Price: £11,805 on the road
Engine: 1.4 litre three-cylinder turbodiesel
Transmission: five-speed manual
Top speed: 110 mph
Acceleration: 0-100km/h (62mph) in 12.9 seconds
Fuel consumption: 76.3 mpg (combined cycle)
CO2 emissions: 98g/km
Rivals: Ford Fiesta ECOnetic, Skoda Fabia Greenline, Smart Fortwo cdi
The clue is in the name - Ecomotive. Eco for economy and Eco for ecology; this new frugal version of Seat’s Fiesta-sized Ibiza scores strongly on both counts. Thanks to a series of mechanical, aerodynamic and weight-saving tweaks, it manages to achieve a staggering 76.3mpg on the official combined cycle fuel consumption tests and emits just 98g of CO2 per kilometre - the sub-100g/km club is a very small and exclusive one indeed.
I put the Ecomotive to the test over a longish stretch of the A6 and A14 in Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire, a route offering a wide range of conditions - single and dual carriageways, rural and semi-urban conditions, lots of speeding up and slowing down for roundabouts. According to the car’s standard trip computer, I got 69.1mpg out of it under these real world conditions without really trying very hard at all. I accelerated more gently than I normally would, and tried to slow down without using the brakes where it was safe to do so, but drove quickly enough to keep up with other traffic. It was a hot day, so I had the Ecomotive’s standard air conditioning (usually a bit of a power sapper) switched on most of the time.
The Ecomotive’s 1.4 litre diesel engine has three cylinders, a layout that gives a slightly raggedy but distinctively pleasing engine note, and provides a surprising amount of punch (given that the Ecomotive is supposed to be an economy special) once it gets into its stride above about 1500rpm in each of the five (very high) gears. In most other respects, driving and living with the Ecomotive is just like driving and living with any other Ibiza, which is to say that it is largely a pleasant experience.
Seat’s small car looks as fresh and attractive, inside and out, as it did when it was launched last year. For my money, the Ibiza is the Spanish manufacturer’s best design, as it avoids the slight heaviness of appearance that afflicts the mid-range cars such as the Toledo and Altea while offering a bit more zing, in visual terms, than the larger Exeo. Real enthusiasts may feel they’re missing out on a bit of feel where the steering is concerned (the system is described as “electro-mechanical” - electric power steering saves weight and power, so is a popular choice on small economy-oriented cars), but most prospective owners will be much more excited about the Ecomotive’s ability, as a proper four-seater, to make a litre of diesel go a very long way.
One other thing that’s worth mentioning; this impressive fuel economy is achieved without resorting to some of the more complicated measures used on other eco-models, such as stop-start technology that switches the engine off at rest during traffic light stops, or fancy displays to guide your driving habits in an economical direction (although it does have that trip computer that helps you monitor your fuel consumption as standard) so maybe there’s scope for Seat to make the Ibiza even greener in future.
The Ibiza’s low insurance rating (3E) should also help its owners save a bit of cash, but I do wonder how much mileage there is (if you’ll forgive the pun) in car manufacturers charging extra for specialised economy models like the Ecomotive. At £11,805, it is more expensive than most other Ibizas (the range starts at just over £9,000), although to Seat’s credit, it’s still usefully cheaper than two of its obvious competitors, the eco versions of the Skoda Fabia and Ford Fiesta. In the long run, though, I suspect that many of the fuel-saving tweaks from which these cars benefit, which aren’t very expensive to implement, will just be incorporated into the standard versions of these cars.