Seat Ibiza long-term test review: report 1

The Seat Ibiza is one of our favourite small hatchbacks, but just how deep do its talents run? We're living with one to find out...

Seat Ibiza FR long-termer

The car Seat Ibiza 1.0 TSI 95 FR Run by Chris Haining, digital reviews editor

Why it’s here To find out if a small, economical car can cut it as an all-rounder, for weekend pleasure and motorway commuting alike.

Needs to Sip petrol, absorb long journeys without stress, come alive on a country road.

Miles 860 List price £19,185 Target Price £16,722 Price as tested £19,980 Test economy 52.4mpg Official economy 51.4mpg Options fitted Beats sound system (£380), rear parking sensors (£220), full-size spare wheel (£105), Eclipse Orange metallic paint (FOC)

2 October 2020 – The future’s bright, the future’s….

A fleeting glimpse at my CD collection is all it takes to get a good idea of my age, but the truth is I’ve been enjoying ‘Dad music’ since I was a teenager. Having leapt straight into a string of big old barges after passing my test, I’d never really had what I’d call a ‘young person’s car’, either – until this Seat Ibiza FR entered my life, that is. 

Resplendent in attention-grabbing metallic Eclipse Orange, my Ibiza should not only scratch that ‘fun first car’ itch that evaded me the first time around, but also tick the boxes to satisfy what is quite a challenging motoring brief. For starters, I wanted something fun to drive. Not necessarily fast, but agile and responsive for the sweeping country roads that criss-cross my corner of Essex. It has to be economical, too; said corner of Essex is a rather long way from What Car? Towers, and a round trip is 250 miles worth. For just that reason, it mustn’t be out of its depth on the motorway, either. 

Seat Ibiza 2020 headlamp detail

Going electric was sadly overruled on the grounds of cost, range and the logistics of charging. And, because my long-haul trips are interspersed with lots of very short, local journeys, a diesel engine wouldn’t be a very good fit, either. The Ibiza’s turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine fits the bill very nicely, though, and our review suggests that the rest of the car ought to be just the ticket, too.

So, with all the above in mind, I went for the spirited-looking Ibiza FR for its fulsome list of standard features and the fact that it sits on sports suspension, which should address my yearning for fun. Its 17in alloy wheels should serve up more cruising comfort than the 18in items of the FR Sport, too. I opted for What Car?’s favourite Ibiza engine – the middle, 95bhp child of the family. 

Seat Ibiza 2020 rear cornering

Being pretty well kitted out, the Ibiza FR doesn’t need much in the way of extra trimmings, but I couldn’t resist adding the Beats sound system for £380 so I can immerse myself in music on those long motorway trips. On a more practical level, a full-size spare wheel (£105) weakens the threat posed by the potholes that pepper my local roads, and rear parking sensors (£220) help me judge the Ibiza’s abbreviated length after years of driving much bigger cars. 

Speaking of which, my first impression is that the Ibiza has a lot of what has come to be known as ‘big car’ feel, partly thanks to the great strides that have been made in space-efficiency over recent years. Certainly, I feel no more cramped behind the wheel of the Ibiza than I do in my ageing Audi A4 – a car that’s the equivalent of two classes bigger. Admittedly, with all six-foot-five of me in place, the seat immediately behind me is all-but useless for anybody too old for a booster cushion, but the same is true of the A4, too.

Seat Ibiza 2020 interior trim

What’s more, Seat has been very clever when it comes to creating a ‘quality’ interior feel. As humans, our perception of quality tends to outrank the reality of things, and first impressions are everything. By swaddling a broad expanse of the Ibiza’s dashboard with stitched leather (or a convincing man-made equivalent), Seat has created a focal point that distracts my eyes and fingers from the more utilitarian materials found on the doors and centre console. And, even if those bits don’t delight the senses, they seem robust enough and are beautifully screwed together.

Seat is, of course, a member of the mighty Volkswagen Group, and things like the ignition key, the indicator switches and the gearshift are reminders that the Ibiza shares its bones with the Audi A1 and Volkswagen Polo. That should be great news for efficiency and all-round competence, but can the FR possibly live up to the youthful exuberance of its looks? As a hitherto ‘sensible’ 39 year-old, I’m really looking forward to finding out.

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