REVIEW DATE: 17 Dec 2008
Hybrids, fuel cells, solar power? Poppycock. SEAT has got over 75mpg from a 1.4-litre diesel Ibiza. Steve Walker reports.
The environment has never before been top priority for the world's car manufacturers but it comes pretty close to top billing now. Public demand for environmentally-friendly vehicles is growing, both for ethical reasons and because they're cheaper to run. It means there are substantial rewards to be tapped by the manufacturer that can give us the most efficient car as well as the one that's fastest or most beautiful. SEAT was one of the earliest adopters of this new order with an Ecomotive version of its previous generation Ibiza and now there are Ecomotive models across its range. The latest Ibiza Ecomotive could be the most attractive of the lot.
SEAT has done a number of things to this car in order to improve its environmental performance and they will affect the way the car drives. The standard Ibiza is up with the smartest-handling superminis with its pointy steering and firm suspension plus a wonderfully slick gearbox and to an extent, these features have been retained. The Ecomotive rides on low rolling resistance tyres that are thinner and of a harder compound that standard rubber. The engine is a 1.2-litre TDI diesel. It's a three-cylinder installation found across the Volkswagen Group of which SEAT is part, and although it sounds harsh at low speeds, it quietens down once it gets going. There's 75bhp available, which is plenty in a car of the Ibiza's size and with torque of 180Nm being produced at 2,200rpm, there's more than enough muscle to get the ECOmotive's 1,150kg kerb weight shifting.
Go all in and the 0-60mph sprint can be dispatched in 13.9s with the top speed measured at 108mph. Anyone exploring these limits isn't really using the Ecomotive in the spirit in which it was designed but it's revealing to learn that the car's notable environmental credentials carry little penalty in terms of performance.
".it's an impressive piece of lateral thinking from SEAT."
It's not just tyres and engineering tweaks that gives the Ibiza Ecomotive its sparkling green credentials. The car has undergone a programme of good old-fashioned weight loss, along with aerodynamic tweaks that improve its efficiency. The car's skinny steel wheels are fitted with aerodynamic hubcaps. There's also lowered suspension and a subtle bodykit to help the air flow around the car. On the inside, the air-conditioning has been ditched, although you can still specify it as an option.
The Ibiza is generally a well-built and practical supermini with its Volkswagen Polo origins evident in the interior. The plastics are of a high quality and the minimalist design gives the car a unique feel. We particularly like the slick stereo controls. The cabin feels spacious, although adults in the back may struggle for headroom in the three-door where the car's curved roofline swoops in, and there's plenty of boot bringing up the rear.
The Ibiza Ecomotive is as affordable to buy as it is to run. The Ecomotive even stacks up favourably against Ford's much lauded Fiesta Econetic - a car that takes a similar route to eco-friendliness but costs a few hundred pounds more. Standard equipment may be down a little on the standard Ibizas after the weight saving cuts have been made but it still includes the basics.
SEAT's original Ibiza Ecomotive followed on from Volkswagen's last generation Polo Bluemotion in employing a series of comparatively small modifications that together have a big effect on efficiency. BMW had trodden a similar path with its more technologically advanced EfficientDynamics programme and it wasn't long before most of the major names were trying a similar trick. Today, the latest Ibiza Ecomotive has a host of economy-focused rivals but its mix of sporty style and exemplary economy could well give it an edge.
80.7mpg, that's the upshot of all the tinkering SEAT has done to the Ibiza Ecomotive. CO2 emissions are directly-linked to the quantity of fuel burned so the Ecomotive manages a similarly impressive 92g/km output which give major tax advantages. The most telling comparison is between the Ecomotive and Toyota's Prius with its advanced Hybrid Synergy Drive, a car that struggles to match this Ibiza both in terms of fuel economy and C02. SEAT can afford to feel pretty smug that it's bettered Toyota's gargantuan investment in Hybrid technology with a standard diesel supermini with some weight shaved off and a new set of tyres.
These days, green cars are also cheap cars to run and that's the main reason why the public is taking to them with quite the fervour that it seems to be. No matter how much we like to massage our consciences with the thought that we're making sacrifices for the sake of the planet by going green, the fact is that cars like the Ibiza Ecomotive mean going green is no longer much of a sacrifice. In fact, you can benefit considerably by doing it.
SEAT engineers took the existing 1.2-litre TDI Ibiza and set about making it greener. They ditched superfluous equipment to save weight, improved the aerodynamics with wheel trims and slight body modifications, fitted low rolling resistance tyres, fiddled with the engine management computer and lowered the suspension. The result is the Ibiza Ecomotive, a 80.7mpg supermini that drives well and looks much the same as it did before the operation - maybe slightly better. Overall, it's an impressive piece of lateral thinking from SEAT.
People tend to resist change unless the right incentives are in place. Today, the UK public are incentivised to drive greener cars by hefty taxes on fuel and CO2 emissions while car makers are incentivised to build greener cars by the demand these tax-averse punters create in the marketplace. This works in reverse too, if environmentally-friendly cars needed re-charging every 20 miles or pumped the stench of decomposing cabbage from their exhausts, we'd all be put off. As it is, you can buy a SEAT Ibiza Ecomotive and suffer no real disadvantage over someone with a standard Ibiza. It seems the incentives and disincentives are where they need to be to make a car like this work.
The results below show the top IBIZA deals on buyacar
|Seat Ibiza 1.2 TSI FR 3dr sport coupe|
|Price £11,426||Save £2,414|
|Seat Ibiza 1.4 TSI Cupra 3dr DSG sport coupe|
|Price £15,108||Save £3,462|
|Seat Ibiza 1.2 TSI FR 3dr DSG sport coupe|
|Price £12,187||Save £2,638|
|Seat Ibiza 1.4 Toca 3dr sport coupe special edition|
|Price £10,572||Save £2,128|
|Seat Ibiza 1.4 Toca 5dr sport tourer special edition|
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|For IBIZA ECOMOTIVE|
|OVERALL||7.2 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||7|
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