SEAT has come out fighting as the Coronavirus pandemic eases across Europe.
The Spanish car maker was well advanced with giving the highly popular Ibiza family hatchback a mid-term make-over before the pandemic virtually paralysed production and it has raised the bar for the car against more expensive rivals.
There is a new look to the car front to back with revised apron and the latest high performance headlights, while inside it benefits from a carefully integrated sound system and media interface which is a big improvement.
There are SE, SE Technology, FR, FR Sport, Xcellence and Xcellence Lux models in the range and priced from £16,790 to £24,420 using 1.0 petrol engines developing 80, 95 or 110ps with five or six-speed manual gearboxes or seven-speed dual clutch manual/ automatic transmission.
The mid-range FR spec includes 17-inch alloys, tinted glass, heated electric mirrors, intelligent headlights, leather interior detailing, dual zone climate control and sports suspension.
The well proven sub-1.0-litre triple-pot engine is one of the smoothest in this class and with engine management tuning delivered 95ps in our mid-range FR version, but 80 or 110ps versions are also available.
That's perfectly adequate for most commuting uses and shopping runs when giving 95ps but I think it would struggle with 15ps less and you can appreciate how hard the 95ps unit works if you load the car with people or baggage.
I liked the slickness and precision of the FR five-speed manual gearbox with its light and progressive clutch but now and again wished it had an additional gear for longer trips on main roads and motorways.
There is a six-speed version but it comes with a particular trim and higher price tag and you have to decide if you want that or even go up further to the very sophisticated seven-speed manual/ automatic DSG unit.
Gearbox aside, the major controls like steering and brakes inspired with their precision and ease of use and you could very precisely place the car on quick roads or wiggle it into the tightest parking space without too much effort.
Underfoot the brakes soon and smoothly slowed the 1169kg car and the parking brake securely held it on our test hill.
There was an inclination for the FR to run wide on tighter turns but it soon came back on line if the throttle was lifted and a bit more lock was applied. The 17-inch wheels and full coil sprung suspension did a good job in smoothing out bumps even though they could be heard in the cabin.
The seats were well shaped and supportive so it felt like a bigger car and the front adjustment range was reasonable.
Access to front and back seats was good, the rear door lifted high to reveal a deep boot floor but the normal capacity was only fair for a couple of modest cases or several shopping bags before you had to drop the offset split back seats and almost triple the volume.
Oddments room was a little on the tight side with slim and shallow compartments.
Visibility was clear thanks to big windows, very good intelligent headlights and excellent rain sensing front wipers. The driver has good major and minor controls layout and the conventional dials are clearly displayed directly infront of the steering wheel and column.
Good dual zone air conditioning worked well with clear directional control, temperature selection and modest noise, backed up by powered windows.
Pick up was good but you had to stir it along through the five gears to make quick progress and I found it noisy at higher revs on the motorway, however, the overall fuel consumption nudged 47mpg, and once or twice I saw it pass 50mpg when driven really gently in light traffic.