It’s not the size that matters ((SEAT IBIZA 1.0 LONG-TERM TEST MONTH 2)

Reviews

The sound of a three-cylinder engine is one of the most joyful parts of a small, cheap car. Otherwise boring hatchbacks can be brought alive with the thrum of an excited little three-pot, which can make driving around town really rather fun.

That’s why I wasn’t disheartened when I learned that my new long-termer would be a 1.0-litre Ibiza with just 74bhp under its bonnet. Having stepped out of the Seat Leon X-Perience – resplendent in Adventure Brown – I was looking forward to something with a little more character.

The Ibiza has plenty of that. It’s similar in size and shape to the VW Polo, the Audi A1 and the Skoda Fabia because it’s based on the same technology (all the brands fall under the command of Wolfsburg these days) but the Seat is arguably the least ‘desirable’ on the platform. And that’s what makes it cool.

Volkswagens are ten a penny and Audis are frankly overpriced at this end of the market. The Skoda Fabia is an extremely capable small hatchback but the Spanish seem to offer a tiny bit more style than the Czechs. I’d have a Superb at the drop of a hat, and the Yeti is one of the best cars currently in production, but the little Ibiza has a cool factor not found elsewhere.

It starts at £13,000 for this SE trim. That gives you alloy wheels, front fog lights and a smattering of other advantages over the boggo-spec ‘S A/C’. My new long-termer has about £2,000 worth of add-ons though: automatic windscreen wipers and headlights come as part of the ‘convenience’ package, the ‘black pack’ adds black alloys and black wing mirrors, and there’s a space-saver worth £100 in the boot. I also have the satellite navigation system and big touch-screen display.

In total it’s a £15,000 car. That could take the wind out of its sales a bit, as this price gives it a huge amount of very, very strong competition. The Volkswagen Polo, the Skoda Fabia, the Peugeot 208 and the Vauxhall Corsa and Honda Jazz all spring to mind, but you could also consider more unusual choices. The funky Citroen Cactus, for example, or the van-like Ford Tourneo Connect, can be bought for this money. As can the boring but good-value Nissan Note. You could afford two Dacia Logans and a holiday for what you’d pay for my Seat Ibiza – so this car had better present good value.

After driving it for a few weeks it’s clear that it’s an excellent car. Brilliant handling, eye-catching looks and good levels of practicality for such a diminutive machine mean that my initial assessment is a four-star rating. But the little three-cylinder engine is what makes this such a fun car to live with – and I’ll let you know more about that next month.

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