SEAT Ibiza ST – Review
By Liam Bird
We’re a fickle bunch us Brits, and especially so when it comes to buying our cars. As a nation, and despite our ever-wetter weather, we buy more convertibles than any other country in Europe. Most of us live within urban environments and yet we buy fashionable SUVs as if, well, they’re going out of fashion – when was the last time you ever mounted anything more off-road than the pavement in yours? Middle management countrywide drives a four-door saloon, and as for hatchbacks, we can’t get enough of them; the Ford Fiesta tops the sales polls year-upon-year and family favourites such as the Focus, the Golf, the Astra and Audi’s A3 follow oh-so closely behind.
What we’ve never quite got our heads around though is the super-mini estate. Think about it, apart from the stretched version of the Skoda Fabia how many more can you name? I might just let you get away with saying Mini Clubman and full marks to those of you who said Dacia Logan. SEAT Ibiza ST anyone? That’s Sports-Tourer incidentally; no-one calls them estates these days.
Out of what is an undeniably limited selection of small yet capacious cars, the Ibiza estate – sorry! Sports-Tourer – is probably the most stylish, but then it was penned by the same bloke who once did a design or two for Lamborghini. It’s also recently been updated.
As is often the case with all things that fall under parent-company VW’s umbrella, the external revisions to the Ibiza are subtle. There’s a nip here and tuck there, some new wheels, some new colours, LED running lights and, well, that’s about it. It’s inside and underneath where the money’s been spent.
“Feel and feedback”
Swing open the door of the latest Ibiza and you’ll be very pleasantly surprised. Gone are the hard plastics of old. The seats (in this the FR version at least) hold you snugly in place – the driving position once everything has been adjusted is spot-on – the switches are all VW parts-bin favourites, and the dashboard dials wouldn’t look out of place in an Audi. It really is a job well done.
The big news however, is that the Seat Ibiza ST now gets a refreshed central dash that incorporates a 6.5-inch touchscreen DAB, Bluetooth, and sat-nav system (albeit an optional one for an extra £500). You also get Full Link, which incorporates Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink. They’re all ways of wirelessly connecting a smartphone, so I’m told. Thankfully you get a proper handbrake rather than an electronic one too.
There’s also a new-found compliance to the way this Ibiza rides. Where once SEAT’s super-mini bumped and bucked, even when fitted with optional 17” alloy wheels as per the test car, it now soaks up the worst a B-road can throw at it with aplomb. All the controls, steering, pedals and gear-change, are light and precise in their actions and overall this little car is genuinely enjoyable to punt along. If I am to be picky, a touch little more feel and feedback from the steering wouldn’t go amiss.
A little more room in the rear of the ST would be a welcome too. Although it undoubtedly offers more luggage space than the more-often seen Ibiza hatchback, despite being based on essentially the same underpinnings, rear head and leg room still aren’t what you’d call generous. I’m only 5’7” tall but nevertheless, when sat behind the driver’s seat set to my usual settings I still found myself rubbing my head on the ST’s ceiling. Taller drivers may even find themselves having to move forward perhaps in order to fully fold the rear seats down and unleash the full 1,164-litres of load space the ST has to offer.
I’ve no such worries about SEAT’s 1.2 TSI turbo petrol engine however. If anything, it feels larger than it actually is and punches way beyond its weight. Throttle response is instant – as long as you keep the turbo spinning – and there’s more than adequate power when required. The ST FR that SEAT lent me had just 800-miles or so on the clock but showed no signs of tightness. It still delivering spirited performance plus affordable running costs. There’s no stop-start and I never did manage to match SEAT’s claims of 54.3 mpg (will anyone, ever?). But nevertheless its low emissions (119g/km) means the road tax cost is hardly likely to break the bank.
“Capable and Entertaining”
After a week in its company, and despite my reservations, I’ll readily admit I’ve rather fallen for the Ibiza ST FR. Yes, it’s mechanically identical cousin the Skoda Fabia estate does offer more space and it’s cheaper too. But it’s not as entertaining to drive and its looks just aren’t in the same league as the SEAT.
Quite who’ll buy a SEAT Ibiza ST FR though I’m still not sure. Like I said at the beginning, super-mini estates don’t seem to fit with us Brits.
Still, it would be a shame if this capable and entertaining little Spaniard somehow got lost in translation.
SEAT Ibiza ST FR 1.2 TSI 110 PS 6-speed manual
Engine: 1,197cc, 4Cyl, 16V TSI Turbo
Transmission: 6 speed Manual. Front Wheel Drive
Power: 108 BHP @ 4600rpm
Torque: 129 lbft @ 1550rpm
0-62mph: 9.7 sec
Max Speed: 122 mph
MPG: 54.3 Combined
VED Band: C
Price: from £15,635. (Car Driven: £17,840)