Motoring review: SEAT Ibiza

TOURING Ibiza in an Ibiza sounds about right. Spain’s national carmaker SEAT tends to name models after significant places, hence Leon, Toledo, Marbella, Ronda, Cordoba and the sinkissed sorry, sunkissed island of Ibiza.

It’s a small isle. A decent cyclist could do the main routes in a day, easy. In your hire car you’ll get places rather quickly. There is the surprise of a motorway between the handsome capital Eivissa and the coastal youngsters’ resort of San Antonio. On the route there is even a tunnel, just like you get on the mainland. Your hire car will probably be a posh supermini like the Ibiza or Fiesta (another Spanish name), or Clio or 208 or an i10. They are all thick on the roads and size-wise fit perfectly with the stretches of narrow roads, tricky beach access lanes and parking slots.

Somehow, these cheapish hatchbacks look just right on Ibiza. In Britain they do not stand out in the same way because our roads are thick with bigger really posh cars like Jags and Mercs and B-Ems and Volvos and an inundation of Audis.

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This 4th generation Ibiza dates from 2008 and was “facelifted” in 2012. It has a lively body design, a bit fab, some say. The front is busy with air intakes and owlish lamps from which a styling line flows down towards the rear wheelarch.

There is a choice of the familiar VW pot of engines in a five-door range that spans £11,540 for the 69bhp petrol 1.2 up to £17,215 for the 141bhp 2.0 diesel FR. My Ibizan Ibiza was the sporty FR with a 104bhp 1.6 diesel engine (£16,045). It was painted in “bull fright red” and attracted more attention than I’d expected. Could that be the twin shiny exhaust pipes that switched on the bystanders much accustomed to cheaper hire models?

Ibiza is not a place to explore the limits of an Ibiza, or any other car, even if you are a brilliant driver like yours truly thinks he is. I was warned about hidden speed cameras (so well hidden I never saw any), the posted speed limits are low and the pace of traffic is slow. As on mainland Spain, the police can give on-the-spot fines and they may have you clamped if you park in the wrong place or exceed your parking time. They carry guns and are intimidatingly dark and handsome.

OK. I wanted an easy week on Ibiza. There’s no need for haste. The scenery is fascinating and you could drive top to bottom inside an hour, and across it in half that time. This smaller diesel engine was fine. I’d need persuading to pay more for the 2-litre. The secret to avoiding this temptation is not to drive the bigger engine. It knocks more than two seconds off the 0-62mph time of 10.5 seconds claimed by the 1.6 diesel but it is 75kg heavier and five miles a gallon thirstier and emits more C02 than the 1.6.

The island roads are often smooth and lovely (EU subsidies) but there are enough ratty surfaces to give the suspension refinement a test. In my book, even with the bigger alloys and shallower tyres (215/45/16), it was good enough on these shabby bits.

The speedometer had a varied scale, giving more dial space to the urban and suburban speeds and shrinking the top end speeds – a smart idea to help the perhaps careless driver stay legal.

Verdict: As much fun as the island on a good day