New Ibiza is best

SEAT going

SEAT Ibiza FR, 2017, front, action
SEAT Ibiza FR, 2017, side
SEAT Ibiza FR, 2017, side, action
SEAT Ibiza FR, 2017, side, static
SEAT Ibiza FR, 2017, rear
SEAT Ibiza FR, 2017, side, moving
SEAT Ibiza FR, 2017, rear, static
SEAT Ibiza FR, 2017, interior
SEAT Ibiza FR, 2017, grille
SEAT Ibiza FR, 2017, rear seats
SEAT Ibiza, 2017, front
SEAT Ibiza, 2017, side
SEAT Ibiza, 2017, rear
SEAT Ibiza, 2017, display screen
SEAT Ibiza, 2017, boot

IF ever a car defined a brand then it's the SEAT Ibiza.

For more than 30 years the Ibiza has been the Spanish car maker's top selling supermini and it's the model that most people in Britain associate with the SEAT name.

Now there's a new Ibiza on the way and in more ways than one it's a trailblazer - for SEAT and its parent company, Volkswagen.

The new Ibiza is not only a little car that's big on the inside and of genuine family-size proportions, it's also the first to sit on a new small car platform that will go on to underpin SEAT's new Arona compact crossover, the next Skoda Fabia and the all-new VW Polo and Audi A1.

In fact, the new baby Audi will be built alongside the Ibiza at the SEAT factory in Barcelona.

So, driving the new Ibiza is a sneak peek at what's in store from the Volkswagen Group - and it doesn't disappoint.

Kicking off the new Ibiza line up are three 1.0-litre petrol versions with the range featuring four trim levels including a sporty FR grade and a new high specification XCELLENCE level.

Prices run from £13,130 for a 75ps Ibiza in S trim to £17,310 for the new top grade version with a 95ps turbo engine. FR versions can be had with an even feistier 115ps development of the 1.0-litre three pot turbo and those cost from £16,630.

That pitches the Ibiza competitively against the supermini top seller, the Ford Fiesta which itself is all brand new with the seventh generation model coming on stream.

Significantly, the Ibiza is bigger than the Fiesta and when it comes to boot space it is positively massive with 355 litres available - a whole suitcase more than you can get in the Ford.

Now a five door model only the Ibiza is smartly styled, sleek but with angular body cuts giving it a modern presence. FR models go a step further with twin exhaust nacelles, darkened rear windows and 17-inch alloys.

Inside it is well finished with the dash centred on a touchscreen and all models come with Bluetooth connectivity, air conditioning, electric front windows and automatic emergency braking.

Higher up the range at FR and XCELLENCE level there's an eight-inch full colour touchscreen and the likes of sat nav, full smartphone integration and multi-mode drive settings are standard.

We have just sampled the two range toppers and while both are slick the Ibiza FR is particularly impressive.

Slightly stiffer sports suspension and a nice feel to the steering wheel helped it deliver a well composed, if not enthusiastic drive and there's a good amount of punch from the engine.

Top speed is a claimed 121mph, 0 to 60 comes up in 9.1 seconds and the official fuel return is 60.1mpg with emissions of 108g/km through its six-speed manual gearbox.

The 95ps engine in the XCELLENCE version is mated to a five speed box and while not quite as lively - 0 to 60 is 10.9 seconds - it matches the FR on official fuel economy.

On our drives it proved the least thirsty of the two returning an average of 50 to the gallon compared to the 46mpg we saw from the FR over similar journeys - nothing to grumble about at all.

Part Alcantara upholstery, dual zone climate control and a rear view camera with parking sensors front and rear are among the high grade kit on the Ibiza flagship yet both showed plenty of potential.

A diesel engine will be joining the line up later and so will a more powerful Ibiza FR which will be fitted with Volkswagen's new 1.5-litre 150ps EVO turbo engine while a DSG semi-automatic variant is also in the wings.

Make no bones about it the new Ibiza is a very capable addition to the supermini market and well set to give the Fiesta a run for its money.

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