New Seat Ibiza revealed at Geneva Motor Show – can this Catalan hatch fluster the Fiesta?

Andrew English
The Ibiza has always been one of our favourite hatchbacks and the new model promises to build on that – but now with more compelling competition than ever

With wealth inequality on the agenda even at Davos earlier this year, the preponderance in Geneva of blingy hypercars that will undoubtedly end up in the hands of despots, dictators and Simon Cowell, makes one feel slightly queasy. So it was with some relief that Luca de Meo, Seat's md and one of the sharpest marketers in the business, unveiled the new Ibiza. Phew, a car we can all aspire to...

So Ibiza debuts the Volkswagen Group's new AO MQB platform, which will also underpin the new Polo and Škoda Fabia. It entering a hugely competitive sector, where non-premium giants such as Ford's Fiesta and Vauxhall's Corsa do battle for top UK sellers and Nissan's new Micra, despite being almost criminally ignored in this year's Car of the Year award, is also set to pull up some trees in this market.

Seat Ibiza 2017 gallery

"Ibiza is an important part of our business," says de Meo. "At one time it represented almost 50 per cent of our sales; so it is the business speciality of the house."

New Ibiza retains a lot of the looks of its predecessor, but underneath it is all new and the cabin has been extensively overhauled with a new dashboard design and lots more connectivity. With 95mm more wheelbase and 87mm more width, the cabin is bigger and it's claimed, more comfortable. The boot has grown by 63 litres to 355 litres, which used to be a decent size for a size-above C-sector hatchback.

Ibiza 2017

When it goes on sale in the UK later this year, there'll be a choice of 1.0-litre TSI turbo petrol engines and 1.6-litre turbo diesels, with Volkswagen's new 1.5-litre turbodiesel unit later in the year. Transmissions will be a choice of six-speed manual and seven-speed twin clutch.

"Of the 5.4 million Ibizas built, there are three million still running," says de Meo. "We wanted to do an important car with this model; a generational jump. To do a car like this you need to know what you are doing and we do, and we now have enough argument to fight with the big boys."

Seat Ibiza Geneva Motor Show

What's more there's a little SUV crossover on the way, the Arona, based on the same platform as Ibiza, built on the same Barcelona production line and set to do battle with Renault's Captur and Nissan's Juke. No sign of that yet, bar some blurry spy shots which look like they were released by the mischievous de Meo.

"Brands from the South are seen as successful, emotional, warm and occasionally a bit freaky," he grins. "Who in the VW Group is going to do that job if not us?"

Who indeed? And with its combination of dignified looks and really high tech interior, plus the promise of decent pricing, great handling (Seat's ride and handling team are on a roll at the mo), it was one of my cars of the show.

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