Ibiza remembered... sharp, smart... like an old Botox buddy?

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With smart styling and a range of clever petrol and diesel engines, the latest SEAT Ibiza is better than ever, writes Julia Graham.

As good as the best in class? Let’s just say it’s there or thereabouts and offers a more individual slant on the genre than many of its more straight-laced rivals.

It’s fair to say that much of the effort put into this upgrade has concentrated on the Ibiza’s look and feel without too much budget being blown on the oily bits. That said, the engine line-up was already one of the best around, so you’re not getting short-changed. There’s an ultra-low emission 1.2 TDI E Ecomotive engine with Start/Stop at the sensible end of the scale and a 1.4-litre TSI petrol unit which uses a supercharger and turbocharger to extract 148bhp in the FR sports model, which is also offered in ST estate guise for the first time. There’s also a 141bhp 2.0-litre diesel in the FR TDI.

At first glance, the latest Ibiza looks not dissimilar to its predecessor, but there are subtle differences. It’s like seeing an old friend who’s had Botox on the sly. The key difference is around the headlights and grille, the Ibiza wearing a look that’s going to be the SEAT corporate face. Whether you choose the Ibiza hatch, the SC three-door or the ST estate, you get a trapezoidal grille that’s flatter and with a broad lower air intake to emphasise the car’s width. The bumpers front and rear have been redesigned, with a look that is particularly accentuated on the sporty Ibiza FR version. Standard equipment on the FR, and available as an option on other models, are the large fog lamps with integrated cornering light. The headlights are available in two halogen versions or with optional bi-xenon lamps and LED daytime running lights.

SEAT is a company on the up. It endured a few years when it seemed to have lost its spark, making do with the engines nobody else in the Volkswagen Group wanted and bringing some distinctly questionable design work to the showroom. These days though, the latest SEATS are confident and feature some of the best technology on the market.The latest Ibiza is a prime example of this renewed vitality. It looks sharper while at the same time drives down cost of ownership. Best of all, it does this in an intelligent fashion, without compromising significantly on the perky attitude that exemplifies SEAT at its best. I’m as guilty as anyone of yawning when I see manufacturers going all-out to improve emissions and economy, usually because it means a seriously compromised driving experience. The latest Ibiza proves it doesn’t have to be that way.