So, SEAT’s Ibiza is enjoying its 30th birthday this year.
That almost certainly makes it older than the youthful sorts who’ve often bought the Ibiza, and it has just one year left to enjoy the “18-30″ shenanigans enjoyed on the Balearic island that shares its name.
Despite a high-octane lifestyle the Ibiza has avoided a bear gut though, even if sporty Bocanegra models have occasionally featured a fashionable goatee.
To this day, the Ibiza remains SEAT’s most popular car, and has really thrived since Volkswagen bought the Spanish company in 1990. The Ibiza had already been on sale for six years by that point, designed by Italdesign and engineered by Karmann. Both big names, but most remember the original Ibiza for the graphics which adorned its doors: “System Porsche”.
Early Ibizas hardly featured Porsche performance but like many cars of their time, were nippy enough in traffic. Nippy became brisk with the second generation Ibiza, which ran from 1993 until 2002.
Penned once again by Giorgetto Giugiaro’s Italdesign, the upright hatch was based on the contemporary Volkswagen Polo – something that has continued to this day. Befitting SEAT’s sporty image though, GTi models – later rebadged ‘Cupra’ – raised the Ibiza into the public’s consciousness and attracted a strong following of younger drivers.
The Cupra’s 150-horsepower output sounds modest by modern standards, but the sporting models were real hooligans. They even garnered motorsport credibility thanks to works rally entries in the old two-litre F2 class.
It didn’t just take part either, but enjoyed huge success – winning the F2 class of the World Rally Championship in both 1997 and 1998. For rally fans of a certain age, images of Welsh star Gwyndaf Evans bombing around British forests in a lurid green Ibiza F2 Kit Car makes similarly-coloured road versions instantly cool.
The third-generation car grew up a little, at least in terms of styling.
Rounder and more mature, Ibizas built between 2002-2008 were the work of Walter de Silva, snatched from Alfa Romeo following a series of successful designs at the Italian marque. Cupra models took a further step up, now turbocharged in some cases and offering real performance for the money. It wasn’t just petrol either – sporty diesel models were a real hit too.
Luc Donckerwolcke, formerly of Lamborghini, sketched the current-generation Ibiza, on sale since 2008.
It’s possibly the best-looking Ibiza yet, and its styling has suffered little in the six years it’s been on sale. Available in three-door SC, five-door hatchback and five-door ST estate body styles, a wide range of engines and Volkswagen standards of quality give the neatly-styled range real appeal.
Cupra and FR models are available once again, the former giving drivers 180 horsepower performance from a 1.4-litre Twincharged engine. At the other end of the scale, Ecomotive diesels manage a spectacular 80.7 mpg, and tout free Vehicle Excise Duty.
No self-respecting manufacturer would celebrate a model’s birthday without a special edition though – and true to form, we can expect details of an Ibiza 30th Anniversary Edition soon.
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