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No doubt about it: downsizing is the future. Just a few years ago, if you were in the market for a small and frugal hatchback, diesel was your best bet – even the Government said so. However, following Dieselgate and the ongoing threat of increasingly stringent emission regulations, the development of smaller, more efficient turbocharged petrol engines has been relentless.
The Volkswagen Group has been at the forefront of this development, offering an ever-wider range of compact, unleaded sipping engines. We’ve seen these turbocharged motors slotted into everything from the Seat Ateca to the lightweight VW Up and, to be frank, they have been nothing short of spectacular.
And yet, despite downsized turbos becoming increasingly commonplace in the hatchback market, many models, like the Seat Ibiza we are testing here, still come with old-school naturally aspirated (non-turbocharged) units. The initial benefits are obvious: lower insurance, a cheaper entry point into Ibiza ownership and cheaper maintenance.
However, with only 74bhp and 70ft lb of torque, you have to ask: will this entry-level Ibiza have enough performance for a range of day-to-day use?
2017 Seat Ibiza 1.0 75 MPI on the road
Unsurprisingly, the biggest drawback of choosing this engine over the peppier turbocharged units is a lack of low-down grunt. Even around town, the Ibiza feels rather sluggish, with acceleration tailing off as soon as you get into third gear. On faster A-roads and motorways, this lack of mid-range urge (compared with turbocharged or larger-displacement alternatives) becomes even more obvious.
With 0-62mph taking a rather ponderous 14.7sec, it’s hard not to feel like a bit of an obstruction, especially when merging on to faster-moving roads. Thankfully, the Ibiza's five-speed gearbox is slick and accurate, which makes rowing through the gears less of a chore, and the engine even makes a rather endearing three-cylinder growl when pushed.
In terms of refinement, the 1.0-litre engine also impresses. Even when worked hard (which will be most of the time), the engine remains vibration-free. In fact, we’d go so far as to say this is the most convincing fitment of this particular engine in a VW Group product - this unit is also available in both the Skoda Fabia and the Up.
Dynamically, the Ibiza remains a joy to drive. It may lack the outright dynamism of the Ford Fiesta, but it steers sweetly and has a confidence-inspiring balance. And, yes, this SE car isn’t quite as eager to change direction as the sportier FR models, but its softer suspension helps deliver a wonderfully supple ride – no matter how rough the surface is.
2017 Seat Ibiza 1.0 MPI 75 interior
Go for the 1.0 MPI 75 engine and you get the choice of entry-level S trim or upgrading to SE. Thankfully, all Ibizas come well kitted: a multi-function steering wheel, Bluetooth and a 5.0in touchscreen are all standard. However, if budget allows, we’d pay the extra to upgrade to SE, which gets you a colour display, air-con and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
The rest of the interior is typical Ibiza. There’s precious little in the way of soft-touch plastic, but that does little to detract from an interior that looks and feels sturdily assembled. It also looks far sharper than both the new Fiesta and the ageing-yet-functional Fabia.
Our press car also came equipped with Seat's optional 8.0in infotainment system, which is incredibly user-friendly. Even on the move, it’s easy to use, thanks to crisp graphics and quick response times. It's easily one of the best systems in the class, although we have yet to try the entry-level system. The same goes for the powerful Beats sound system; it’s reasonably priced at £365, but we can’t tell you if it’s worth paying the extra until we’ve tried the Ibiza’s standard stereo.
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