New Ford Fiesta & Seat Ibiza vs Skoda Fabia

New version of the UK’s favourite car. New version of one of its toughest rivals. Not-so-new current Small Car of the Year. New class leader?...

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What Car? team
4 Aug 2016 06:00 | Last updated: 14 Jun 2018 00:03

What are they like inside?

Behind the wheel

If you like a low-slung driving position, the Ibiza will definitely suit you best. You sit much higher in the Fabia and Fiesta, and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it won’t appeal to all tastes.

We have no major qualms with the driver’s seats in any of our contenders, though. The Fiesta’s hold you in place most securely through corners and it’s the only car here with adjustable lumbar support. And while the Ibiza’s seat could do with chunkier side bolsters to stop you sliding around when cornering, it does have the most under-thigh support. The Fabia’s driver’s seat is worst for lower back support, although it still provides just enough to prevent backache on longer journeys.

New Ford Fiesta & Seat Ibiza vs Skoda Fabia

The relatively boxy Fabia gives you the best view out in all directions but particularly when you’re looking back over your shoulders, thanks to lots of glass and slim rear pillars. Although it’s by no means terrible, the Fiesta is worst for all-round visibility, yet curiously it’s the only one of our trio that doesn't have any standard parking aids.

The Fabia comes with reversing sensors as standard, while the Ibiza adds front parking sensors and even a rear-view camera to make backing into spaces that bit easier. Good-sized, clearly labelled buttons and dials are the order of the day in each of these cars, so you won’t be left scratching your head when you need to adjust the air conditioning or switch on the headlights. That said, the Fiesta’s steering wheel-mounted cruise control switches are a bit fiddly.

There isn’t a great deal between our contenders for interior quality. The bits you touch regularly – the steering wheel, gearknob and indicator stalks – feel plushest in the Fiesta, and it’s the only car here with some (vaguely) soft-touch plastics on its dashboard. However, the Ibiza’s interior is actually more consistently high in quality, with fewer flimsy plastics on show and a more solid-feeling construction.

It’s also important to note that the Ibiza in our pictures is a relatively lowly SE model; Xcellence trim gets a classier gloss black dashboard face and partleather, part-Alcantara seats. Despite its budget price tag, the Fabia doesn’t feel at all cheap inside. In fact, it’s just as well screwed together as the Ibiza, although the shiny texture of its dashboard and the lightweight air conditioning controls do make it feel the least upmarket.

New Ford Fiesta & Seat Ibiza vs Skoda Fabia

Space and practicality

These are small cars in the grand scheme of things, but you might be surprised by how much you can squeeze into them. And equally surprising, given Seat’s history of prioritising chiselled looks over practicality, is that the Ibiza is the roomiest by quite some margin.

True, you won’t have a problem fitting in the front seats of any of our contenders unless you’re extraordinarily tall, but the Ibiza’s extra leg and head room, along with its wider interior, make you feel less hemmed in – almost like you’re in a car from the class above. Opt for a panoramic roof (£600) in the Fiesta and front head room shrinks considerably, but without this it’s roughly on a par with the Fabia.

The Ibiza becomes even more compelling if you need to regularly put people in the back. A six-footer will enjoy a gap of several inches between their knees and the back of the seat in front of them, whereas the same person would have to sit bolt upright in the Fabia and Fiesta or put up with their knees wedged against the front seatback.

However, it’s worth noting that in non-Monte Carlo form, the Fabia gets different seats and would comfortably beat the Fiesta for rear leg room. The Ibiza provides the most rear head room, too, followed by the Fabia and then the Fiesta. However, even with its standard panoramic glass roof, the Fabia has enough head space to accommodate tall adults, whereas we’d advise against adding this feature if you’re buying the Fiesta; it reduces head room considerably, to the point that six-footers will have to cower.