Car Test   R0226
 
April 2002
First Drive SEAT Ibiza
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IT'S AN OPEN SECRET THAT THIS LATEST Ibiza shares engines and underpinnings with the VW Polo and Skoda Fabia. However, any good cook will tell you that how you mix the ingredients makes all the difference; in this case, how much spice is added, as well.
   The Ibiza is designed to stir your emotions, be fun to drive, whereas the Fabia has more versatile appeal, but with the comprimises that go with it.
   For example, the Ibiza's ride is firm and unyielding because its suspension is tuned for grippy roadholding and really alert steering response. It achieves these dynamic qualities admirably - but don't expect Auntie to be too impressed on a trip round the country lanes.
   The game and very smooth 1.2 three-cylinder engine is lots of fun, so long as you don't expect startling acceleration. Still, it will create a lot of enjoyment, despite it's lower price; it promises impressive mpg as well. However, for a real hot-hatch the 100bhp TDi is arguably the most rounded performer of the complete line-up, and the engine weight combined with sensible tyres make it more compliant than the rest. We again noted much improved lower-speed smoothness (below 1500rpm) just as we reported in the identically engined new Polo.
   By comparison, the startlingly powerful 130bhp 6-speed Sport diesel feels more brash, and the four-cylinder petrol versions, though refined and inoffensive, are somewhat overshadowed by the 100bhp diesel - especially as you can get an S version of the 100bhp TDi for just 800 more than the 75bhp 1.4SE.
   At present, the only real incentive to opting for the 100bhp petrol version is its Sport trim - we do like the front seats, and side airbags are added to the standard fit front pair; apart from tyres, there's no difference in it's running gear, however.
   The S pack is pleasingly comprehensive and its simpler form of air conditioning (you still have to set your own direction controls) is perfectly acceptable.
   The Seat has adequate rear passenger space similar to the VW's - the Skoda is superior in this regard. However, a higher-set load cover usefully enhances the height of the Ibiza's luggage area underneath.
   Subjectively, we rate the Ibiza facia layout as less elegant than the Polo's and, more prosaically, the heater knobs and symbols are harder to get on with; likewise you just can't see if the heated rear window is on during the day. The driving position is good, however, with ample adjustment.
  
AT A GLANCE
  considering size, price and rivals
Controls/displays
Handling/steering
Comfort
Space/practicality
LIKES ...
  • aircon has a face-cum-screen setting
  • pen holder in ashtray
  • full-size spare(though steel)wheel
  • SE's electric-fold mirrors
and GRIPES
  • seat hinge mount obstructs load floor
  • non-retracting rear head restraints
  • heater/lights controls awkward to turn
VERDICT
Although an Ibiza isn't quite as pricey as the Polo, you no longer buy it because it's cheap. This latest version stands on its merits of good build quality, proven VW engines, plus a strong infusion of Spanish flair to its styling and road manners.


THE IBIZA RANGE
size and type 3- and 5-door (mid-priced) supermini hatchback   trim levels S, SE, Sport
engines petrol: 3cylinder/1.2litre/65bhp, 4/1.4/75, 4/1.4/100; diesel: 4/1.9/100, 4/1.9/130   drive front-wheel drive, 5-speed manual (6-speed on TDi/130); no automatics
notable features galvanised body, 12 years' warranty, electro-hydraulic power steering, Isofix child seat mounts and switchable front passenger airbag, top-power version is diesel

VITAL STATISTICS (cm)
length x width
(folded mirrors)
395x170
front
- legroom 84-109
- headroom
(no sunroof)
93-99
rear
- typical legroom 96
- typical kneeroom 71
- headroom 94
- hiproom (3/5door) 125/131
load space
(all seats in use)(litres/cu ft)
345/12.1
load length
(seats up/folded)
58-124
load width 97-119
load sill height(inside/outside) 23/72
boot height 59
load aperture height 85
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