Priced from £18,455 Release date January 2018
Despite coming up against new versions of the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo, the latest Seat Ibiza was arguably one of the automotive highlights of 2017. Benefitting from a fresh look, a new platform and a range of impressively economical petrol engines, it well and truly staked its claim at the top of the small hatchback rostrum by winning our 2018 Small Car of the Year Award.
However, it has taken until now for Seat to offer a version of the Ibiza that supped from the black pump - not that the delay would have upset sales, we suspect, given the hysteria caused by the Government’s latest anti-diesel measures. But for many high-mileage motorists, driving an oil-burner is still the best solution. And with smaller cars such as the Ibiza becoming ever more refined, you could reason that an increasing number of buyers will use them for long-distance motoring.
As such, Seat has just added the frugal 1.6 TDI engine to its Ibiza range, in both 79bhp or 94bhp configurations. Each variant promises significantly better fuel economy than its petrol equivalent and meets the latest Euro 6 regulations. Will that be enough to convince small car buyers to embrace diesel?
2018 Seat Ibiza 1.6 TDI 95 on the road
Perhaps we’ve been spoiled by the quiet, smooth nature of small-capacity petrol engines, but upon start-up the Ibiza's diesel sounds surprisingly gruff, especially on a cold morning.
As it warms through, you’ll find that it’s well insulated for a little diesel in a small car, with not much vibration coming through the pedals and steering wheel. There are, however, more tremors than produced by the petrols, and it’s hard to ignore the diesel’s coarse tones below 1500rpm and over 3000rpm.
That said, once the turbocharger is spinning and the revs are beyond 2000rpm, the engine smoothes out and is willing through the gears. With 184lb ft of torque on tap from 1500rpm through to 2600rpm, it also has a flexible mid-range that helps it to pull taller gears at low revs out on the open road without too much fuss.
However, strong low-down grunt is no longer the preserve of diesel models. Indeed, Seat's 1.0 TSI 95 petrol offers a similar level of performance for a lower price. In fact, the petrol engine gets from 0-62mph 0.4sec quicker in a sprint. And because that petrol engine is lighter than the diesel lump, you also benefit from slightly sharper handling.
As for ride comfort, our FR test car on reasonably large alloy wheels proved firm but never uncomfortable. Although the stiffness is partially down to those wheels (cheaper models get smaller rims), an equivalent petrol Ibiza is slightly more compliant – a heavier engine needs holding up with stiffer springs, after all.
That said, if there is one area in which the diesel is superior, it's fuel economy. Seat claims 74.3mpg on average – a whole 14.3mpg better than the equivalent petrol. While we couldn’t hit those heady heights, around 55mpg is easily achievable on a mixed route. However, you’ll have to cover some serious miles to recoup the premium over a petrol model, and we suspect that those who do would value the greater comfort of a larger car.
2018 Seat Ibiza 1.6 TDI 95 interior
For our full breakdown of the Ibiza's interior, head over to our main review. But, to summarise, the Ibiza isn't quite as plush as the more upmarket Polo, but overall build quality is up there with the best the class has to offer.
It helps, of course, that our test car came loaded with equipment and was fitted with the range-topping 8.0in infotainment touchscreen. It dominates the interior, looks distinctly upmarket and is clear and intuitive to use. In short, it's one of the best systems in the class.
But don’t go thinking that the rear seat passengers have been forgotten about. Despite being a compact hatchback, the Ibiza offers considerably more leg room than you’ll find in the back of a Ford Fiesta or Skoda Fabia, and there’s plenty of head room for six-footers. In fact, the only car in the class that offers more space is the MPV-shaped Honda Jazz.
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