REVIEW DATE: 04 Mar 2010
Can SEAT's reputation for sportiness extend to the functional supermini estate market? Steve Walker checks out the Ibiza ST.
As a general rule, the easiest way to ruin the looks of a handsome, sporty supermini is to expand its hindquarters and create an estate version. There's no problem with estate bodies on larger cars. There's many a family saloon that looks better with longer, sleeker lines in 'Tourer' or 'Sportwagon' guise but the smaller the car, the more problematic that fat backside becomes. Some of these extended superminis are easier on the eye than others but the more attractive efforts tend to have less capacity inside and then you might as well get the standard hatch anyway. It's a tricky one but SEAT thinks it has the answer. Is the Ibiza ST the supermini estate that changes the rules?
Most superminis aren't available in estate form, maybe because the manufacturer can't be bothered, maybe because it already has a supermini-MPV to cater for people wanting a more practical car with a small footprint. For buyers, the estates that are available offer a level of utility somewhere between a five-door supermini and a full-blown MPV with all the folding seats and clever storage solutions. They're superminis with an extension to the rear and in some cases, you can't work out how the designers managed to get planning permission. Is the Ibiza ST any different?
The usual broad engine range is on offer with some unremarkable (but cheap) normally-aspirated petrol units at the base of the range and a succession of more desirable turbocharged offerings above. Highlights include the 1.2-litre TSI petrol with 103bhp. It doesn't make the Ibiza hugely fast but 62mph from a standing start in 10.1s isn't bad and neither is a 118mph top speed. More in keeping with the estate's super-sensible persona are a couple of diesels. There's a startlingly economical 1.2 TDI, a tiny three-cylinder common-rail injection unit and the 1.6 TDI which is going to give the ST longer legs for covering higher mileages.
"SEAT Ibiza ST manages to retain much of the visual sharpness of the five-door car"
There are five and six-speed manual gearboxes depending on the engine selected but many will be drawn to the DSG twin-clutch automatic that is popping up with increased regularity in SEAT products and winning praise for its super fast shifting. Like the Ibiza hatch, there's speed-sensitive electro-hydraulic power steering while front disc brakes team up with rear pads or discs to the stopping depending on the model.
This estate version of the SEAT Ibiza had a head start because the Ibiza hatch on which it is based is one of the better-looking superminis currently on sale. The estate retains sharp front end with its smeared back headlights as well as the distinctive sculpted flanks. Around at the business end, the usual growth is apparent but it's been well managed with the prominent shoulder line and raked rear screen aiding its integration. Visually, the Ibiza is certainly one of the best resolved small estates around at the moment.
What's really important is how much extra boot space you actually get. The estate has an extra 18cm of overhang compared to the 5-door hatchback and it puts that to use in generating an extra 138 litres of load carrying space. That gives a 430-litre total that's fractionally down on a Renault Clio Sport Tourer and a full 50-litres less than you get in the Skoda Fabia Estate, a car that rides on the same platform as the Ibiza ST.
The interior forward of the boot is identical to the standard Ibiza which means neat, unfussy design and decent build quality. It's not the most roomy supermini you'll encounter and space in the rear will be tight for taller occupants. The rear bench splits 60:40 and folds down so the boot can be enlarged further.
Most of the usual Ibiza trim levels are offered but there are no fast Cupra and FR versions, which is somehow a pity. S, SE and Sport models are available, with all cars getting climate control air-conditioning, heated folding mirrors, electric windows and front fog lights with a cornering function to help illuminate bends.
There aren't a huge number of supermini estates around but there are lots of supermini-MPVs which do a similar job with more emphasis on versatility. In terms of direct rivals, Renault's Clio Sports Tourer, Peugeot's 207 SW, the Skoda Fabia Estate and even MINI's Clubman would count and the Ibiza ST is an attractive option in that company. Only the MINI has a real edge in terms of desirability but it's less practical than an Ibiza 5-door and priced at a big premium.
The modern engines in the Ibiza ST turn in an extremely polished performance at the pumps. The 1.2 TDI is the most efficient option but the more powerful 1.6-litre TDI diesel isn't far behind with 55mpg on the combined cycle and as much as 78mpg in extra urban driving.
The styling compromise brought by small estate cars can seem a big price to pay for the few litres of extra carrying capacity that's gained but the SEAT Ibiza ST manages to retain much of the visual sharpness of the five-door car despite its bulbous rear. Better still is a competitive carrying capacity that's far larger than the Ibiza hatch and a line-up of economical modern engines. Buyers wanting a supermini with an extra injection of practicality should give it a chance.
The results below show the top IBIZA deals on buyacar
|Seat Ibiza 1.4 SE 5dr hatchback|
|Seat Ibiza 1.4 Toca 3dr sport coupe special edition|
|Seat Ibiza 1.2 TSI FR 3dr sport coupe|
|Seat Ibiza 1.2 TSI SE 5dr DSG hatchback|
|Seat Ibiza 1.2 TSI FR 5dr hatchback|
|VIEW MORE DISCOUNT IBIZA DEALS|
|For IBIZA ST|
|OVERALL||7.3 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||8|
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