The Ibiza has long been a competent contender for the small car class crown, albeit one that couldn’t quite hit the heady heights of the Skoda Fabia. It may have been cheap to buy, well-equipped and good to drive, but elderly engines and tight rear quarters counted against it.
With that in mind, Seat has facelifted the Ibiza with a range of modern engines, improved infotainment and nicer plastics inside the cabin. You also get restyled headlights, some new paint colours and additional alloy wheel designs.
That might not sound like a lot, but the modifications do improve a lot of the areas where the Ibiza struggled against rivals. To find out if those tweaks are enough, we’ve tried one of the sportier versions, the Ibiza FR, with a turbocharged engine that produces 148bhp.
What is the 2016 Seat Ibiza FR 1.4 EcoTSI 150 like to drive?
Thanks to some clever technology that lets the engine run on half its cylinders, the 1.4-litre unit combines brisk performance with acceptable economy. Apart from a symbol on the driver’s display panel, it's impossible to know when it was running in its fuel-sipping two-cylinder mode.
It helps this particular model achieve an official combined fuel economy figure of 58.9mpg while emitting 112g/km of CO2. Even in the real world, you’ll easily see more than 40mpg without trying too hard. Sure, it’s not as good as some of the less powerful engines, but they’re not capable of 0-62mph in 7.6sec.
The Ibiza isn’t just good for straight lines though, firm springs means it turns into corners eagerly and grips very well indeed. The downside of this comes in the form of a bumpy ride over broken surfaces. The suspension can also be quite noisy when dealing with lumpy roads.
It’s also not as exciting to drive as cars like the Ford Fiesta Red Edition. The steering doesn’t inform you of what the front wheels are doing as well as the Ford's does and it ultimately feels less keen to change direction.
What is the 2016 Seat Ibiza FR 1.4 EcoTSI 150 like inside?
The interior may have received additional soft-touch plastics, but there’s still plenty of the harder stuff dotted around the cabin. While this might not be a surprise given the low cost of the Ibiza, it isn’t as well resolved as the class-leading Skoda Fabia. While that car also has hard plastic in its cabin, there's less of it and its plusher materials are more consistent.
The Skoda is undoubtedly more practical, too. While it isn't strictly speaking a direct rival to this warm Ibiza (you can't get a particularly quick Fabia), there’s far more space in the back of the Skoda for passengers and it has a bigger boot. The Ibiza also suffers from a high loading lip and quite a narrow boot aperture. That said, the Ibiza and Fiesta are a similarly spacious.
It’s not all bad though. The sports seats are supportive and comfortable, even over longer distances, and it’s easy to get the driving position to your liking. As before, you also get plenty of standard equipment for your money including air conditioning, a flat-bottomed leather steering wheel and a touchscreen infotainment system.
The last item on that list has also seen some updates. You now get a DAB radio and the option of Seat’s Full Link system. This adds Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and Mirror Link connectivity for an extra £145. You can easily connect a smartphone to access certain applications more safely. For many, it could be a worthwhile option.
Should I buy one?
If you’re in the market for a warm hatch, you could do a lot worse than opting for the Ibiza FR. The 148bhp engine combines decent economy with a respectable turn of speed and the car handles tidily.
Unfortunately, it isn’t quite as entertaining as the likes of the Ford Fiesta or Mini Cooper. The Seat's interior could still do with a little more work both in terms of quality and also practicality. Ultimately, if you want the best warm hatch, buy the Fiesta Red Edition, but if you want the best all-round small car, we’d still opt for the Skoda Fabia.
What Car? says...
2016 Seat Ibiza FR 1.4 EcoTSI 150
Engine size 1.4-litre petrol Price from £16,695 Power 148bhp Torque 184lb ft 0-62mph 7.6sec Top speed 137mph Fuel economy (Official) 58.9mpg CO2 112g/km