‘IBIZA ON A BUDGET’
Car and Driving's Independent New Review of the SEAT Ibiza SC 1.2 12V 60PS.
Last updated 06 Jul 2012.
SEAT’s Ibiza has developed from very humble beginnings into a deeply impressive supermini. Andy Enright takes a look at the most affordable 1.2 12V 60PS three-door SC petrol version of this improved model.
Ten Second Review
With smart styling and a range of clever petrol and diesel engines, the improved fourth generation SEAT Ibiza is better than ever. As good as the best in class? Well, let’s judge it in its humblest 1.2 12v 60PS petrol guise, a formula offered only with the three-door SC bodystyle. Will this affordable recipe dilute the claimed Latin spirit?
SEAT’s Ibiza does look different to the usual supermini norm. Cars in this class usually fall into one of two camps; cutesy or inoffensive. They have to appeal to such a wide swathe of customers that bold, edgy designs are notable by their absence. That is until you clap eyes on the Ibiza.
With its riot of swage lines and unorthodox proportioning, this is a car that challenges the eye, especially in sporty three-door SC guise. It’s also one that’s been usefully updated in recent times, with almost half a million sales on the board, mostly taken from the youngest customer profile in the supermini segment. People who’ve been happily buying entry-level variants like this one, the least expensive SC 1.2-litre 12V 60PS petrol version. Let’s find out why.
When SEAT upgraded this fourth generation Ibiza early in 2012, it’s fair to say that much of their effort concentrated on the Ibiza’s look and feel without too much budget being blown on the oily bits. That said, this car’s engine line-up was already one of the best around, so you’re not getting short-changed. The 60PS 1.2-litre 12v petrol powerplant used in the variant we’re looking at here is the least expensive in the entire line-up, but, like many three cylinder powerplants, it still feels fun to use, even if sixty from rest does take nearly sixteen seconds on the way to a top speed of well under 100mph.
On the road in an ordinary Ibiza like this one, the surprise is, as I said at the beginning, just how much enjoyment is on offer from this bright and lively little car. A petrol variant like this 60PS 1.2-litre variant turns responsively into corners, unlike the more nose-heavy turbo diesels which aren’t quite as willing to quickly change direction. All derivatives though, handle with big car fluency, taking bumps in their stride. And they’re pretty enjoyable to punt around town too, once you get used to the rather restricted rear view out thanks to hefty rear pillars that’ll make parking sensors a worthwhile investment. Overall then, what we have here is a car on which you don’t need to spend a fortune to have fun.
Design and Build
At first glance, the improved version of this fourth generation Ibiza looks not dissimilar to its predecessor, but there are subtle differences. It’s like seeing an old friend who’s had Botox on the sly. The key difference is around the headlights and grille, the Ibiza wearing a look that’s going to be the SEAT corporate face. With this 60PS 1.2-litre petrol engine, it’s necessary to choose the sporty three-door SC bodystyle, but whichever Ibiza derivative you end up selecting, there’ll be a sharper look to it.
So you get a trapezoidal grille that’s flatter and with a broad lower air intake to emphasise the car’s width. The bumpers front and rear have been redesigned too. One criticism that was levelled at the old Ibiza was that the cabin design didn’t match the extrovert feel of the exterior. That still holds true but SEAT has improved the perception of quality. It’s evident on the smarter steering wheel and seat fabrics as well as in the higher tone paint surfaces. The focus, however, remains on functionality - the instrument binnacle with its improved display is one example, the significantly larger glovebox another. With a generous storage volume of 10.7 litres, this compartment now offers space for a lot more than just the usual owners manual, your mobile charger and a bag of wine gums.
Market and Model
You’ll pay around £10,000 for the 1.2 12v 60PS three-door SC petrol Ibiza variant we’ve been looking at here, this representing the starting point for SEAT’s supermini line-up. Even so, even an entry-level variant like this one gets front electric windows, tinted glass, a four-speaker MP3-compatible CD stereo with AUX-in point and steering wheel controls, remote central locking, a 12v power socket and a height-adjustable driver’s seat.
Perhaps the most intriguing piece of optional kit available is the SEAT Portable Media System with touchscreen monitor. This combines the functions of a navigation system, an on-board computer, an audio system and a hands-free ‘phone device. While it is fully integrated into the Ibiza’s on-board electronics, it’s also removable for use on the go.
Safety-wise, there are the usual twin front and side airbags, plus anti-lock brakes that flash the brake lights to warn following motorists if you’re making an emergency stop. It’s a pity though that SEAT doesn’t see fit to install ESC stability control on entry-level models like this one. Where you do get it though, at least the package includes both a Hill Hold Control system (to stop you drifting backwards on uphill junctions) and a Tyre Pressure Monitoring set-up.
Cost of Ownership
SEAT has made great strides in recent years to publicise the benefits of downsized engines and this Ibiza range will make most of its sales from 1.2-litre powerplants like the 60PS unit we’ve been looking at here. It manages 52.3mpg on the combined cycle and 125g/km of CO2. Not bad, but it must be pointed out that with modern technology, SEAT can do a lot better. Proof of this is provided by the fact that the 1.2-litre TSI petrol unit further up the range, nearly twice as powerful with 105PS, returns better fuel and emissions figures than this.
What else? A gearshift indicator on the dash should enable ordinary owners to get somewhere near those kinds of returns on a regular day-to-day basis. Insurance is group 3 on the 1-50 scale for this 1.2 12v 60PS model. Servicing intervals are every 20,000 miles with an oil change every 10,000 miles. And there’s a three year/60,000 mile warranty with two years of Europe-wide SEAT roadside assistance.
SEAT is a company on the up. It endured a few years when it seemed to have lost its spark, making do with the engines nobody else in the Volkswagen Group wanted and bringing some distinctly questionable design work to the showroom. These days though, the latest SEATs are confident and feature some of the best technology on the market. Smart downsized engines, wide availability of twin-clutch sequential transmissions and a focus on customer requirements has driven the company back to success.
The improved version of this fourth generation Ibiza is a prime example of this renewed vitality. It looks sharper while at the same time drives down cost of ownership if you opt for a budget version like the 1.2 12v 60PS petrol variant we’ve been looking at here. Best of all, it does this in an intelligent fashion, without compromising significantly on the perky attitude that exemplifies SEAT at its best. I’m as guilty as anyone of yawning when I see manufacturers going all-out to improve emissions and economy, usually because it means a seriously compromised driving experience. This Ibiza proves it doesn’t have to be that way.