Like its Volkswagen Group supermini siblings, the SEAT Ibiza has undergone a modest mid-life update and it's likely to be the first of the trio to go on sale in Ireland. The exterior looks little different, but the interior is much improved, making the likeable hatchback more appealing than ever.
In the Metal:
The changes on the outside of the SEAT Ibiza are minimal to say the least, including revised front and rear bumpers, new colours, a few different wheel styles and a rear badge that now looks handwritten.
The inside is a whole different story though, with a completely revised dash that now includes a larger touchscreen infotainment system mounted higher up than before. This not only means you don't have to drop your eyes so far from the road but there's also a nifty little ledge to rest your hand on so you're not trying to hit the right point on the screen aimlessly. It's just like the set-up in the new Skoda Fabia. It's also a more user-friendly system and now features wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for those who prefer to use their own apps.
That redesigned dashboard also features a lovely thick, padded plastic along the top, although many of the other significant touchpoints throughout the interior, especially in the rear, use cheap, hard plastics. Saying that, if you don't have kids or regular rear passengers, you're barely even going to notice.
We drove the 1.0 TSI FR version, which has a punchy little three-cylinder engine beneath the bonnet that sounds much sportier than it is, especially when you stir the great manual gearbox and push the revs up a bit. Power maxes out at 95hp at a rather heady 5,000rpm, but get it up to speed and it cruises along pleasantly. It'll suit urbanites the best but it's more than up to a bit of long-distance motorway driving and, with cruise control now standard across the range, that's going to be a little more relaxed, too.
The driving position is good, but the lack of adjustment on the height of the seat belt meant it was cutting across my shoulder which was annoying. Of course this depends on the height of the driver so won't be an issue for everyone.
The FR and the FR Tech both have sports suspension, which pulls the car 15mm closer to the ground and also firms up the ride. It's noticeable on occasions and of course adds to the car's handling characteristics slightly in the corners, but it doesn't detract from the level of comfort you expect in an affordable compact hatch.
The steering is good with a light feel in town but enough feedback for motorway cruising and sporty driving. All models offer a choice of driving modes including Eco, Normal, Sport and Individual, not that there's much you can really adjust yourself.
What you get for your Money:
Irish pricing and specifications for the 2022 SEAT Ibiza have yet to be confirmed.
Where the Skoda Fabia is focused on style and value for money, the Ibiza adds a slightly sporty element into the mix, which is probably why the FR versions with sports suspension tend to be popular. You're still likely to get a lot of equipment for the price though, including the touchscreen infotainment system. The digital instrument cluster is expected to be standard on all but the entry-level models. Alloy wheels, LED lighting and climate control are likely standard across the range, and all add to the appeal.
The SEAT Ibiza continues to be a great package, offering something slightly sportier in terms of look and feel than the Fabia. Like its Skoda twin, it's big on value and the new interior combined with the fashionable technology makes it a strong choice if you're in the market for a compact hatchback.