09/02/2009 00:00 | By By Richard Aucock

SEAT Ibiza 1.4 SE review

SEAT Ibiza 1.4 SE (© Image © SEAT)

  • Model: SEAT Ibiza 1.4 SE
  • Bodystyle: five-door hatchback
  • Engine: 1.4-litre four-cylinder
  • Transmission: Five-speed manual


What is it?

SEAT Ibiza 1.4 SE (© Image © SEAT)

Click images to enlarge

The Ibiza is SEAT's value-priced alternative to the Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa and Volkswagen Polo. It has been around for a number of years in various guises, but since 1993, has been based on the mechanical bits of the Polo. The two look entirely different, but all the oily bits are the same.

Therefore, the Ibiza is a cheap way into a Volkswagen. However, there is more to the hatchback than just that. SEAT is a sportier brand than VW, so its cars are more fun to drive. They are also more distinctively styled. This Ibiza, new in 2008, is thus a competitor in the supermini sector with strong on-paper appeal.

Where does it fit?

SEAT Ibiza 1.4 SE (© Image © SEAT)

The supermini hatchback sector is very competitive. All rivals thus mirror each other closely in terms of size and layout. The SEAT is no bigger or smaller than most five-door rivals, although the popular Honda Jazz still stands out as a bit of an exception, offering much more space for the money.

We tested the 1.4 SE five-door. This is a key model in the range, a middle spec variant with an average-power petrol engine. Buyers are drawn to the SEAT over a Polo, because they can get a 1.4 here for 1.2 Polo money. It costs a little over £10k, pitching it into the heart of the supermini battleground.

Is it for you?

SEAT Ibiza 1.4 SE (© Image © SEAT)

SEAT doesn't have the big brand identity of VW, Ford or Vauxhall. The Ibiza also isn't as well known as a Peugeot 207 or a Renault Clio. But still, it warrants consideration, even if the brand means nothing to you - because of the value and levels of competence it offers.

There is a good amount of equipment for the money on this SE version. It not only has air con, but standard cruise control too! For many, therefore, the decision comes down to styling. Here, the Ibiza is a little divisive. It's a matter of personal taste - the SEAT's edgy lines split opinion.

What does it do well?

SEAT Ibiza 1.4 SE (© Image © SEAT)

It is a much more sophisticated feeling car than the old Ibiza. SEAT actually uses a newer set of components than VW - which will eventually underpin the new small Audi hatch. This means it has a big car feel on the road, with lots of composure. All the controls also feel high quality and built to last.

It feels like it could handle much more power, and the ride is settled at speed. This means those downsizing from a bigger car shouldn't feel like they're trading down. Particularly as the precise, Audi-like steering and sharp front end turn in to corners mean it is agile and fun.

What doesn't it do well?

SEAT Ibiza 1.4 SE (© Image © SEAT)

The ride, at first, is a bit knobbly. SEAT tunes its cars intentionally more firmly than VW, to reduce body roll. This manifests itself in town. However, at speed, things settle down really well. Here, the steering also feels more natural - at low speeds, it is very light and artificial.

The engine isn't brilliant. It only has 80bhp, and lacks low down pull. You have to rev it to release decent performance, which can mean a downchange at hills. The step-up over the punchy 1.2 engine comes more in refinement rather than performance, although luckily, it is smooth.

What's it like to live with?

SEAT Ibiza 1.4 SE (© Image © SEAT)

The SEAT has an odd quirk - narrow door openings. It means the driver has to step 'in front' of the central support pillar to get out, making it feel smaller than it is. The dashboard also has a sharp stick-out edge, which can painfully catch knees! With wider openings, this isn't an issue in the three-door Ibiza.

It is roomy once inside, though. The rear seat is comfortable too, and SEAT has considered foot and kneeroom clearance well. The driving position is as adjustable as a big Audi - which the car mimics at night, with its high tech white and red dashboard illumination. Plastics, though, while improved, still look shiny in places.

How green is it?

SEAT Ibiza 1.4 SE (© Image © SEAT)

Average fuel economy of 45.6mpg is so-so for this class of car. The 1.4 Honda Jazz, for example, is a lot more powerful, yet can also return 52 to the gallon. This gives away the engine's age, and also results in CO2 emissions of 149g/km. These fail to drop below the key 140g/km barrier.

The 1.2 Ibiza is a more tax-friendly proposition. It can average 47.9mpg, and has a 139g/km CO2 rating. This gives it more beneficial road tax charges. Less thirsty engines will arrive in time, but for now, the only truly 'green' Ibiza is the brilliantly economical Ecomotive diesel version.

Would we buy it?

SEAT Ibiza 1.4 SE (© Image © SEAT)

We think the Ibiza is a sensible purchase. Not everyone likes the way it looks - although, to our eyes, the sharp side features are quite distinctive. There are issues to be had with the uncompetitive engine too, while the interior still lags behind a Polo for perceived quality feel (although the same high build standards apply).

It doesn't have the brand or image of the VW, but SEAT's alternative focus on sportiness is appealing in a different, more youthful way. In short, a well priced and perfectly competent car, that's satisfying to drive. It sets no new standards, but in terms of common sense for the money, has a lot of appeal.

More pictures of the SEAT Ibiza 1.4 SE from Live Search
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