IT'S hard to believe the SEAT Ibiza has been around for almost four decades and now the latest fifth-generation model has been given a refresh.
The five-door city run-around is the Spanish car maker's most successful model with more than six million sales and the latest version boasts a fresh design, lots of extra tech and safety kit, plus plenty of choice for customers.
With six trim levels to select from, the engine choice has been simplified with just one three-cylinder, 1.0-litre petrol engine with power outputs of 80ps, 95ps or 110ps. There is the option of a six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG automatic gearboxes with prices for the Ibiza starting from £16,790 and rising to £22,030.
We selected the high-endFR Sport model, which is likely to prove very popular with buyers, and it was powered by the 1.0 TSI 110ps engine mated to a six-speed manual gearbox.
Costing £20,860, increased to £22,145 with options, this Ibiza could complete the 0-62mph sprint in 10.3 seconds, maxed out at 121mph, while delivering a combined 48.7mpg with carbon emissions of 123g/km along the way.
The Ibiza has always been a youthful looking vehicle that has bundles of energy and appeal, so it will come as little surprise that the styling upgrades have improved further on that charm. There is now full LED lighting and the ‘Ibiza' name is handwritten on the tailgate with a bolder looking SEAT badge.
There are new-look alloys along with additional colours to choose from and our FR Sport model looked the business with twin exhaust pipes, dark tinted rear windows, a rear spoiler, exclusive FR bumpers and 18-inch alloy wheels.
The interior looks more modern in its design with a new floating console and 9.2-inch infotainment screen. There is a soft touch dashboard for the first time, along with illuminated air vents for added charm.
Creature comforts are plentiful with full smartphone integration via Apple CarPlay and Apple Android, a digital tft display, a Beats sound system and a voice recognition system that is activated by uttering the magic ‘Hola, Hola' wake up call. This can then be used for all manner of functions such as setting the sat nav, searching for music and contacts, plus lots more besides.
A SEAT Connect app allows you to control many features from a smartphone such as locking or unlocking the doors, checking the driving range, setting up speed alerts and even sounding the horn in a busy car park so it's easier to find the vehicle. Clever stuff.
The Ibiza has always been viewed as one of the best city cars when it comes to both practicality and performance and this latest upgraded version is just as appealing as ever.
Out on the country lanes, the little three-pot engine is eager to perform and there is ample power on tap to overtake. The road holding is confident with perfectly weighted steering offering good driver feedback.
Various drive modes called Eco, Normal, Sport and Individual alter the reactions of the car and the six speed manual gearbox is beautifully smooth and responsive.
It's a car that is happy firing through the lanes, cruising at 70mph on motorways or weaving through the city crowds. You will notice a little road surface noise at higher speeds, possibly due to the larger 18-inch wheels and the firmer sports suspension on the FR Sport variant means you can expect to feel the occasional bump along the way. But generally the ride and comfort levels do impress.
The cabin is deceptively spacious with ample room for a couple of adults in the back and light floods through the sunroof for a light and airy feel.
The deep boot, with a low loading lip for convenience, can accommodate 355 litres of kit - a limit that increases to 1,165 litres with the 60:40 split-folding rear seats dropped flat. In addition, there's plenty of handy storage options throughout the car, including a glovebox, seat back pockets, cup holders and door bins with room for a water bottle.
The Ibiza was awarded a maximum five stars when tested for its Euro NCAP safety rating and SEAT has just added extra driver assist systems to the mix. These include traffic sign recognition, high beam assist and lane assist.
All in all, the SEAT Ibiza still possesses all its youthful charm despite its aging years. It's fun to drive, stylishly designed and well-priced too - all attributes that will keep it ahead of many chasing rivals.