Friday, June 30, 2017

Crashing the SEAT Ibiza Launch Party

Sometimes you’re just in the right place at the right time. While flying to Europe last night I, unfortunately, got re-routed with a five-hour layover in Dublin, Ireland. Normally that would basically suck, but a friend who works for the VW Group contacted me to extend an invitation for coffee and donuts in the city center, which instantly made the situation much better.
Then, while walking through the streets of Dublin, I was able to gatecrash the national launch event for the new SEAT Ibiza, before the press and social media movers and shakers were able to enter for their first viewing of the car. Now, I can already hear you saying, “Oh good, another supermini/subcompact/whatever segment car that we’ll never see in the USA.” Well, stay with me..
The all-new Ibiza is significant because it’s the first VW Group car to ride on the MQB A0 platform, which means it’s got some significant shared DNA with most of the other VW range. The Ibiza is being released several months ahead of the massive selling Polo, which shares the exact same platform, so this is the first chance to see the new teeny MQBs in the wild (I was told that this one is the first simply because the existing Ibiza was due a redesign sooner). So is this redesign significant for a potential US release in the future? I honestly have no idea, but it sure won’t hurt its chances. The New Scirocco is built on the old non-MQB platform so I can guarantee that it’s not coming to the USA just based on that fact alone, while at least the Polo/Ibiza stands a chance in theory
Size-wise, just like the previous generation, it’s rather Mk2 Golf feeling, both in terms of general leg and arm space, but also in trunk size. And that’s no bad thing. Although the road test cars were set up and ready to go at the launch, sadly I couldn’t risk missing my flight so had to skip a chance to drive it. I have had significant road time with the previous generation in Europe, and they always drove exactly as you will expect from a well mannered and well balanced new vehicle wearing a SEAT or VW badge. I have to assume that barring any disasters, this new car will be the previous gen’s equal or better.
While the SEAT brand is often seen as one rung lower than it’s VW siblings in term of creature comforts, the Elegance package offers a plethora of features. Things that ten years ago were seen only in the luxury segment have trickled down, and this package comes loaded with keyless entry and start/stop, a big flush mounted infotainment system and practically everything you’d hope to see in a well equipped daily driver.
The “sportier” FR model skips some of those fancy features, and for about the same price of its sibling Elegance model, is likely targeting a younger, hipper demographic. They lose keyless entry and switch to having the nice radio as an available option, but those hip kids do get dual outlet exhaust tips, a bigger honeycomb design grille, split-5 spoke alloys, and red stitching on just about anything in the interior that you could stitch red.
And so with that, I have to jump onto the airport shuttle bus back and continue on to the Netherlands, where I will be driving a US-registered New Beetle throughout the lowland countries. Which doesn’t seem any more strange than stopping in Dublin for donuts and Ibizas.
Thanks to Paul D for the donuts, and Neil D for the exclusive first look.

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