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Used car focus: Seat Ibiza – 2002 onwards

Europe’s funkiest car maker got just about everything right when it launched the Ibiza. And as a result, it’s had a popular small car on its hands; one that’s desirable without being unaffordable.

In addition to its sharp styling, it’s impressively equipped, easy to drive around town and comes with a diverse choice of engines. It ticks a lot of boxes for a wide range of small car buyers and is a very popular used buy.

Line-up

Original 2002 line-up was badged S, SE, and Sport. All models have air-con, tinted glass, radio/CD player and seatbelt pre-tensioners. SE adds height adjustable seats, front foglamps, on board computer and 15in alloys.

Sport has a leather steering wheel, traction control, white instrument dials and 16in alloy wheels. Sporting promise wasn’t realized until the start of 2004, with the launch of the 1.8T and 1.9TDi FR models (although the diesel had been around from launch, badged Sport).

A few months later saw the introduction of 1.8T and 1.9TDI Cupra versions with significantly more horsepower over the FR cars. Ibiza badges changed in 2004 to reflect Seat’s new naming strategy. Trims are now: Reference, S, SX, FR and Cupra.

Driving performance

Standard models aren’t as fun as you might expect, but still offer an enjoyable drive compared to others in this class. There’s a good gearchange, although the steering can be a bit too light at times. Through corners, Ibiza feels confident and there’s not an awful lot of bodyroll.

It has stiffer suspension than the VW Polo and Škoda Fabia, with which it shares many parts, but this has an impact on the ride quality. It feels a little rough on average roads, while it’s crashy over less perfect conditions.

Comfort

A tall shape provides plenty of headroom in the front, though this is reduced in the back as the roof slopes. Legroom is adequate, the seats offer good support and it’s quite a light cabin, though at speed it can get a little noisy.

Engines

Punchy 1.2 12-valve is refined, while the two 1.4s lack torque for their size. Diesels (1.4 and 1.9 TDI) have plenty of pulling power. The short-lived 2.0 Sport doesn’t offer the performance that the name suggests.

There are a number of hot versions: FR (Formula Racing) spec has either a 150bhp 1.8T unit or a 1.9 TDI with 130bhp. Also the 1.8 T Cupra with 180bhp or the 1.9TDI Cupra with 160bhp. The petrol version gets to 60mph in 7.1s; the diesel does it in 7.4s.

Safety

Gains a four star Euro NCAP crash test rating, which is average for a car of this size and age. All models get twin airbags, immobilizer and deadlocks. Alarm and side airbags are only available on higher spec models or as optional extras.

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