The Ibiza ‘supermini’ is Spanish car giant SEAT’s biggest selling vehicle. In fact, since its initial launch way back in 1984, SEAT has sold nigh-on 5.5million units of this model globally and yet, here in NZ both the brand and the small car itself, have yet to gain the full recognition they deserve. We thought we’d grab an Ibiza from SEAT NZ to shed more light on the subject.
As a brand, Sociedad Española de Automóviles de Turismo or SEAT was founded in 1950. It was a Spanish state-owned affair and not surprisingly, shortly thereafter became the largest supplier of cars to Spain, whether their own designs or under licence from others.
The first SEAT to roll off their Barcelona manufacturing plant was the ‘luxurious’ SEAT 1400, however, this saloon turned out to be rather too costly for ‘everyday’ Spaniards, therefore the SEAT 600 (think FIAT 500) and later the SEAT 800 were swiftly produced to fill that void.
During the 70s, SEAT introduced themselves to the Motosport world, with a Special Vehicles department running models in Touring cars and Rally, we assume this was the beginning of their Cupra arm but that’s another story for another day.
In 1986, VAG (Volkswagen Audi Group) acquired a 51% controlling stake in SEAT, making it the first non-German subsidiary of VAG, SEAT now sits in 6th spot overall, continuing to grow at a comparatively ferocious rate.
Nameplates such as 1400, 800, 1200/1430 Sport ‘Bocanegra’, Ritmo, Panda, Ronda and Fura all take pride of place in SEAT’s car model history and many other great models have come since, however, it’s the Ibiza, launched in ‘84 that really put a stake in the ground for the Spanish car maker.
The Ibiza was the first car to be developed by SEAT as an independent company, however, it was strongly influenced by the likes of Karmann and Porsche, not a bad way to start life. It’s now in its fifth generation and that’s the version I found myself in.
The 5th generation takes all the things that the model is renowned for, taking it to the next level and then some. When it comes to exterior design, SEAT has nailed it, so much so that it’s become a prestigious Red Dot award winner. Strong character lines run the length of the small car’s bonnet down to the vehicles trademark grille and logo. The low, wide front apron presents a sporty road stance and the triangular headlamps complete a very attractive visage.
Profile wise, short overhangs ensure that the Ibiza’s 16-inch alloys keep the small car well planted especially when cornering, while sharp belt and shoulder lines offer excellent visual appeal. I particularly like the raise in the c-pillar towards the rear.
Round the back, the zig-zag design in the tailgate fits snugly with the wraparound LED taillights while the low positioning of the fog lamps gives off a sportier stance.
The Ibiza may only be a shade over 4m in length but it’s surprisingly roomy inside, with 355L of ‘seat up’ luggage space, more than adequate rear-seat space and an ergonomic cockpit that’s been designed with the driver in mind.
There’s a horizontal theme to the cabin layout, with modern and aesthetically pleasing materials, a raised centre console, analogue instrument dials with digital inserts and an 8-inch infotainment screen that’s as clear as my flat screen at home. Oh, and of course it comes Apple, Android and Mirrorlink connected.
Being a small car, the Ibiza navigates the central city with nippy aplomb. The 1L, yes 1L turbo engine offers plenty of underfoot zip, it sips fuel like its the last tank on earth and with emissions of just 108g/km, barely makes a mark on the environment.
During the test, I took the family to the beach, after all, with a name that conjures up a sunny Mediterranean island why wouldn’t I. It took all the gear that my wife feels is necessary for a few hours by the sea but still allowed us plenty of breathing room. The Ibiza danced through all the curves and bends of the North Shore countryside like a Matador in an arena, yet felt confidently stoic and swift on the road, certainly enough to freely use all its 200Nm of torque. A fun day was had by all, but just quietly, probably moreso for me.
The SEAT Ibiza comes with a proud Spanish history and plenty of flair. It shares many of its parts and engineering with another small car member of the V/Audi group (I’ll leave you to look that up) but is literally a fraction of the rrp. Small cars are fun, small cars are versatile and the SEAT Ibiza packages all this up in a modern, well-connected, urban-chic fashion.
Full video review here: