2017 Seat Ibiza 1.0 Review

If car companies are looking for reasons why young people yearn for self driving cars, they need not look any further than the Seat Ibiza.   I rented the Seat Ibiza for the weekend, and my conclusion was that I needed to write this review immediately.   This is an important fact as once another 24 hours have elapsed, I doubt I will remember much about it.    If I were to sum it up in one word, it would be ‘Dreary’.    The Seat Ibiza has all the personality of a dishcloth.

I’m sure the Seat is well made and well equipped for the price.   Seat’s claim to fame seems to be they offer a way to buy a Volkswagen for 5% less.   Not exactly inspiring.  The car reviewers seem to like it.

Seat Ibiza

Starting with styling, the Seat Ibiza looks pretty much like every other hatchback on the road.  It even has the same swept up rear quarter window as all hatch backs now do.  It also comes in monochrome, the same as every other hatchback on the road.  The car is grey and the interior is acres of grey plastic.   They have tried to give the car an ‘upmarket’ feel with stitching on the pleather gear shift boot and steering wheel but it just looks tacky.

I’ve rented many economy vehicles in the United States and normally they come with hateful CVT transmissions.   This time, I walked to my vehicle with a spring in my step;  I was in Europe, and I was going to have a car with a proper manual transmission!   Sure enough, a 5 speed gear lever awaited me.

There is nothing especially wrong with the transmission.  But no transmission can make up for being mated to a 1.0 liter 3 cylinder engine.   It might be a small hatchback, but it’s a modern hatchback so it weighs around 1,200kg.    The car has 75hp and 95nm of torque and its not enough.  You might argue I am used to big powerful cars with lots of torque, but you’d be wrong.  I routinely drive a 54hp Citroen Traction Avant.   I’m used to driving a car at full throttle all the time, and that is what is required in the Seat Ibiza 1.0.     The difference is the Citroen has character so you forgive it.   It also has at least a little bit of torque.

Fitting an engine this small allows the car companies to advertise outlandish fuel economy figures and impress environmentalists with low emissions.   Those figures don’t stand up to real world use.  Seat advertise 57.6mpg for this car.   Despite mostly using the car on the motorway with minimal traffic, I struggled to do much better than 40-42mpg.   The engine is underpowered and is constantly straining to do its job.

In a hilarious nod to the advertised figures, the car is keen to get you to top gear as soon as possible, so you get these plaintive reminders in the dashboard advising you to change up below 2,000RPM.   Of course, the engine has no torque at any speed, but even less down at this range and the acceleration is glacial if you follow the car’s recommendations.   It’s like the car is driven by a small field mouse.   I tried following the recommendations a few times and the poor little engine was lugging trying to get that heavy body up to speed.

At highway speed, in 5th gear you find yourself spinning the engine at 4,000RPM.   In most cars you would want another gear, but not this car!  I found myself noticing imperceptible hills by the way I would have the pedal flat to the floor to keep the car moving.   Dropping down to 4th doesn’t do much, no torque to be found here either.

The ride isn’t anything to write home about – I found it rather choppy.  I didn’t like the clutch much either, it ‘bit’ quite close to the top and there seemed to be no action for much of the travel until it all happened.  It is also very light – so much so that I found it harder to do sooth shifts than most manual cars.

The car has a USB port, but it doesn’t allow you to play music through your iPhone.   Instead you get a rather convoluted touch screen to do simple things like changing a radio station.  This requires you to take your eyes off the road instead of a simple button.    The car also suffers from the usual modern hatchback malady of massive A pillars that affect your view when turning out of intersections.    This was coupled with a too high seating position I could not find a way of adjusting.

Despite all those criticisms, its not a bad car.   With a 1.5 liter engine it would probably be quite tolerable.   The problem is that the Seat Ibiza is thoroughly forgettable.   I suspect they will quickly be used up and taken off the road to be forgotten completely.   It is an impressive engineering feat that you can drive a 1200kg hatchback down the motorway at 85mph on a 3 cylinder engine.   Just because you can doesn’t make it a good idea.

My purpose for renting the car was to go and see the British Motor Museum.  What a contrast.  Innovative cars that changed the world vs a white-good.

Rating:  2/5

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