Motorcheck Used Car Guide: Seat Ibiza

Years built: 2008 to 2017
Bodystyles: Three-and-five-door hatchback, five-door estate

What is it?

Seat Ibiza 2 Grey side viewThe fourth generation of Seat’s ever-popular Ibiza supermini has just been replaced by the fifth. As before, the new Ibiza is a compact five-door hatchback with temptingly low prices and temptingly high levels of quality, and it’s a far more sophisticated thing than the outgoing model. That outgoing model still has more than a little charm on its side, though, with engaging handling, low prices, decent space, and very Volkswagen-y attitude to quality and reliability. It makes an ideal starter car, or a good choice for those trading down from something bigger.

Which one should I buy?

Seat Ibiza 3 grey rear viewAlthough the Ibiza was given a few updates during its surprisingly long nine-year lifecycle, it remained essentially unchanged. Unlike the newest version, there was a three-door model, and a compact estate version, the ST, which is a good choice for those looking for some load-lugging space on a budget, although they can be rather hard to find.
It’s probably best to avoid the three-door version too, as although they were cheaper to buy new, the used trade prefers the broader appeal of the five-door model and that’s reflected in the prices asked.
Built on the Volkswagen Group PQ25 chassis, it’s mechanically essentially identical to the con-temporary VW Polo, Skoda Fabia, and Audi A1 but if the Ibiza has one major problem, it’s that it lacks some crucial sound deadening material compared to those other cars. In fact, it’s distinctly noisy and unrefined on the motorway, and has a rather too firm ride quality at lower speeds. Seat was trying to reshape its image into that of a sporting brand at the time, which may explain the harsher chassis settings.
On the upside, the cabin is roomy and comfortable, and decent space in the back seats and a reasonable 292-litre boot. The ST estate can carry a very healthy 430-litres, almost as much as a much larger Nissan Qashqai.
There’s a broad range of engines. Early models were mostly sold with a 70hp 1.2-litre petrol unit, which has been around for years in various VW Group models and is largely very reliable. It’s not the quickest thing around, but well suited to those who live and drive in town a lot, and it’s pretty frugal for a petrol with a claimed economy figure of 52mpg.
Those looking for main-road performance, or superior economy, should seek out an Ecomotive model with either a 1.2-litre three-cylinder or 1.4-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel engine. These units can be shatteringly noisy when started from cold, but there’s no denying the fact that they’re economical — 80mpg claimed for the 1.2 and 78mpg for the 1.4. The 1.2 Ecomotive has claimed Co2 emissions figures of just 92g/km too, so that’s a good choice for those keeping an eye on their mo-tor tax costs.
Later models were upgraded with newer engines from the VW family, including the 1.0-litre three-cylinder 75hp and the 105hp 1.2 TSI, which is arguably the best engine of the lot, but which was available only as an expensive, high-end version.
How much should I spend? Circa €10,000 will get you a 141-registration Ibiza.
Here’s one we found:
2014 Seat Ibiza 1.2 70hp SE, 19,000km, two owners, €10,450 from a franchised dealer.

What goes wrong?

Seat Ibiza 4 right hand driveIbizas seem to suffer from fragile windscreen washers. The pump rarely fails but it’s common for the pipes carrying the water to split and leak, so check to make sure there’s water hitting the screen.
A juddering sensation from the clutch, on 1.2 or 1.4 TDI diesels, is usually a problem with the dual-mass flywheel, and it can be quite an expensive thing to fix. Check the 1.2 petrol for low oil levels, which can be a sign of a problem with the valves. Rough or inconsistent running on a 1.2 means the coil packs need to be replaced, but thankfully this isn’t a very expensive job. The 1.2 also uses a timing chain, instead of a belt, which theoretically needs no maintenance, but which needs careful inspection and attention. Listen for a high-pitched rattle under the bonnet, which is the sign of chain trouble.
Boot parcel shelves and electric window switches are also fragile, while a jolt from the suspension under braking usually means that the anti-roll bar links will need replacing.

Anything else?

Seat Ibiza 5 Red with boot viewThe Ibiza did get some sporting versions, including a ‘mild’ 1.4 turbo FR model and and ‘wild’ Cupra model which came with, variously, 180hp 1.4 turbo or 190hp 1.8 turbo petrol engines. Worth seeking out as a cheaper, more practical Mini Cooper alternative, and while they’re not refined, they are very good fun to drive.
And when you’ve found your perfect Seat Ibiza don’t forget to get it history checked by