The SEAT Ibiza tested by Phil


By Philip Hedderman

 

THEY may share the same name and origins, but after nearly two decades are now worlds apart.

Yes, the SEAT Ibiza supermini and the 24/7 party holiday destination are like chalk and cheese.

Like most celebrity marriages, they’ve have moved on and each wants very different things.

Today, one is busy necking a tenth Vodka and Red Bull whilst the other is a proper environmentalist who is looking forward to settling down and getting all serious.

Now, that wasn’t always the case and the Spanish car giant once proudly named their fun and funky little hatchback after the idyllic island in the

Mediterranean, off the coast of Valencia.

That was of course before the dance craze and the now legendary clubs like Space, Pacha, Privilege, Amnesia, DC10, and Eden of Sant Antoni and Ibiza Town.

They introduced us to foam parties, Jager Bombs and B52s, which in turn, attracted hoards of bikini-clad babes, which invariably led to all kinds of unsavory behaviour.

The drunken antics soon became a money spinner for “shockumentary” makers and before we knew it our living rooms were knee-deep in vomit and scantily clad teens copping off.

Ah, yes it true  – youth is wasted on the young.

(It’s a long way from the parish hall disco and yes, before you ask, I’m positively seething with envy).

That envy is not reflected by the

island’s government who are now trying to encourage a more “cultured and quieter tourism scene”, passing new laws including the closure of all nightclubs by 6am and a planning requirement that all new hotels must now be 5-star.

The administration is desperate to attract a more discerning, upmarket clientele.

The suits obviously sat down and studied the meteoric rise of its automotive namesake and have decided to emulate its success.

Launched at the Paris Motor Show in 1994, the little three door hatch, designed in conjunction with Porsche, proved a huge success – selling almost 1.4 million.

The second coming in 1993 saw the introduction to the mainstream of the 5-door – now under the watchful eye of new owner VW.

It was to be the testing ground for what was to become the new Polo Mk3 and was greeted with equal vigour by the motoring press.

Fast forward another two generations and the Ibiza has become a brand of its very own.

Every variation of the supermini is on offer from the three-door, sporty Cupra to the all-new ST (estate) and multiple choices of both diesel and petrol.

The carriage on test today is the 1.2 litre diesel, the preferred choice of the Irish punter.

Equipment in the cabin is generous by SEAT standards, with the SE model we drove coming with alloys, electric windows, cruise control and column-mounted radio and on-board computer switches.

 

You also get three head rests in the rear and split-folding seats – should you need extra space in the boot.

 

Under the bonnet it might churn out only 72bhp, but it feels a whole lot more such is the massive torque coming from the little oil burner.

Thanks to a hi-tech particle filter, the emissions are kept to under 120g/km which means road tax of just €104 per year.

Drive-wise the ride is smooth, the 5-speed gearbox precise and handling is what you’d pretty much expect from a city car.

It laboured a little on motorways, hitting the fuel economy, but more than made up for it around town where it proved nippy and agile on city streets.

All-round, it’s still a fine  little car with all the character of its predecessor only much better looking.

The only drawback is the price at €15,720 – a whopping €2,000 more than the petrol.

That brings us to the whole petrol V diesel debate raging at the minute.

I’m not convinced though that diesel is the way to go with city cars as they don’t get to run long or hot enough to burn off the soot stored in these filters.

We are bound to see huge maintenance issues in a couple of years because diesels are being forced onto customers because of the lower emissions.

The whole stop/start thing too is another disaster just waiting in the wings, but that’s an argument for another day.

The major problem boils down to government levies and the race to reduce emissions further.

In the UK cars under 100g/km qualify for zero road tax.

Not here I’m afraid and therefore the sub-100s models will not be offered as an alternative to the public.

SEAT is the exception and all their petrol engines have very green credentials (all under 150g/km) which they promise will be reduced even further in the years ahead.

So for the first time in years, petrol is back on top and is once again getting the thumbs up.

We might change our minds though if unleaded ever reaches the price of Red Bull!