Overall rating: 3.5/5
The Leon may be the jewel in SEAT's crown, but the Ibiza has always been the Spanish company's bread and butter, yet it has flagged behind its Volkswagen Group siblings when it comes to technology. For the end of 2015 it comes packed to the gunwales ready to take on the Volkswagen Polo, Skoda Fabia, Opel Corsa et al.
In the Metal:
No, we have not been lazy and used photos of the current model - this really is the facelifted version of SEAT's best-selling Ibiza supermini. Externally, the changes amount to little more than new headlights with LED daytime running lights and a couple of new paint schemes. There are also some 'personalisation' options introduced (of course there are - hasn't everyone got them now?). However, as your mother used to tell you 'beauty is more than skin deep' and the majority of the significant changes have taken place underneath the sheet metal.
SEAT says the Ibiza has been 'Leon-ised', something that will spread to the rest of the range, gaining a Leon-inspired interior in place of the old, dull grey one. The changes bring the Ibiza bang up to date with a cabin that finally matches the funky exterior. The dashboard now features soft touch plastics in all the important touch points plus the leather bound steering wheel from its big brother; it's chunkier and better feeling in hand.
The Ibiza also now comes fitted with a five-inch touchscreen based infotainment system as standard, upgradeable to a 6.5-inch unit equipped with SEAT's 'Full Link' software. Incorporating Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink, this system allows you to connect all the major smartphones to the Ibiza and benefit from a range of dedicated apps. This feature is optional on most models but should (subject to confirmation from SEAT Ireland) come as standard on Connect models. These high-specification cars will also be supplied with a Samsung Galaxy smartphone thanks to a European wide tie up between SEAT and the Korean giant. Again, we're awaiting confirmation from SEAT Ireland on that for the Irish market.
At the heart of this Ibiza, upgrades are a range of new three-cylinder engines. Well, new to SEAT anyway, as we have already seen most in various Volkswagen and Skoda models, but this is actually the first time we have seen all variants - 75-, 95- and 110hp options - available on a Volkswagen Group supermini. There is also a 1.4-litre three-cylinder diesel on offer with outputs of 75-, 90- and 105hp, while the four-cylinder line-up consists of the current 1.2-litre engine, which has gained 5hp, and the 150hp 1.4-litre cylinder-on-demand unit that is fitted to the Ibiza FR (and shared with the Volkswagen Polo BlueGT).
For our money, the mid-level 1.0-litre driven here is the pick of the bunch. It is the same engine used on the Volkswagen Polo BlueMotion and comes with the same sub-100g/km emissions. It's also said to be capable of achieving a diesel-like 4.1 litres/100km (68.9mpg). It is surprisingly fun too - peppy when pushed, if a little lacking lower down the rev range.
In addition to the engines, SEAT's engineers have tinkered with the suspension and steering. Spring and damper rates have been softened to dial out the Ibiza's sometimes harsh ride and the electric power steering adjusted to give the steering more feel. The new car undoubtedly rides smoother but it has perhaps lost some of the 'sportiness' that SEATs are known for. The steering, while heavier, cannot really compensate for this with little extra in the way of feedback truly added. In fairness, buyers of most Ibizas will be perfectly happy with the car.
What you get for your Money:
The 2015 Ibiza is scheduled to arrive in Irish dealerships in August, but as of yet SEAT Ireland has not released price and specification details. CompleteCar.ie understands that prices are to be relatively unchanged over the current offering, maybe a few Euros here or there, but competitive pricing has always been a strong point of the Ibiza and that is not going to change. For reference, the current car starts at €13,680 on-the-road.
Ignore the first impressions - yes, the exterior changes to the new SEAT Ibiza are underwhelming, but this is as extensive a facelift as they come. New technology, a better interior, a new range of engines and updated chassis all combine to make the 2015 Ibiza the car it always should have been. No longer hamstrung by being forced to use one-generation old tech the Ibiza can lay claim to going from also-ran to top of the class.