For the past 1500 kilometres, ive been schlepping a Seat Ibiza from Central Croatia (Split) to the Istrian coast in the north. It’s been a heady mix of hair pins and B roads to autobahn style freeways with very liberal speed limits. Cut a long story short, it really is a bit meat and three veg.
What you can definitely say about the Seat it is a well built car. The panel fit is superb. Inside the quality of fabrics and plastics never fails to impress. For those long journeys, the roof is high and seating position near perfect. So there is some quality and purposeful design at work here. Frankly miles more comfortable on the highway to drive than the old BA Falcon I had.
As lame as it may sound, the mirror placement in the car is perfect. And that’s important at some of the speeds we’ve been doing to keep up with well heeled Croats on the highways. A trivial accolate, but what the hey!
When it comes to safety and features though, the car is sadly lacking. No traction control (though it really doesn’t need it) or stability control. While it doesn’t have many buttons and knobs, there are no filled in holes in the dash where the buttons on more luxurious models would go. It makes you wonder whether they even thought of those little luxuries, even more than one cup holder, at all. Clearly not.
To drive, the Volkswagen sourced 1.4 four has a lot of poke in the middle to upper range. Down low, you cant hear it rev below 2000 revs. Which for me is really hard to get used to. Overtaking becomes quite irritating as just when you reach peak power, the rev limiter kicks in like the fun police at a brothel. And you find yourself desperately trying to maintain revs, shifting to a higher gear.
Given the engine size, no surprises here. But it beckons for some Honda VTEC style wizardry to wring out some extra power when you really want it. Not surprisingly with all that revving, I only got about 350 kilometres per tank.
Basically, it’s geared for driving around town and the occasional back road belt. It’s willing enough to perform on a challenging road, but it’s not luxurious or sporty in its tune, firm but not quite boring.
Its on the autobahns that the cars shortcomings become transparent. While it’s fun to biff about in around town, its engine becomes quite noisy at speed and it desperately needs a sixth gear. Because it maintains cruising speeds at very high revs. Sadly this could be very comfortable car on the highway, but for the sake of cost isn’t.
In essence this car doesn’t rival the Japanese (Honda Jazz or Civic Coupe) or the Germans (A Golf – although im told the Ibiza is based on a VW Golf) for class leading performance. But is it a bad car? No. Is it boring to drive? Absolutely not? Is it interesting? Well i doesn’t possess the loveable quirkiness of an old school Citroen but it’s definitely not Korean.
What the Ibiza really is, is the mild sauce in a peri peri chili restaurant. It’s for the shy, but definitely not the meek and ungainly. Given the choice i’d probably drive something Japanese or Italian. Will it be a forgettable experience though? Never.