New Volkswagen Polo vs Seat Ibiza Comparison

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The Seat Ibiza’s reign as the best small car around is under threat from Volkswagen’s new Polo. We find out how they stack up

*** Note : £1 = $1.38 (correct at time of post)

The contenders

Seat Ibiza 1.0 TSI 95 FR
  • List price £16,015
  • Target Price £13,876

Our reigning small car champ is back to defend its crown against its newer cousin.

Volkswagen Polo 1.0 TSI 95 SE
  • List price £15,930
  • Target Price £15,325

Shares its engine and underpinnings with the Ibiza but promises a posher interior.

New Volkswagen Polo vs Seat Ibiza

Funny thing, brand image. Ponder Seat and you’ll probably associate it with sporty looks and handling, but consider Volkswagen and – emissions cheating scandal aside – the automatic perception is more likely to be one of comfort and quality.

Yet if you were to remove the body panels of the Seat and Volkswagen models you see here, you’d be left with virtually the same underpinnings and oily bits – those being the VW Group’s so-called MQB chassis and a turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine with 94bhp, driving the cars’ front wheels via a five-speed manual gearbox.

Bolt the bodies back in place, though, and the aforementioned preconceptions apply. We’re testing the Ibiza – the current class leader – in our favourite FR trim, which gets aggressive looks, lots of kit and stiffer sports suspension, while for similar money, Volkswagen’s Polo comes as a comfort-focused SE model.

Driving – Performance, ride, handling, refinement

With almost identical engines, it’s no surprise that the Ibiza and Polo are comparable on performance. Both can crack 60mph from standstill in a little over 10 seconds and pull from low revs similarly strongly in third, fourth and fifth gears. Unless you regularly plough up and down motorways or live in a hilly area, you won’t have any complaints.

Both cars also have pleasingly slick manual gearboxes, but the Polo’s engine manages to feel a little smoother and is fractionally less vocal when accelerating hard from low revs. It’s the same story when it comes to road noise, although the Polo’s door mirrors do whip up a little more wind noise at 70mph.

The Ibiza’s stiffer sports suspension gives it the edge when it comes to handling; it props up its body more effectively and turns in to corners with greater urgency. Its steering is also precise and nicely weighted, giving you the confidence to dart around corners. The Polo’s more relaxed gait is exposed here, mainly by the fact that its body leans over more in tight corners, although its steering is similarly precise and there’s plenty of grip.

Let’s be clear: the Ibiza’s suspension doesn’t result in a bone-jarring ride. However, it is firmer than the Polo’s, particularly at low speeds over sharp-edged bumps and broken asphalt. The Polo does a better job of sponging away the same road scars, even when fitted with our test car’s 17in alloy wheels, which won’t be available in the UK. With SE trim’s standard 15in wheels, the ride is likely to be even smoother.

Behind the wheel – Driving position, visibility, build quality

Seat Ibiza interior

Getting comfortable in either car is no hassle at all, because both have a generous amount of manual adjustment in their steering wheels and driver’s seats. The Ibiza’s sports seats have chunkier side bolsters than the Polo’s, so you’re held in place better through corners, but Volkswagen offers the chance to add sports seats with adjustable lumbar for a reasonable £200. Seat, on the other hand, doesn’t offer adjustable lumbar support at all – even as an option.

Neither car comes with any parking aids as standard, so although seeing out the front is easy enough in both cars, the Polo’s taller, wider rear windows make it the easier car to reverse into tight parking spots. That’s the price you pay for Seat’s edgier styling. Happily, the Ibiza can be equipped with rear parking sensors for £220, while you can add a reversing camera to the Polo for £250 and to the Ibiza for £425.

The quality of the materials is slightly better in the Polo, too. Its door panels, like the Ibiza’s, are made from hard, brittle plastics, but while that continues on the top of the Ibiza’s dashboard, the Polo has been treated to softer, denser dashboard plastics which look and feel that little bit classier.

Infotainment systems

Seat Ibiza

Making the jump from SE to FR trim brings this 8.0in touchscreen, which includes built-in sat-nav. It’s one of the best touchscreen systems available, with crisp graphics, easy-to-follow menus and great response times after each prod. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring are included, as are a DAB radio, Bluetooth and two USB ports. Upgrading the sound system costs £365 and wireless phone charging is £160.

Volkswagen Polo

Every Polo gets the same 8.0in touchscreen as the Ibiza, although SE models forgo built-in sat-nav. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone mirroring are standard, though, so this isn’t such an issue, while the Polo’s screen is positioned higher, making it easier to see and use on the move. DAB radio, Bluetooth and two USB connections are standard. There’s no option to upgrade the stereo, but wireless phone charging is available for an extra £355.

Space and practicality – Front space, rear space, seating flexibility, boot

Seat Ibiza rear seats

Despite the fact that these cars have the same underpinnings, there are differences when it comes to interior space. In the front, a couple of tall adults will have no issues with head or leg room in either, and there isn’t much in it for front stowage space; both have a couple of cupholders, a large cubby behind the gearlever and generously proportioned pockets in their front doors.

Tall adults climbing into the cars’ rear quarters will notice a greater disparity. Both cars are among the roomiest in the class, no question, but where knees are shaving the front seatbacks in the Ibiza, they’re clear in the Polo. Head room in each case is good, although the Polo’s larger rear windows give a better view out and leave it feeling less claustrophobic for rear passengers on longer journeys.

The pay-off for the Ibiza’s slightly less spacious rear seats is a boot that’s a bit larger and more practical than the Polo’s. Each swallowed five carry-on suitcases in our tests, but unlike the Polo’s boot, the Ibiza’s had some room left over.

In both cars, 60/40 split-folding rear seats are standard, but SE Polos also come with a variable-height boot floor – a £160 option on the Ibiza. As a result, the Polo’s boot floor is a more consistent height than the standard Ibiza’s when the rear seatbacks are down.

Seat Ibiza
  • Official boot capacity 355-823 litres
  • Suitcase capacity 5

The Ibiza sacrifices a small amount of rear leg room in order to achieve a more accommodating boot; five carry-on suitcases fitted with room to spare. You have to pay £160 extra for a height-adjustable boot floor, though.

Volkswagen Polo
  • Official boot capacity 351-1125 litres
  • Suitcase capacity 5

As with the Ibiza, two adults will be perfectly comfortable in the Polo’s front seats; those in the rear will find that their knees don’t touch the front seatbacks. Five cases were a squeeze in the boot, but a variable-height floor is standard.

Buying and owning – Costs, equipment, reliability, safety and security

Seat Ibiza

Just £85 separates the two cars’ list prices, but angle for a discount at the dealer and the gap widens to nearly £1500 in favour of the Ibiza. Over three years of private ownership, the Ibiza remains the cheaper proposition. Yes, its servicing costs are higher, but not by enough to offset the big discount you’ll get when buying, while both cars are predicted to depreciate at a similar rate.

However, the gap is reduced if you buy on a three-year PCP finance deal, limited to 10,000 miles a year and fronted by a £2000 deposit. You’ll pay £211 a month for the Ibiza, compared with £229 for the Polo. The Ibiza is still cheaper, then, but the difference isn’t enormous.

For the small number of people who’ll opt to run for one of these cars through work, the Polo will be the more tempting option, despite its higher list price. That’s because, with a CO2 output of 101g/km, it sits in a lower tax band than the 106g/km Ibiza, saving buyers in the 40% tax bracket a little over £200 over three years.

You’ll enjoy more standard equipment in the Ibiza, which includes features such as automatic wipers, cruise control and electric folding mirrors that cost extra on the Polo. In fact, the only feature the Polo gets as standard that the Ibiza doesn’t is electric rear windows.

Automatic emergency braking is standard on both cars, though, as is an alarm and immobiliser. Security firm Thatcham rated them both as excellent at resisting being driven away and good at resisting a break-in.

verdict

Seat Ibiza and Volkswagen Polo

Rarely are two cars so closely matched. In fact, the Ibiza and Polo have traded blows to end up tied for overall points.

So which should you choose? Well, if your priorities are a properly cushy ride and peaceful cruising manners, or you happen to be a company car driver, we’d point you in the direction of the Polo. It is, without a doubt, a brilliant small car that majors on comfort but has no major weaknesses.

But then neither does the Ibiza. Yes, it doesn’t ride quite as smoothly, but neither is it in the least bit fractious. Plus, it’s more fun to drive, more lavishly equipped and will cost private buyers a not inconsiderable amount less to buy and own. The margins are small, but the Ibiza wins the day.

1st – Seat Ibiza

For More fun to drive; more standard kit; cheaper to buy and own; bigger boot

Against Firmer ride; more hard plastics inside; pricier servicing

Specifications: Seat Ibiza 1.0 TSI 95 FR
  • Engine 3cyl, 999cc, turbo, petrol
  • List price £16,015
  • Target Price £13,876
  • Power 94bhp @ 5000-5500rpm
  • Torque 129lb ft @ 1500-3500rpm
  • Gearbox 5-spd manual
  • 0-60mph 10.1sec
  • Top speed 113mph
  • Gov’t fuel economy 60.1mpg
  • True MPG 54.0mpg
  • CO2 emissions 106g/km
2nd – Volkswagen Polo

For Smarter interior; less engine and tyre noise; cheaper company car; supple ride

Against Higher monthly PCP costs; sat-nav, auto wipers and cruise control cost extra

Specifications: Volkswagen Polo
  • Engine size 3cyl, 999cc, turbo, petrol
  • List price £15,930
  • Target Price £15,325
  • Power 94bhp @ 5000-5500rpm
  • Torque 129lb ft @ 2000-3500rpm
  • Gearbox 5-spd manual
  • 0-60mph 10.2sec
  • Top speed 116mph
  • Gov’t fuel economy 64.2mpg
  • CO2 emissions 101g/km

(whatcar.com,  https://goo.gl/AAW4ip)

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