Early drive: 2017 SEAT Ibiza 1.0 TSI FR

  • Brand new small hatchback driven in Spain
  • More space and tech, tested with 1.0-litre engine
  • Priced from £12,915 – our test car £16,630

Parkers has driven the fifth-generation SEAT Ibiza – a five-door-only small hatchback the Spanish company hopes will be successful enough to eat into sales of some of the UK’s best-selling cars, the Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa

It'll also have to compete against the seriously comfortable 2017 Citroen C3 and Nissan's tech-laden new Micra

To do this, the 2017 Ibiza is based on an all-new platform that, in time, will also provide the underpinnings for the next versions of the VW Polo, Audi A1 and Skoda Fabia.

It’s wider and very slightly shorter than the outgoing model, but promises much more space inside and a 355-litre boot, which is very large for this size of car. For reference, the current Fiesta’s luggage space is 303 litres, so the SEAT’s is noticeably more capacious.

How is the 2017 SEAT Ibiza FR to drive?

It’s very composed on the road, with what felt like supple suspension on our early drive in the hills around Barcelona, Spain. It’s sporty too, however, with a 30% stiffer body shell and responsive steering adding interest if you feel like having some fun.

We tried the turbocharged 1.0-litre engine that SEAT tells us should be the most popular in the UK. Its 115hp and 200Nm of torque are fed through a precise-shifting six-speed manual gearbox to the front wheels, and enables a 0-62mph sprint in 9.3 seconds with a top speed of 121mph.

This motor should be relatively cheap to run thanks to fuel economy of a claimed 60.1mpg and CO2 emissions of 108g/km, meaning VED car tax will cost £140 per year based on rates after the tax changes being introduced on 1 April 2017.

It’s fine zipping around low-speed urban environments but we found ourselves using the gearbox more when laden with a trio of adults on faster mountainous B-roads. You’ll want to investigate the 1.5-litre Evo engine (that we’ve driven in the new VW Golf) with its 150hp if extra ooph is required.

In FR specification our test car enjoyed a bodykit, slightly stiffer suspension and 17-inch alloy wheels along with sports seats that were comfortable enough, though looking very thin on first inspection. 

Is it loaded with tech?

Despite a fairly sparse-looking cabin, the Ibiza does boast a decent amount of equipment. Final specs haven’t been confirmed yet, but we do know that FR (the one we're driving), SE Tech and Xcellence models will get an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system including standard sat-nav, which is also used to control many of the car’s systems.

The air-conditioning has conventional rotary controls, however, so you don’t have to rely on the screen like in the Citroen C3.

Automatic emergency braking is standard-fit across the range, while an optional 360-degree parking camera allows you a bird’s-eye view of the car and its surroundings. FR and Xcellence versions get adaptive cruise control, while an optional DSG twin-clutch automatic gearbox can be ordered on the 115hp petrol, 1.6-litre diesel and 1.5-litre Evo petrol engine. This can then be ordered with Traffic Jam Assist, which drives for you at low speeds, taking care of the steering, brakes and throttle.

Verdict

The 2017 SEAT Ibiza is an accomplished small hatchback that offers a genuine alternative to the recently updated and dramatically improved Nissan Micra and Citroen C3, but feels more grown up than both.

We’re keen to see how it stacks up against the all-new Ford Fiesta along with its Polo stablemate – both are also due for replacement in 2017.