Seat Ibiza (2008) review

Published:09 May 2008

Seat Ibiza (2008) review
  • At a glance
  • 3 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5

At last, here’s a new Seat Ibiza – the fourth generation in fact – and it’s a very, very important car for the Spanish manufacturer. This is the first new model to be launched on the watch of new president Erich Schmitt, and to be styled by ex-Lamborghini design chief Luc Donckerwolke.

It’s also the first car within the VW Group to use the new small-car platform that will underpin the next raft of tiny tots within the group, Polo included. Considering the patchy form of Seat lately, expectations are understandably high.

It still looks like a Seat though, doesn’t it?

Yes, the bold slashes through the steelwork still feature, but there’s a subtle but pronounced shift in how the surfaces are treated and joined together. This Ibiza has a much more precise, geometric look to it – a more mature stance that imbues a greater sense of solidity than the current products, and much more so than the youthful but slightly chubby old Ibiza.

It’s quite a lot bigger than the old car – both in body, track and with a longer wheelbase too – and it certainly feels that way whether you’re standing outside or sat in the driver's seat: this Ibiza no longer has the feel of a cheap small car. We’re getting to drive the five-door version now, but a three-door Sportcoupe will be along soon.

Click 'Next' below to read more of our Seat Ibiza first drive review

The Ibiza's interior is still as dark as a mineshaft I bet…

No, there have clearly been some big changes at Seat, and this new Ibiza interior is a massive leap forward compared to the old car.

Predominantly, this is an interior that no longer feels purposefully cheap so as to fit into some predetermined corporate hierarchy. A fillet of soft-touch material slices across the cabin dominating the dashboard and it’s heavily canted towards the driver – just as in the pre-Bangle BMW days.

What! German Spanish genes mixed up? 

The centre stack has stereo and climate switchgear with a gloss black finish, and there are some Audi TT-esque buttons down by the gearlever. It’s all very mature, fairly sporty, and in a way, quite Germanic.

Any notions of the old car are long gone. It feels roomy inside, although rear legroom isn’t brilliant behind a tall driver. The boot is bigger than before too, taking it to 292 litres.

Enough interior chat. Is the Ibiza tired and ‘emocional’ or a hoot to drive?

There's a decent driving position; a sportily shaped steering wheel is set just so, and you’re sat lower (22mm lower apparently) than in the old car. The ambience is refined; the engine quiet, and road/wind noise seems nicely muted.

Much of the car’s character comes from steering that is rather light, but very direct with little sneeze factor to it. The Ibiza feels alert and keen to turn, but it’s not an especially involving or characterful steer in a traditional sense.

And how quick is this new Ibiza then?

As you might expect, the 1.4 motor doesn’t have much puff low down the rev range, but swap a few cogs in the slick ‘box, pile on a few revs, and it’s an enthusiastic partner – taking the car from rest to 62mph in 12.2sec while remaining just the right side of rorty.

It should be good for around 45mpg too, although you’ll have to watch your right foot to achieve that. Speed freaks will have to wait for forthcoming Cupra and FR performance versions.

Click 'Next' below to read more of our Seat Ibiza first drive review

Verdict

If the pricing is right, then the new Ibiza has certainly moved considerably up the supermini leader board with this evolution.

It’s very different in feel to its predecessor, and although it’s hard to be definite about its driving characteristics on these washboard-smooth launch roads, it seems a refined yet agile car to drive.

With a comprehensive kit list and some big car options available such as USB connectivity, Bluetooth and swivelling xenon lights, the new Ibiza deserves success.

Specs

Price when new: £0
On sale in the UK: Summer 2008
Engine: 1390cc 16v 4-cyl, 84bhp @ 5000rpm, 97lb ft @ 3800rpm
Transmission: Five-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Performance: 12.2sec 0-62mph, 109mph, 45.6mpg, 149g/km CO2
Weight / material: 1025kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4052/1693mm/1445mm

Rivals

Photo Gallery

  • Seat Ibiza first drive car review: rear three-quarter photo
  • Seat Ibiza first drive car review: interior photo
  • Seat Ibiza first drive car review: front three-quarter photo
  • Seat Ibiza first drive car review: side photo
  • Seat Ibiza first drive car review: interior photo
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