Tuesday November 21, 2017
By Richard Bosselman
FIRST impression of Volkswagen’s next big thing within the crucial small car sector might come from studying a sombrero-wearing sibling.
Since announcing on November 8 its intention to launch the next generation Polo hatchback in February, VW NZ has been gazumped by a sister company in the European Motor Distributors’ stable.
SEAT New Zealand says the Ibiza hatchback – a Polo doppelganger in every respect save styling – will start arriving from next week, with a good supply around in time for when the marque’s sole Kiwi outlet, in Auckland, opens on December 8.
The rollout reflects VW Group strategy, which determined that the Ibiza would achieve priority use of the brand’s snazzy new 'MQB A0' chassis.
Just one version of the Ibiza is being represented in NZ: A Style with a 999cc three-cylinder direct injection turbocharged petrol creating 85kW and 200Nm and a seven-speed direct shift gearbox.
However, even though there are numerous options to boost the $25,900 price, it is hardly a stripper, with the derivative appearing to also have all the accident avoidance tech that VW lists as standard to its own car and have also credited each with a five star NCAP crash test.
James Yates, who until the Nelson St store is operational is having run the fledgling SEAT operation from a boardroom within the vast EMD main office where VW NZ has an entire floor, says he doesn’t know if his edition will have an exact equal in the Polo range.
VW NZ isn’t saying either. The brand says details about its model line, specification and pricing will be released closer to launch.
“We honestly don’t know what they will have,” Yates says.
“I don’t actually know (if Ibiza will undercut Polo). I don’t know what Polo prices at.”
He agreed that in other markets where the cars go head-to-head, the SEAT works out with price advantages, but added: “But we did sort out pricing some time ago.”
“We will be on sale beforehand. We will basically have cars in our store for the opening and we have a fair number arriving in December.”
The Ibiza Style fronts with front assist with city emergency braking, a rear view camera, ABS, hill hold and multiple six airbags. It has an eight-inch touch screen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and Mirror Link. Embedded navigation can be added for $750.
Assuredly, the standard equipment fitout is just a starting point. Many other factory-implemented accessories are also on offer. These include cruise control and tiredness recognition package for $350, adaptive cruise control ($550), a connectivity box with wireless phone charger and phone signal amplifier ($440), a BEATS audio upgrade for $1000, keyless entry and go for $660, heated front seats ($750), a $250 storage pack, a lighting pack (LED headlamps and tail lights, $600), front fog lights with cornering function $420, a panoramic sunroof for $1500, tinted rear windows ($550) and paint updates - $800 for metallic and $1000 for a hero colour, Desire Red.
There’s also opportunity to delve into the SEAT Sport Line catelogue standard 16 inch wheels with 195/55 rubber can be swapped for 17 inch rims with four different colour insets, for $1650, while buyers can implement a roof foil and mirror covers in black for $830 or go for a full scale body kit, for $3500.
At 4059mm long, 1780mm wide and 1444mm tall, and with a 355 litre boot capacity, the latest Ibiza is small car class typical.
The styling is a blend of current SEAT and Volkswagen Group design cues. The angled headlights and slim grille share with the Ateca SUV that has just begun to land here; the rear lights are more Polo-esque.
By comparison, the Polo is now even more like a miniaturised Golf in overall stance and shape, though it has a series of bold strakes that run front to rear on the car. In terms of internal dimension, though, it and the Ibiza are likely to be all but identical. The German model’s boot capacity is just four litres smaller than the SEAT’s.
Drivetrains? As said, VW NZ is not saying much, but it has as many to choose from as SEAT; from three versions of the one litre triple – of which the 85kW is the most power – plus a 1.5-litre TSI with 111kW. VW NZ has already indicated it is keen on the 2.0-litre GTI hot hatch flagship coming later in 2018 – this has 149kW and Fiesta ST-rivalling performance.
The distributor is indicating that NZ-bound Polos will also have an eight inch touchscreen with the same functionality meted the Ibiza, plus identical accident and pedestrian impact-avoidance systems.
VW NZ general manager Tom Ruddenklau says the car possesses world class features and safety normally found in cars twice its price.
“We are fortunate to have many thousand existing customers, many of whom are on their second or third Polo and it is great to be able to offer these loyal customers something quite special with the new sixth generation.”