class. The Ibiza is also the start of a new model offensive that Seat president Erich Schmitt hopes will double sales to 800,000 by 2018.

Seat Ibiza: the styling

Ex-Lamborghini designer Luc Donckerwolke penned the Ibiza’s striking shape. He explained to CAR that the focus of the Ibiza starts from the front, where the car’s ‘dynamic line’ runs out from the Seat badge. This means a bonnet that slightly overhangs the light clusters and gives the Ibiza strong ‘eyebrows’. They take a little getting used to in the metal, but make the nose more interesting.

The side profile is notable for the two sweeping lines that emerge from the front and rear light clusters. From the back the crease sweeps (beautifully) through the fuel filler cap and down into the door. The front crease follows the tone already set by today’s Seat range.

If only Ford hadn’t unveiled the new Fiesta we might be singing the Ibiza’s praises a bit more. It’s a smart car, but lacks the dynamic flair of Ford’s new baby.

Seat Ibiza: the interior

Seat has worked hard to make the interior a nice place to be, and the main contacts points (the wheel and gearstick) deserve praise. The leather trim on the show cars felt a class above the Fiesta, and the perceived quality is also very good.

The cabin architecture is however a little dour when compared with the Blue Oval’s baby. The large sweep of plastic facing the front seat occupants is a soft-touch molding, though other trims parts are a little harder to the touch, but above class average.

Praise must go to Seat’s take on sat-nav. The company won’t offer a system on the new Ibiza but you can specify a tiny dock that sits atop the dash. It can mate with 92 percent of systems on the market, and charge them, so you can avoid a tangle of wires and suction cups.

A USB interface will also be available, along with active-cornering bi-xenons, hill-hold assist and seven-speed twin-clutch DSG gearboxes – a class first. Engines will be a 1.2 (68bhp), 1.4 (84bhp) and 1.6-litre (104bhp) petrols, along with a 104bhp 1.9-litre diesel. TSI performance engines will join the range at a later date.

Click 'Next' to read more about the Ibiza

Seat Ibiza: the platform

Underpinning the Ibiza is Volkswagen’s new PQ45 architecture. It’s the architecture the next Polo will use, and the first time Seat has had access to a new VW platform first.

Of course the new car is bigger, breaking the four-metre boundary that used to define superminis. The Ibiza is 4050mm long, and unlike the new Fiesta and Mazda 2, will almost certainly weigh more than the outgoing car. Seat says that the bodyshell is lighter than before, but won’t mention kerbweights.

The extra length means legroom is impressive front and rear, but if you’re really tall (6’2’’-plus) you’ll struggle for headroom in the back. Not a problem in the Fiesta. The boot will hold 292 litres.

Seat Ibiza: the future

The five-door seen here will launch in the UK at the end of July, and the three-door will arrive by the end of 2008. It will be called SportCoupe, and look almost identical to the Bocanegra concept (bottom right) from the B-pillar back. Designer Donckerwolke says: ‘There will be a new roofline, side panels and hatch’ when compared with the five-door. The two will however share the same nose treatment. If the SportCoupe doesn’t appear at July’s London Motor Show (due to a lack of global media coverage) it will definitely be at the Paris Motor show in autumn 2008. Donckerwolke told CAR that the three-door is ready to be seen now.

Expect the Bocanegra looks to also be the inspiration for the Cupra model, and Donckerwolke calls the concept ‘the essence of the most sporty Ibiza’.

The Ibiza marks the start of a busy period for Seat. In autumn 2008 we we will see the Mondeo-rivalling saloon and estate that go on sale in 2009, and it's the first time the Spaniards will have competed in the busy D-sector. It's based on the last-gen Audi A4 and takes its front end design from the Tribu off-roader, another new arrival coming in 2009. In autumn 2009, we'll see the new Alhambra MPV, too.

Beyond that? Well, Seat will definitely get its own city car to replace the Arosa. It will be based on the VW Group's new Up, the back-to-basics mini that could mean a bargain price of just £5000-6000.

Our reporters are at the launch of the Ibiza in Spain today, so come back later for a full analysis of Seat's new baby

Come back to CAR Online for the Ibiza first drive in May 2008

By Ben Pulman

CAR's editor-at-large, co-ordinator, tallboy

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