ON its launch, SEAT president Luca de Meo declared the latest Ibiza should be the ‘best small car in Europe'.
With so many rivals, it's probably pushing it to say that now, but it is easily one of the best superminis for sale in the UK today.
Due to customer demand, the Ibiza is now only available as a five-door, but it's much wider, sits a fraction lower and is a tiny bit shorter than before. But, the added width and a 95mm longer wheelbase makes it feel like a much bigger car.
Amazingly, SEAT's design team seem to have done the impossible by making the Ibiza 2mm shorter, but delivering more space inside. Leg room in the back is up 35mm, thanks mostly to the increase in wheelbase, while headroom is also up by 17mm. There's also 17mm more head space up front and the seats have been made 42mm wider.
It makes the Ibiza one of the most spacious cars in its class with space for two six-footers to sit one in front of the other. And, while it might be a tight squeeze for three adults in the back, children will have ample room to avoid each other if necessary.
There are six trim levels - SE, SE Technology, FR, FR Sport, Xcellence and Xcellence Lux. All cars in the get alloy wheels, a touchscreen DAB radio with smartphone connectivity, LED daytime running lights and tail-lights, metallic paint, parking sensors, and a suite of modern safety kit as standard.
SE Technology adds sat nav, bigger 16-inch wheels, ambient interior lighting, a CD player, and voice control.
The controls and instruments are noticeably more driver-orientated. The eight-inch touchscreen in the SE Tech is similar to those in other VW Group cars, with clear and simple to follow menus, while the navigation features pinch and expand functionality on the screen.
Heating and ventilation controls are separate and sit underneath the screen so you don't have to wade through menus to change the temperature.
The Ibiza is also one of the most practical cars in the supermini class. As well as plenty of passenger space, there's also a decent boot, which is 63 litres larger than its predecessor's. Loadspace is now a best-in-class 355 litres - and 823 litres when you fold the split rear seats. All that space is easier to use too, thanks to a lower load height.
The Ibiza has also earned the top five-star rating in Euro NCAP safety tests. All models are fitted with six airbags, ABS and Electronic Stability Control with Emergency Brake Assist. There's also a tyre pressure monitoring system, child locks on the rear doors and ISOFIX child seat anchor points on the outer rear seats.
Also standard is Front Assist and Multi-Collision autonomous braking systems.
Front Assist uses a radar sensor mounted on the front of the car to constantly monitor the distance between the Ibiza and the vehicle ahead. If it calculates there is a risk of collision, it will trigger a warning to alert the driver.
If the driver then doesn't apply the brakes firmly enough, the system will generate the necessary extra braking force. If the driver fails to take any action in response to the warnings, Front Assist will automatically apply emergency braking.
Multi-Collision Brake detects when the car has been involved in an accident, and applies the brakes, helping prevent or lessen the severity of a subsequent impact, should the driver have lost consciousness or the ability to control the vehicle in some way.
There's a range of diesel and petrol engines, including a 1.0 MPI 79bhp version. However, the best are the punchy new one-litre three-cylinder petrol engines, which suit the car well.
There's a 1.0 TSI 113bhp version which can operate with a six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission, but the 1.0-litre 94bhp version, which is mated to a five-speed manual, is much more fuel-frugal.
It officially returns 61.4mpg though I managed just 47.1mpg - though that's not to be sniffed at.
Under acceleration or having fun on winding B-roads, you get that fabulous little three-cylinder thrum. However, at cruising speeds, the engine is almost supremely quiet and smooth. Handling is sharp, but not at the expense of comfort. There's also very little body roll.
Power begins to come in low down in the rev range - around 1,500rpm - so it pulls the hatchback strongly. Its 94bhp offers decent acceleration in-gear and it feels brisk away from traffic lights. The Ibiza is nimble around town but very comfortable on longer runs.