SEAT Ibiza - if it ain’t broke..

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Say hello to the new SEAT Ibiza. “But”, I hear you cry, “it looks just like the old one”.

Indeed it does. SEAT readily admit to following the old “if it ain’t broke…” adage and have left the exterior more or less untouched for 2016. The sharp creases and pointy nose are still there but new LED daytime running lights and a host of extra customisation options give the exterior a refresh.

The big changes lie beneath the skin, in both mechanical and interior improvements. SEAT say this upgrade is about improving driving experience, interior quality and efficiency so revisions to steering and suspension are partnered with new engines and upgraded materials and equipment.

The Ibiza is the first SEAT to get the new turbocharged 94bhp EcoTSI 1.0 and it seems an ideal match. It has the traditional three-pot thrum at start-up but is smooth and quiet out on the road.

Allied to the Ibiza’s light, crisp five-speed gearbox it makes nipping around in traffic a doddle yet is perfectly capable of hustling along out of urban areas. Only available in mid-level SE trim, it makes a strong case for itself with economy of 68.9mpg and that magical sub-100g/km emissions figure.

The 1.4 diesel is also a new unit and is the one to go for if economy is your be all and end all.

Official figures of 83.1mpg for the 74bhp and 78.5mpg for the 104bhp versions make pleasant reading and CO2 emissions are a tax-beating 88 or 95g/km.The 1.2-litre petrol FR clearly has sporty 
pretensions with a thicker, flat-bottomed steering wheel, larger alloys and twin tailpipes. It’s lively and a bit raspy but, with only 108bhp and a 0-62 time over 9 seconds, is very much a warm-up act for the inbound Ibiza Cupra, which boasts 189bhp and a sub-seven second 0-62 time.

Steering from the speed-sensitive electric system is sharp and quick but is overly light and lacking in feedback on faster twisting roads. Being small and light, the Ibiza also hasn’t lost its tendency to bounce around over bumpy terrain. This is slightly less noticeable in the ST version thanks, presumably, to the estate body’s extra weight. In any of the three body styles – three-door coupe, five-door hatch or five-door estate, it feels small, neat and nimble but retains the solid big car feel the Ibiza has always enjoyed.

Inside the car the dashboard and instrument cluster borrow from big brother Leon. As such, everything bears the hallmarks of most VW group interiors – neat, clear, logically laid out and a touch dull. All the most-touched surfaces and switches have improved and the better materials and chrome inserts add a quality feel. Some of the plastics lower down the cabin might still be a bit brittle but these are mostly in places that won’t bother the average driver.

The biggest new feature inside the Ibiza is the introduction of the Seat Full Link system, which goes way beyond the usual Bluetooth pairing with the driver’s mobile phone.

Standard on Connect trim and an option on most others, SEAT says this is the future of in-car connectivity.

SEATs have always been fairly well equipped for the money and the 2016 Ibiza continues this trend. Electric windows, a five-inch touchscreen media system, remote locking, tyre pressure monitor and emergency brake assist are standard across the range. Air con, Bluetooth, DAB are added from S trim, and higher-spec cars add alloys, better media systems and more driver aids.

Prices start at £10,000 for the Ibiza E, with the £12,995 Vista expected to be the best-seller of the range.

Fast Facts

Price: £14,675

Engine: 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol producing 94bhp and 70lb/ft

Transmission: Five-speed manual driving the front wheels

Performance: Top speed, 119mph, 0-62mph in 10.4 seconds

Economy: 68.9mpg

Emissions: 94g/km

Get yourself connected

The biggest interior advance in the Ibiza is the Full Link system.

This function, standard on Connect trim cars and optional on SE and above, goes beyond the usual Bluetooth pairing with the driver’s smartphone, putting many of the phone’s apps right on the in-car screen.

Using the SEAT ConnectApp the free Samsung phone connects via MirrorLink connection to give access to everything from driving data to Facebook on the car’s 6.5-inch touchscreen. To ensure the system is safe to use key functions include ‘read to me” and “voice reply”, converting incoming texts, emails and social media posts into speech and allowing the driver to dictate a reply. The system also offers gesture control. Functions such as calls or contact addresses can be called up onto the touchscreen using brief finger gestures.

For those not using MirrorLink, the system is also compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android

Auto. Using either OS it will completely integrate control of your phonecalls, messages, music and navigation to the car’s systems. Android, social media, music streaming and other functions are also 
accessible through the touchscreen.