WITH in excess of 5.4 million sold across four generations the SEAT Ibiza is one of the few superminis that can give the dominant Ford Fiesta a good run for its money.
With a sunny disposition to match its sunshine island name, the diminutive hatchback has been putting smiles on drivers' faces for more than 30 years and is firmly established as the Spanish car maker's most popular model.
There's no room to rest on your laurels in one of the most fiercely competitive sectors of the motor industry, though, so the fifth generation Ibiza arrived in showrooms, somewhat fittingly, in the summer.
In recognition of the buoyant mood around the brand in recent years, it is the first vehicle to be built on the VW Group's new modular compact car platform - getting the architecture before the Skoda Fabia, Audi A1 and even Volkswagen's own Polo.
The latest Ibiza comes exclusively in five-door form but its more accentuated, sculpted lines and clean, streamlined surfaces nevertheless give it a youthful and sporty look, with more than a nod to the successful styling of the bigger Leon.
Although length and height remain much the same as the outgoing model, the new car is nearly nine centimetres wider and has been cleverly packaged to boost interior space and practicality.
By also pushing the wheels further into the corners of the chassis, SEAT have been able to significantly improve rear head and legroom and also increase boot capacity by 63 litres - to a claimed best-in-class 355 litres.
With 60-40 split rear seats on all but entry-level cars and an optional £160 storage pack, which includes an adjustable boot floor, nets and fixing points as well as storage under the front seats, there is some real versatility on offer.
The Ibiza now feels like one of the roomiest superminis out there and, perhaps for the first time, a genuine option as a small family runaround. Four adults will have no trouble getting comfortable even on longer journeys - although five will be a bit of a squeeze and a large transmission tunnel means the middle rear seat is probably best reserved for kids.
Power for most of the range comes from a trio of downsized 1.0-litre, three-cylinder petrol engines but there is a more potent four-cylinder 1.5-litre option available with sporty FR grade models. There are also a couple of 1.6-litre diesels set to join the line-up in the coming months.
The 95ps 1.0-litre turbocharged engine is likely to prove a popular choice, however.
Paired with a slick five-speed manual transmission it is perky and responsive around town, nimble on B roads and has enough oomph not to struggle at motorway speeds either.
Light but accurate steering makes manoeuvring a doddle, while the chassis offers good grip and control but is supple enough to keep the ride on the right side of comfortable.
FR and range-topping Xcellence versions, like the one I drove, get a drive profile selector with eco, comfort and sport modes as well as a customisable individual setting but the emphasis is definitely on easy driveability rather than outright thrills and spills.
That's not a bad thing though, and gives the new Ibiza a more grown up feel than its predecessors from behind the wheel, without compromising too much on the character that has earned it a customer base which is, according to SEAT, the youngest in the supermini sector.
Equipment levels improve quickly once you step up from entry-level S grade cars - although even these get air conditioning, automatic headlights, a basic touchscreen multimedia system and automatic emergency braking.
Flagship Xcellence trim has many of the bells and whistles that you'd usually associate with much bigger cars, such as Alcantara upholstery, dual-zone climate control, electric windows, keyless entry and ignition, front and rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, satnav and a much better eight-inch touchscreen interface with mobile phone compatibility.
The only thing that lets the Ibiza down is the scratchy and somewhat cheap feeling plastics across the dashboard and interior door panels.