x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Road Test: Revamped 2013 Seat Ibiza is a perfect city car

Small updates make this a fun and economical, if not stimulating, little hatchback.

The 2012 SEAT Ibiza five-door has a chassis that it shares with the Volkswagen Polo. At cruising speed on the motorway, it's surprisingly refined. Courtesy SEAT
The 2012 SEAT Ibiza five-door has a chassis that it shares with the Volkswagen Polo. At cruising speed on the motorway, it's surprisingly refined. Courtesy SEAT

When one of the bullet points of the press release announcing a car's midlife facelift concerns the enlargement of its glove box, you really do have to wonder if it's worth reading on, but in the case of the recently revamped Seat Ibiza, there's plenty more to see.

After all, it has gone from being the baby of the line-up to being the big brother to the attention grabbing Mii city car.

Most of the updates to the Ibiza you can see without lifting the bonnet.

Up front are sharp new headlights, complemented by redesigned fog lamps and a smaller grille. The front bumper is new as well and it features a sportier lower air intake. Even the bonnet is different, now with a central crease line. The rear lights and bumper have come in for attention too, and the Ibiza looks particularly good if you opt for the Xenon and LED lights.

The retina-searing "Lima Green" paintwork of our test car is a new colour, and it works well with the gloss-black detailing and sporty alloy wheels that are standard on the Style model. Body-coloured exterior mirrors and door handles also feature on this trim level.

The cheapest Ibizas are called "Reference", while Sport and FR editions notch up that Latin passion a tad, the latter especially sporty looking and featuring a more driver-focused chassis. Seat also prices the super-frugal Ecomotive Ibiza as a separate model.

Along with three- and five-door hatchback and Ibiza ST estate options, there's a wide range of engines for European buyers to choose from, with five different TDI diesel options and five petrol too, though it appears that the DSG automatic gearbox is only available in conjunction with the most powerful of the petrol engines.

On test here is one of the entry-level versions, a 1.2L petrol engine producing just 70hp, fitted with a five-speed manual gearbox.

This unit is best suited to a life in the city, where it has plenty of zip to keep up with and nip in and out of traffic. It's relatively quiet, though it has a characteristic offbeat three-cylinder engine note that some won't like. It's not the same engine as found in the Seat Mii, which is a shame, as that's superior.

Despite the modest output, the Ibiza's powerplant is not out of its depth on the motorway, although it could never be called quick. However, it's relatively efficient, which will appeal to its young target audience.

Performance aside, the Ibiza sports a well-developed chassis (shared with the Volkswagen Polo). In town it soaks up manhole covers and speed bumps, feels agile and is easy to park. On the motorway it's surprisingly refined at a cruise - and genuinely comfortable. It's even good to drive when the road turns twisty, though the light controls of this basic model won't appeal to keen driving enthusiasts.

The new leather steering wheel is a tactile delight. Open the doors and you're greeted by a bright, airy and relatively spacious cabin. The dashboard is a simple, attractive design and, though the Volkswagen Polo feels of higher quality, the Ibiza's switchgear works well, is thoroughly modern to look at and everything is close to hand. Indeed, the steering wheel-mounted stereo controls are surplus to requirement, as the stereo itself is so nearby. Part of the midlife update is a set of restyled instruments. The new speedometer and rev counter look good, but we found the italic lettering difficult to read at a glance.

Access to the rear seats is a fraction tight, but they're as roomy as most cars in the class - legroom is acceptable once the front-seat occupants are a little understanding. There's loads of space for feet under the front seats, though, and plenty of headroom. The rear seat backs themselves are quite upright and lacking in support.

Seat has included loads of useful cubbyholes in the cabin, including places to store an mp3 player and mobile phone while they're connected through Bluetooth or cable.

The boot is easy to access and is nigh on identical in size to the Ford Fiesta's. And that glove box? It's large and useful. Apparently the light illuminating it is new, too.

The 1.2L, though, will be considered a little too small for the UAE - it won't even be offered here. The Seat dealership in Dubai says a naturally aspirated 1.6L (Dh64,500) is already here, while a 1.4L turbo (Dh79,000) and a 200hp, 1.8L turbo (Dh92,000) will arrive in November.


The Specs

Price N/A

Engine 1.2L, three-cylinder petrol

Gearbox Five-speed manual

Power 70hp @ 5,400rpm

Torque 112Nm @ 3,000rpm

Fuel economy, combined 5.4L/100km