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SEAT Ibiza ST S 1.2 TDI CR E Ecomotive

Click to view picture gallery“The best way to achieve low CO2
  and fuel consumption is not to opt for
  a hybrid but to have an economical
  diesel engine. SEAT
s ‘Ecomotive’
  eco sub-brand attempts to combine
  frugality with a bit of fun
...”


I'VE NEVER BEEN A FAN OF HYBRID POWER in small cars. Intriguing the technology may be, but hybrids are over-complex (two powerplants really?), pricey and rarely achieve the kind of fuel consumption that's claimed for them.

At the moment the best way to achieve low CO2 and fuel consumption is not to opt for a hybrid but to have an economical diesel engine instead.

Everyone's doing it at the moment but few have achieved the spectacular results that the VW Group has. And that includes Spanish offshoot SEAt, whose 'Ecomotive' eco sub-brand attempts to combine frugality with a bit of fun.

I've just tried the new Ibiza ST five-door estate in 1.2 TDI CR E Ecomotive guise and, yes, it does offer a modicum of amusement. But it's not without its problems...

The first issue is noise. The 1.2-litre TDI three-cylinder engine sounds pretty rough when it first starts up. Normally diesels tend to get quieter when they warm up, but this one remains irksomely unrefined in most circumstances. The noise factor is doubly annoying because the tyres fitted to the Ecomotive were plain loud on every road surface I drove over.

“You certainly don’t feel
short-changed by the
performance — this eco-
warrior Ibiza does indeed
have a streak of ‘mean’
within its ‘green’
...”
That said, you certainly don't feel short-changed by the performance. On paper, the zero to 62mph time of 14.5 seconds doesn't sound great but this belies the eager acceleration available through the gears in everyday driving.

The small 1.2-litre diesel may only have 73bhp on tap but its torque is generous at 133lb ft — and that's what makes the difference. This Ibiza does indeed have a streak of 'mean' within its 'green'.

The main reason for buying an Ecomotive, though, is fuel economy. At an incredible 80.7mpg, this is potentially extremely frugal, even though in my road test I achieved a disappointing mid-40s average. That was driving in mixed conditions, though, with some heavy right foot action, so a tender-footed driver ought to be able to achieve somewhere between those two figures. If you do manage 80mpg, you will be able to travel almost 800 miles on a single tankful.

To achieve low consumption, the Ecomotive has a Start/Stop engine that switches itself off when you're stationary, plus an energy recovery brake package. New ECU software reins in profligate fuel consumption, while particulate emissions are kept in check using a diesel particulate filter.

In addition, there's a standard Aero package to make the Ecomotive more aerodynamic compared with a normal Ibiza. You also get slippery 15-inch Ingenia alloy wheels as standard. And the eco version is slightly lighter than regular Ibizas.

And the emissions figure of just 92g/km of CO2 is undeniably very impressive: it means you'll pay no road tax, no London congestion charge and the lowest rate of company car tax. And Group 3E insurance doesn't harm its cause either.

However, one thing that definitely does harm its cause is the price: at 14,290 the Ecomotive version is 780 more expensive than the regular 1.2 TDI model, which is almost as economical and has CO2 of 105g/km. So you'll never make the extra cash back on an Ecomotive.

“You’ll pay no road tax, no London
congestion charge
and the lowest rate of company car tax
...”
One other problem area with the Ecomotive is the ride quality, which isn't great.

The Ibizia Ecomotive is a standalone version with its unique 1.2-litre TDI diesel engine, available in S and SE trim levels. However, an Ecomotive Technology pack is also available on the four-cylinder 1.2 TSI manual models, including Start/Stop and energy recovery.

As well as the ST estate, Ecomotive badging can also be had on SC three-door and five-door hatchback body styles, but for practicality you can't beat the estate format.

The ST is some 18 centimetres longer than the five-door hatch, while it remains the same width and height. The rear hatch opens up wide to a flexible and spacious load area where you'll find 430 litres of luggage space to play with when the rear seats are up. With the seats folded — the 60:40 split rear bench folds easily enough — and loaded to the roof, this increases to 1,164 litres.

For many people, going green means wearing a hair shirt. The Ibiza ST Ecomotive doesn't really disprove that assertion — it's simply too noisy and hard-riding — but at least it looks funky and performs reasonably well. It's not so much 'hair shirt' as 100% cotton but with an annoyingly itchy label in the neck. — Chris Rees

Seat Ibiza ST S 1.2 TDI CR E Ecomotive | 14,290
Maximum speed: 103mph | 0-62mph: 14.5 seconds | Overall test MPG 45mpg
Power: 73bhp | Torque: 133lb ft | CO2 92g/km