High five for Ibiza

SEAT Ibiza, 1984, first model off the line

THAT cheery set of wheels, the SEAT Ibiza is about to enter its fifth generation after selling more than 5.4 million models so what better time to cast minds back to the first incarnation of this Spanish denizen of British driveways.

To do so we must teleport back to 1984, the year in which Michael Jackson took the music world by storm withThriller.

On the big screen,GhostbustersandIndiana Jones and the Temple of Doomsmashed all box-office records. It was also the year when Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was born andprepared forthe rise of the Spanish car in the UK.

The Ibiza first saw light of day at the 1984 Paris Motor Show and was billed as having Italian styling and German engines.

Italian styling most certainly as it was penned by Giorgietto Giugiaro's Italdesign company. In addition, its Italian roots ran deep because it was based on the SEAT Ronda which was in turn based on the Fiat Ritmo.

The German engines link was hung on the fact that the gearbox and powertrain were developed in collaboration with Porsche - and early Ibizas proudly displayed a System Porsche badge on their bodywork.

Another German connection was that the car was prepared for industrialization by the Karmann company.

The Ibiza was larger than most superminis like the Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Nova, but smaller than cars like the Ford Escort and Vauxhall Astra and so created something of a niche for itself.

It arrived in the UK in 1985 when its big rival was the Hyundai Pony in the bargain basement of British motoring.

The Ibiza began to win friends by providing a much more modern alternative to cars like the Lada, Skoda, Yugo and FSO.

There is no denying that the first Ibiza was quirky. There were no control stalks, the indicators being operated by a rocker switch and the lights by a sliding switch.

But the Ibiza's big break came in 1986 when Volkswagen became the company's major shareholder and the ball started to roll for the car's second generation in 1993.

This version was built under VW rules and used the platform was was to feature a year later in the VW Polo Mk3. It created the formula for the high quality Ibizas we know today.

In three decades, the SEAT Ibiza has accumulated four generations. It is the top-selling Spanish passenger car - to date, more than 5.4 million units have been sold. If they were arranged in a straight line, they would exceed the distance between Barcelona and New Zealand.

After 33 years, the SEAT Ibiza consumes less than half as much fuel as the first generation - from 7.8 litres/100 km in 1984 down to 3.6 litres on today's 90bhp Ibiza 1.4 TDI.

The Ibiza was also the first SEAT car to integrate women on the production line. Today, women account for one out of every five workers on this line (21per cent), the highest rate in Spanish industry.

In addition, the global Ibiza market has seen more and more women buyers in the last ten years, accounting for 51 per cent of the share compared to 42 per cent in 2004.

With the new model just being revealed it looks odds on that the Ibiza magic will continue for many more years to come.

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