It’s proving to be a stellar year for superminis – all-new kids on the block include the transformed Nissan Micra and latest version of the market-leading Ford Fiesta.
Now it’s Seat’s turn with the fifth-generation of the popular Ibiza. Originally launched in 1984, it’s the Spanish brand’s best-selling model with more than 5.4 million sold.
The new car is a significant step-up from the outgoing model with more space, the latest tech and safety features, plus a boost in quality and on-road dynamism.
Wider and very slightly shorter and lower, the new Ibiza now bears more of a family resemblance to the Leon, next up in the range.
The fourth-generation Ibiza was cute, but a bit frumpy compared to its successor. Sharper, sportier styling combined with Seat’s signature LED triangular lights up front, the newcomer has a more sophisticated look.
One of the most dramatic differences is inside where it’s far more spacious thanks to an extra 87mm in width and a longer wheelbase. The seats are 42mm wider, which Seat claims are best-in-class. Legroom in the back is increased by 35mm, while headroom is up by 24mm in the front and 17mm in the back.
The Tardis trick isn’t over because the boot has also grown 63 litres, bringing its total capacity to an impressive 355 litres – again best-in-class. Combined with a lower loading lip, this makes the Ibiza seriously spacious.
The range of petrol and diesel options available include a three-cylinder 1.0 TSI (95PS or 115PS), a new four-cylinder 1.5 TSI 150PS (available in late 2017), plus a 1.6 TDI diesel (80PS, 95PS and 115PS).
Gearbox options include five and six-speed manuals, plus a dual-clutch DSG 7-speed automatic gearbox.
Now only available as a five-door, the Ibiza is offered in four trim specs, starting with S, followed by SE, then the sporty FR and top-of-the-range XCELLENCE.
Most impressively, as standard, all Ibizas offer Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) – known as Front Assist – plus Hill Hold Control, automatic lights, Multi-collision Brake, tyre pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights. No wonder it was awarded a maximum five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests.
Other options include Adaptive Cruise Control, wireless charging, interior ambient lighting, Keyless entry & Go, front and rear parking sensors, a rear view camera, plus an integrated 8-inch touchscreen with glass panel.
Naturally, the Ibiza is also fully connected with Apple Car Play, Android Auto and Mirror Link access.
I tested the model that’s likely to be the most popular choice, the SE trim with the 95ps 1.0-litre TSI petrol engine and five-speed gearbox.
Apart from its stylish new looks, step inside and it’s instantly more spacious with plenty of room for adults front and back.
With a straightforward yet attractive driver-focused dashboard and a decent 5-inch colour touchscreen, it’s just the job.
Start her up and it’s immediately obvious that the new Ibiza is very refined. There’s a subdued thrum from the three-cylinder engine, but nothing more unless pressed hard.
The ride quality is up there with the best in its class, but the biggest surprise of all is that it feels planted on the road with well-controlled body roll, making it a genuinely engaging car to drive.
Its punchy little engine pushes it along at more than enough speed for most, while light steering and good visibility make it ideal for town too.
On a varied test run we got to 50mpg without too much trouble, which is excellent considering Seat claims it’s capable of 60.1mpg. The good news doesn’t stop there because its CO2 emissions are a low 106g/km.
Frankly, the new Ibiza is all grown-up and hard to fault, but no car is perfect.
For instance, there are no soft-touch plastics used in the cabin so it’s not exactly plush, while S and SE trim models get an FM/AM radio with DAB (a £145 option) only standard for the FR and XCELLENCE. There’s also a bit of road noise over rougher surfaces.
That said, overall it’s an impressive package that provides worthy opposition to its major rivals which also include the Vauxhall Corsa, Citroen C3 and Renault Clio.
Verdict: The all-new Seat Ibiza is a revelation. Stylish, safe, spacious, refined and entertaining to drive, it’s great value and one of the best superminis on the market.