The 103bhp 1.2 TSI is responsive and will suit the needs of most Ibiza buyers, but the 85bhp 1.4 is our pick because it provides the best balance of performance and affordability. The 1.4 supercharged Cupra delivers serious pace hatch. If you do enough miles to justify the extra cost of a diesel model, the 1.2 TDI has the best balance of performance and price – even if the 1.6 and 2.0 units give stronger performance.
The Ibiza's suspension is quiet and supple, and the body is well controlled. Its handling isn't as sporty as a Ford Fiesta’s, and the steering is a little short of feel, but the car is still grippy and predictable. It rides well most of the time, too, but there is some patter over bumps. FR models are supposed to be more sporty, but they’re not as exciting to drive as we'd like.
The Ibiza shuts out road noise well, but the wind noise will try your patience. The smaller engines can sound strained when you’re doing 70mph, too. Some of the diesels are a bit on the clattery side, but nearly all of them are hushed once you settle at a constant speed.
Ibiza buyers will love the affordable list prices, and there are also some decent discounts around. After that, the running costs are good, too. Resale values are decent for the class, the frugal engines fall into low company car tax bandings (especially those in the green Ecomotive versions) and servicing and insurance costs are also low.
Many of the plastics in low-end models are hard to the touch, and this gives the cabin a rather utilitarian feel. Things get a bit better as you progress up the range, but no Ibiza can match the classy feel of a VW Polo. Still, at least the Ibiza was awarded an above average rating for reliability in the 2012 JD Power survey.
The Ibiza has twin front and side airbags as standard, with the side 'bags extending upwards to cover the same area as a curtain airbag would – in the front at least. On most versions, however, stability control is available only as part of an option pack. Security kit is pretty decent, though.
Most drivers will find it easy to get comfortable. The driver's seat is supportive, with height adjustment on all models, and the steering wheel moves for both reach and rake. The dash has a reasonably clear layout, too, but the Ibiza’s restricted rear visibility is disappointing.
There's lots of head- and legroom up front, but access to the rear is more difficult in the three-door than it is in some rivals. The rakish roof line and tight rear legroom mean that, if you want to take a couple of mates along, there'll be plenty of arguing over who sits in the back. There’s loads of room in the 292-litre boot, though, but a split-folding rear seat isn't standard across the range.
Entry-level E models come with electric front windows, remote central locking and an MP3/CD player with steering-column controls. S A/C adds air-conditioning and split-folding rear seats, while SE includes alloy wheels and some classier trim. FR and Cupra models get bigger alloys, stiffer suspension and heavily bolstered seats. The Cupra also comes with a dual-clutch automatic gearbox.
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The Seat Ibiza 1.4 85 SE is one of the best Ibiza choices, because it’s well priced, well equipped and the engine is good in most situations