SEAT Ibiza Review

SEAT Ibiza 1.0-litre MPI 75bhp Sport Review

Scroll down to read a review or watch my video!

Design

The SEAT Ibiza has good small car provenance sharing much of its underpinnings with the Volkswagen Polo and Skoda Fabia - but the Ibiza could be the perfect antidote to its more reserved stablemates.

For a start, the Ibiza is a bit of a looker and holds the stance of a larger, sportier hatchback on the road. It’s all curves in the right places and even as a practical five door, it has a lot of character. New customisation options have been added to further enhance the Ibiza’s appeal and my test car looked great in dramatic Alor Blue with contrasting white covers on the door mirrors and a white strip around the grille.

Inside the main focus has been on upgrading the materials and infotainment. The cabin has more of a modern, youthful vibe when compared to its VW Group sister cars, with a driver-focused centre console, big, circular air vents, and simple dials with sporty italicised numbers. Connectivity is now bang up to date with the addition of a touchscreen infotainment system to the centre of the dash on all models and the option of adding a Mirror Link, Apple Car Play and Android Auto package for easy integration with smartphones and access to apps.

Cabin space is about average for a car of this size but rear legroom is not the most generous in the class and some rivals do it better. There is choice in terms of body styles so a 3-door Sport Coupé kicks off the range at €13,595, the 5-door hatchback tested here starts at €14,295 and an Ibiza ST (estate) starts at €15,235. The boot space is the same in the 3 and 5-door models (292 litres), but go for the estate and that’s boosted to 430 litres!

SEAT Ibiza review
SEAT Ibiza: The interior is well made and easy to navigate

Driving

There’s a new steering system for the Ibiza and SEAT has also reworked the suspension to improve comfort. The steering is well-weighted and the Ibiza feels quick and willing to change direction, with good body control through the corners should you want to take things a little swifter. The suspension does a good job of cossetting you from the worst of the bumps and imperfections in the road surface; the Ibiza is less successful at disguising quite a bit of wind and road noise at high speeds. It doesn’t have quite the same level of big car comfort and refinement as the Volkswagen Polo. The Polo is truly exceptional in this regard. The Ibiza is cheaper and still a genuinely sweet car to drive.

SEAT has overhauled the engine line-up for the Ibiza with the addition of some new, cleaner engines. My test car had a 1.0-litre 75bhp petrol engine that’s new to the range and borrowed from the SEAT Mii city car and some other VW Group products. It does the job and it’s smooth to drive, but out of town it feels a bit flat in the higher gears. In terms of economy, it will return up to 54mpg, while motor tax costs €200 per year.

If it’s performance you’re after you’ll be wanting one of the 1.2 turbo petrols (90 or 110bhp), but availability is limited to the top level FR trim. For the best economy, there’s a new 1.4 diesel with 75bhp, returning up to 78mpg. A higher powered diesel (90bhp) is available on FR trim.

SEAT Ibiza review
SEAT Ibiza: A fun car to drive with well-weighted steering and good body control through the corners

Equipment

There are four trim levels: S, SE, Sport and FR. The five door range in S trim starts at €14,295 and standard equipment includes front electric windows and mirrors, Bluetooth and a 5” touchscreen. The SE five door range starts at €15,420 and adds additional 15” alloy wheels, trip computer and front fog lights. Five door Sport models start at €16,960 and have 16” alloys, air con, LED DRLs and leather trimmed steering wheel, and this trim also opens up the option of adding custom packs to the interior and exterior. Top spec FR trim starts at €18,910 for a five door and introduces more powerful engines, along with sporty updates to the interior and interior.

SEAT Ibiza review
SEAT Ibiza: You can change the colour of some of the details, like the strip around the grille, door mirror covers or the colour of the vents inside

Verdict

The Ibiza has the stoicness and robust feel to it of its VW Group sister cars, yet rather than just feeling like a slightly cheaper imitation, there is enough Latin soul flowing through the Ibiza for it to be a car that can stand tall in the segment on its own terms.

Depending on needs and budget, the engine line-up covers all bases and on the road the Ibiza is a sweet car to drive with nicely weighted steering and good body control through the bends. The interior is not the last word in luxury or refinement but it’s well-made, easy to navigate and the addition of the touchscreen infotainment on all models brings it up to date.

The SEAT Ibiza gets the thumbs up because it’s just so effortlessly cool. The Ibiza is the small car you desire for its edgy styling and fun, sporty image.  It’s not without its faults but just like the cool kid at school, you want to hang out with it and hope that some of its glow will rub off on you just by association.  It’s a well-built small car that can hold its own out on the road and this recent round of updates means that the Ibiza demands a whirl if you’re looking for a trendy and good value small car.

SEAT Ibiza review
SEAT Ibiza: A trendy, good value small car

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Seat Ibiza Sport 5-door
Price: 
€16,960 (Range starts at €13,595)
Engine: 
1.0-litre, three cylinder petrol
Power: 
75bhp
0-100km/h: 
14.3 seconds
Economy: 
54.3mpg
Motor Tax:
€200 per year


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The Icon Reloaded - First Drive New Fiat 500

 

New customisation options for the Fiat 500 including this "Comics" wrap
New customisation options for the Fiat 500 including this "Comics" wrap

Fiat launched the new 500 to the Irish media on Monday at Weston Airport in Lucan, Co. Dublin and they’re billing it as ‘the icon reloaded’.

On the surface of things it doesn’t look much different from the petite 500 remake that first arrived here in 2008.

But according to Fiat, there are 1,900 new components to enhance and refine an already very successful 1950s-inspired retro recipe.

How successful exactly? 1.5 million have been sold in over 100 countries since launch in 2007 and sales have increased year on year - even as the car has aged. From an Irish perspective, the market may be small for 3-door city cars like the 500, but just under 2000 of them have found homes here.

The marketing for the Fiat 500 is very much aimed at the young, social urbanite, yet interestingly Fiat’s own sales data shows that the average customer is a bit more middle-aged  - 45 to be exact – but predictably female.

Image and styling are naturally very important to Fiat 500 buyers and with the success of the current model, Fiat decided not to get too creative in the design studio when it came to updating the car. The most noticeable changes to the styling are the addition of new LED daytime running lights in a circular shape (like the zeros of the 500 logo), new bumpers with squarer edges, and a 3D-effect grille with chrome-like buttons on the Lounge version.

At the rear there are new 'empty' tail lamp clusters with ring-shaped illumination and body-coloured centres.

151214_F_500_00 (2)
The Fiat 500 in new colour Glam Coral

There are new alloy wheel designs and two brand new colours, “Glam Coral” pastel and “Avantgarde Bordeaux” metallic, which bring the total number of colours available to 13.

New ‘Second Skin’ personalisation options have also been added to the 500 range. These are factory-fitted themed graphics that add more wow factor, for example “Comics”, which has a cool two-tone appearance of black-yellow or black-red.

The interior still has the retro vibe with coloured dash panels and large round instrument binnacle. There’s more choice inside in terms of colour schemes and seat fabrics, though some of it is dependent on the trim level of the car. The Uconnect infotainment system is now standard across the range, with steering wheel-mounted audio controls and USB / Aux-in ports on all cars.

Fiat 500
Uconnect infotainment system is standard across Fiat 500 range

Available as a hatchback or cabriolet, there are three trim levels for the Irish market: Pop, Pop Star and Lounge. Standard equipment includes remote central locking, electric windows and mirrors, Uconnect, steering wheel-mounted audio controls and LED daytime running lights. An electric roof with heated glass rear screen is standard on the cabriolet.

Step up to Pop Star for air con and alloys, and to Lounge for a panoramic fixed glass sunroof, rear parking sensors, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and front fog lights. Lounge models also have a more advanced Uconnect system with Bluetooth hands-free calling and music streaming, voice recognition and an SMS reader for reading text messages.

In terms of engines, there is a choice of three petrols and one diesel: a 1.2-litre 69bhp petrol , 0.9-litre TwinAir turbo petrol with 85bhp or 105bhp and a 1.3-litre 95bhp turbo diesel.

At the launch I sampled the 1.2-litre 69bhp and TwinAir Turbo 105bhp. The TwinAir is predictably quick but it likes to let you know it’s working, so the noise will be either irritating or endearing. The 1.2-litre feels flatter through the gears, and the lack of power could get frustrating out on bigger roads - but it’s fine at low speeds around town.

The key to the Fiat 500 is pricing. The hatchback range starts at €13,450 for the 1.2-litre petrol in Pop trim. The Pop Star range starts at €14,400 and Lounge models at €15,800. The cabrio is available from €16,450.

Yes the Fiat 500 is a small car with a small boot. But in terms of pure desirability, presence and style, you won’t find many that move in such fashionable circles and can match that sort of pricing.

Caroline Kidd

Watch out for a full road test of the Fiat 500 coming soon!


Volkswagen Golf Estate

Volkswagen Golf Estate Review

Volkswagen Golf Estate
The Volkswagen Golf Mk 7 Estate

The Volkswagen Golf Estate hasn’t been sold in Ireland since 2004 but now it’s back in the current Golf Mk 7 range.

So what happens when you add a big boot to one of Ireland’s favourite hatchbacks?

Scroll down to read the review or watch my video review of the new Golf Estate:

Design

The Golf Estate has the look of a ‘sensible’ car. Like the Golf hatchback it’s based on, it doesn’t do too much to draw attention to itself and is one of the plainer looking estate cars among its rivals. Highline models look the best with 17” inch alloys and silver roof rails as standard.

Sit inside and you will be hard-pressed to find an interior in this segment as brilliantly crafted as the one in the Golf Estate. The cockpit and controls are all intuitive to use, the quality is really good, and the brushed silver effect on the dash inserts and around the doors on my mid-range Comfortline test car add an element of style.

Aesthetics aside, the USP for the Golf Estate is its big, square boot. With the rear seats in place, there is 605 litres of cargo space compared to 380 litres in the Golf hatch. It’s very cargo friendly with a wide opening and low loading sill, and you can let the rear seats down with a simple pull of a lever in the boot.

Volkswagen Golf Estate
Plain to look at compared to some of its rivals, but the Golf Estate's styling will age well

Driving

If you need more versatility from your car, the great thing about going for an estate over an MPV or SUV is that the estate is so car-like on the road.

The Golf Estate is no different. It’s a satisfying car to drive and feels agile and dynamic despite that bit of extra bulk on the back. There are reassuring amounts of grip so you get that sensation going around corners that it’s hunkering down on the road for you, and the steering responds quickly and accurately to your inputs.

The engine line-up is very straight forward for the Golf Estate. The backbone of the range is the 1.2 TSI petrol engine and 1.6 TDI diesel, both producing a respectable 110bhp. Lower powered versions of both engines are available on the entry level Trendline model and a 2.0 litre TDI diesel with 150bhp is available on Highline, the very top level trim. Volkswagen’s DSG 7-speed automatic gearbox is available on select engines too.

My test car had the 1.6 diesel with 110bhp and the DSG automatic gearbox, which turned out to be a lovely combination. The DSG gearbox made progress smooth and effortless, while the 1.6 TDI provided enough power and torque to feel swift, with much of the noise suppressed thanks to a well-insulated cabin.

Volkswagen Golf Estate
Volkswagen Golf Estate: Brilliantly-crafted cabin

Economy

The 1.6TDI DSG automatic returns up to 70mpg with an annual motor tax bill of €190.

Equipment

There are four trim levels for the Golf Estate: Trendline, Comfortline, Lounge and Highline. Entry level models have four electric windows and mirrors, aircon, Bluetooth and a 5” touchscreen infotainment system with CD player, though you need to step up to Comfortline for 16” alloy wheels. Additional equipment on Comfortline includes fog lights, cruise control and a larger touchscreen for  infotainment. Lounge has its own unique 16” alloy wheels and ‘Lounge’ interior including a panoramic sunroof. Highline gets a visual upgrade with silver finish on the roof rails and 17” alloy wheels, parking sensors and dual zone climate control. Volkswagen Ireland currently has a number of offers where you can spec up your car for less money.

Volkswagen Golf Estate Review
Volkswagen Golf Estate: Boot is 605 litres compared to 380 litres in the Golf hatch

Verdict

So we’ve established that the Volkswagen Golf Estate has a really big, practical boot that makes it more user-friendly than the Golf hatchback.

But in terms of compact estate cars, they all have that, and if you want to crunch the numbers you’ll find that the Golf Estate doesn’t even have the biggest boot in the class.

It’s also one of the plainer looking cars among its rivals, and it won’t be the cheapest to buy either.

But what makes the Golf Estate stand out from the crowd is that touch of class and air of refinement. For a start, there’s the classy, well-finished cabin that won’t irritate you.

Then on the road, the Golf Estate never puts a foot wrong. Precision and driver engagement don’t need to be sacrificed now that you need a ‘sensible’ car.

But if driving dynamics don’t impress you much, the level of comfort and refinement will; the Golf Estate simply feels like a bigger and more expensive car than what it actually is. It’s just a lovely car to drive and spend time in.

Volkswagen Golf Estate Review
Volkswagen Golf Estate: A refined load-lugger that's also good to drive

Model Tested: Volkswagen Golf Estate Comfortline
Price: 
€28,825 (Range starts €22,575)
Engine: 
1.6-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
110bhp
0-100km/h:
11 seconds
Economy:
70.6mpg
CO2 Emissions: 
102g/km
Motor Tax: 
€190 per year

Caroline Kidd


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