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Rave to the funky beat of Ibiza.

Byline: By MIKE TORPEY

If you want to appeal to younger buyers there can be few better names to call a car than Ibiza. Like the SEAT supermini of the same name, the Balearic island has seen considerable change over the years.During the late Sixties it became the haunt of hippies and flower children, then a commercial holiday destination, now the Med's premier party island.

So too with the Spanish model named after it. Once the continental hire car you dreaded, the Ibiza has been the subject of an on-going transformation since SEAT was acquired by Volkswagen more than a decade ago.

The third generation of the car, which ran from 1999 to 2002, was a funky and fantastic value all-rounder with a shedload of style and terrific dynamics to boot.

And things took another leap forward in the latest model as everything from youthful appeal and technology to safety systems and pricing came together in a compelling package.

The Ibiza's image is a strong one, fortified by performance variants like the FR and Cupra, but to my mind you can't beat the entry level 12-valve version as an inexpensive supermini that scores in every department.

With its three-cylinder 65bhp 1.2 litre engine, this Ibiza can flit in and out of traffic easily, hold its own in the outside lane of the motorway and complete the job with adequate comfort too.

Its handling is positive, making winding country lanes fun to negotiate, and there's an easy gearshift.

Even the driving position is among the best in any small car and thanks to average economy of 47mpg, you aren't constantly on the lookout for filling stations.

Inside, things are crisp and modern - even the once harsh black mass of facia has been replaced with a softer touch charcoal plastic, while the switches have a typical VW quality to them.

There's also ample legroom for a tall driver, while decent space in the back means rear passengers can travel in comparative comfort, the scooped out front seatbacks making for better knee space.

The boot is nothing special, though load space can be extended via the 60/40 split and fold rear seats.

Standard safety features - the Ibiza achieved an unbeaten 4-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash tests on superminis - include front airbags, collapsible steering column and brakes that snap out of the way in a collision.

The base level car also gets CD player with eight speakers, immobiliser, remote central locking, electric front windows, power steering and rear spoiler.

With its low fuel consumption, group three insurance rating, amount of power at low revs and that ritzy style, the 1.2 Ibiza is a near-perfect supermini.: Forecourt facts:Model: SEAT Ibiza.Driving: With its firm ride and strong dynamics, the Ibiza provides a fun and sporty driving experience.Performance: VW-sourced 64bhp engine is refined and car feels quicker than official 0-62 figure of 14.9 secs suggests.Economy: Extremely good, offering an average 47mpg to go with low insurance grouping.Safety: Front airbags, collapsible steering column, 4-star Euro NCAP crash test rating, central locking, immobiliser.Recommended Buy: Ibiza 1.2 five-door.Alternatives: Fiat Punto, Ford Fiesta, Honda Jazz, Peugeot 206, Renault Clio.Price Guide: Expect to pay around pounds 4,600 for 2002/02 Ibiza 1.2 three-door model, pounds 5,500 for same car on 03/03 plate or pounds 5,100 for an 02/02 five-door version in upgraded S trim.Hit: Ritzy style, lively engine, excellent economy.Miss: Some cheapo fittings, dull seat fabrics.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Dec 17, 2004
Words:588
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