Seat’s latest take on its long-running supermini is a mature and slightly predictable-looking effort – in styling, it’s a sharp remix of the Leon and Ateca. But don’t confuse its unsurprising looks with a less than progressive approach to its engineering.
The Volkswagen Group’s all-new MQB AO platform gets its first public outing in the fifth-generation Ibiza, big news for Seat.
The company is already making bullish claims about its packaging efficiency, claiming that despite being smaller than its predecessor, it has made great strides in terms of packaging efficiency and comfort.
It also says that the Ibiza, ‘comes loaded with the latest technology features, outstanding dynamics, and impressive improvements in interior space and comfort,’ and is a vital part of its portfolio review.
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Big claims for the new 2017 Ibiza… can they be delivered?
The ingredients are all there. Seat is being bold with the five-door-only Ibiza, because it needs to be. Parent Volkswagen wants growth in southern European markets, and a strong Seat will enable that to happen. Its fortunes and positioning within the group have improved considerably since 2010, and under the company’s new CEO Luca de Meo, are set to continue.
It’s grown in width over the old Ibiza by 87mm, but is shorter and lower – so it’s not a story of continued growth in overall dimensions. Space efficiency is improved thanks to a 60mm stretch of the wheelbase (now 2654mm). So, you get more rear leg- and headroom, and a larger boot (up 63 litres to 355), although Seat has yet to confirm whether there’s a weight penalty or not compared with the previous Ibiza.
All engines are now Euro6 compliant, and come from Wolfsburg’s latest line-up. So, there’s the 1.0 TSI with 94 or 113bhp, the new 148bhp EVO 1.5 TSI unit first shown in the Golf will be along in ‘late 2017’, and the venerable 1.6 TDI diesel engines will be offered in 78 and 93bhp form.
There’ll be a mix of five- and six-speed manuals, and a seven-speed dual-clutch DSG-auto gearbox will be available too.
Will it be another MQB hit on the road?
Again, on paper it looks like it. Seat promises great things from its new baby, and that is said to come from its new MQB A0 platform and 30% greater torsional stiffness of its monocoque.
The suspension layout will most likely ape the layout of the larger MQB cars, such as the Volkswagen Golf and Seat Leon, although Seat has yet to confirm whether its new small car will get a similar independent rear suspension layout. Either way, you can expect similar dynamics from the Ibiza, with an emphasis on sporting handling.
The FR version gets a stiffer set-up and four mode settings: Comfort, Eco, Sport and Individual, and the more comfort-oriented Xcellence trim will also offer this system, with an additional softer setting. Expect the driving modes menu to be exploited further when the hot Cupra version is rolled out, with a track-biased set-up – expected to be later in 2017.
It looks sharp, but is it a bit too derivative?
Seat would say no, and that the new Ibiza is an ‘important brand pillar’ alongside the Leon, Ateca and the upcoming Arona small crossover – so it would carry over elements of their styling. But the overt similarity with the Leon will play well with those looking for a more mature supermini experience.
It’s dripping with clever details – the sort of stuff you expect in premium products. So you get similar triangular LED headlights to the Leon, larger wheels, up to 18-inches in diameter (and that’s before the Cupra), sharp LED rear lamp clusters, and chrome trim in the top models.
Much of the tech on board filters down from the larger Leon model. The top of the range Xcellence version, for example, includes an 8.0-inch touchscreen, Full Link connectivity system, an Air Care filter that isolates the occupants from any type of allergens, Apple Car Play, Android Auto and Mirror Link.
Other grown-up options will include Adaptive Cruise Control, keyless entry, a rear-view camera (on a supermini!) and a 300W premium audio option from Beats Audio.
That’s all well and good, but isn’t it a bit boring for a supermini?
Predictable, yes. Boring? On first impressions, no. The new Ibiza is a more grown-up kind of small hatch, promising to be a scaled-down C-segment car with a supermini footprint – and a sign that Seat has found its feet within the confines of the Volkswagen Group.
We’ll reserve judgement of its success until we get behind the wheel, but the signs are promising. In short, expect a sportier-driving, higher-quality, more user-friendly package from Seat.
It’s going to be a nicer place to spend time, with much more tech at its fingertips. Surely the big problem for Volkswagen now is – what can it do to make the Polo good enough to beat it?