SEAT Ibiza ST facelift 2012 Road Test

The SEAT Ibiza ST has just had a facelift for 2012. And, happily, the restyle by new design chief Alejandro Mesonero-Romanos has not undone the excellent work of Luc Donckerwolke.

The lights with combined LED DRLs are more exciting, grille is a bit flatter, the honeycomb lower grille emphasises the car’s width, the bumpers have been redesigned, most strikingly on the FR term version that is now available with a wider range of engines.

So they’ve refreshed it without mucking it up.

New engines had been creeping their way into the range over the past few years, so you can now have an Ibiza powered by an ultra low CO2 and extremely economical 3-cylinder 1.2 litre 75PS.

Or a 4-cylinder 105PS 1.6 litre diesel. Or a 4-cylinder 105PS 1.2 litre EA211 belt cam TSI turbo petrol engine.

And that’s as well as the old 60PS and 70PS 1.2 litre 3-cylinder chain cam petrols, the  85PS 1.4 litre 4 cylinder belt cam petrol, the 150PS 1.4 litre chain cam twincharger petrol and the 143PS 2.0 litre belt cam diesel engine.

To my mind, the sweet spot in the range is the 1.2TSI 105 manual FR, most sensibly in the ST station wagon, but most attractively in the SC 3-door hatch.

Not only is it more pleasant to drive than any of the diesels, its economy is an impressive 55.4mpg in the EC tests (reckon of 45-50mpg), its CO2 is 119g/km so it’s only £30 a year to tax and, for company drivers, BIK is based on just 10% of its list price of £14,675 for the ST or £13, 465 for the SC.

Pricing of the range is very understandable. 5-doors costs you £500 more then 3-doors. An ST is £710 more than a 5-door or £1,210 more than a 3-door.

Out on the road, whether with the 5-speed manual or the 7-speed twin dry clutch DSG, the 1.2TSI is a pleasant enough companion. I doesn’t feel ‘gutsy’ like the 1.4 Twincharger that offers 220NM torque from just 1,250 rpm. It can only let you have 175Nm torque from 1,550rpm, but that’s probably enough for most people buying this sort of car.

It’s obviously no sports car. If you want that, pick the 1.4 Twincharger DSG that, though more expensive than when it was launched, is still sensible money at £15,870 to £17,080. It rides a lot better on 185/60 R15 tyres than it does on 215/45 R16s, but obviously doesn’t grip as long.

And if you want economy above all else, look no further than the 1.2 70PS TDI CR Ecomotive SE at £15,535 that in the EC tests stretched a gallon to 80.7 miles, and comes both annual VED and London Congestion Charge free.

The ST body is usefully practical offering a seriously big 430 litres of space with all the seats up, and a useful compartmentalised oddments tray suspended over the load area and hidden by the front of the load cover. Lay the seats down and you get an uneven floor (and a small load lip) but the compartment can take 1,164 litres loaded to the ceiling.

It’s actually quite important which body you pick for the Ibiza because go for the 3-door and there’s rather less headroom in the back as well as the inconvenience of climbing over a folded front seat to get there.

But I like the Ibiza. To my mind it offers the most practicality, the least pretentiousness, the nicest styling and the most sensible prices of the VW Polo clones.

And now it looks even better than it did before.

For prices, specifications, engines and transmissions, dimensions, performance statistics and competitors, please click the tabs.

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