Monday, January 10, 2011

Seat Ibiza

The Seat Ibiza is a car in the European supermini class, constructed by the Spanish car maker SEAT S.A., is SEAT's best-selling car and perhaps the most popular model in the Spanish firm's range. The name Ibiza itself comes from the Spanish island of Ibiza, and its use in SEAT's supermini car inaugurated the firm's new nomenclature in naming models after Spanish locations.It was introduced in the 1984 Paris Motor Show as the first car developed by SEAT as an independent company, though it was designed by SEAT S.A. in collaboration with well-known firms such as Italdesign, Karmann and Porsche. From the Mk2 version onwards, the SEAT company formed part of the German automotive industry concern Volkswagen Group, and all further Ibiza generations, like the rest of the SEAT model range, have been built on Volkswagen Group platforms, parts and technologies.

The Ibiza spans today four generations, among which it has debuted twice - in its second as well as in its fourth generation - a new platform of the Volkswagen Group. All of them were the top seller model in SEAT's range, and a rebadged redeveloped version of the first generation Ibiza remains under licence still in production in China by the Chinese automaker Nanjing Automobile Group. The Ibiza has been available in either three- or five-door hatchback variants, and since 1993, saloon, coupé and estate versions are sold as the SEAT Cordoba. Introduced in the 1984 Paris Motor Show, the SEAT Ibiza Mk1 (code named 021A) entered production in the 'Zona Franca' assembly lines on April 27, 1984 and proved to be a real success for the Spanish firm as it sold 1,342,001 units until the launch of its second generation in 1993. The Ibiza's sales success gave the SEAT marque a platform to build on, as it looked to increase sales in following years.

This version, while it established the now classic Ibiza shape, was advertised as having "Italian styling and German engines" having its bodywork been designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro's Italdesign and was prepared for industrialisation by the German manufacturer Karmann. It was based on the SEAT Ronda, a small family car, with a gearbox and powertrain developed in collaboration with Porsche, thus named under licence System Porsche. By the time Giugiaro was assigned to the Ibiza project, his previous proposal for the second generation of the Volkswagen Golf had been rejected by Volkswagen. So when SEAT approached him with the proposal for a spacious supermini class contender, that particular project was reincarnated as the first generation of the SEAT Ibiza. Using a compact car as basis, in terms of size, it was larger than most superminis like the Ford Fiesta, Peugeot 205 and Opel Corsa, but smaller than any small family car such as the Ford Escort and Vauxhall Astra. The interior space was good but styling was fairly unimaginative even though it was known for having a rather quirky interior instrument layout, marked by a lack of control stalks. The indicators were operated by a rocker-switch, and the headlights by a sliding switch. It had three principal trim levels (L, GL and GLX) with bodyworks of 3 and 5 doors and several versions such as Base, Special, Disc, Chrono, Designer, Fashion, SXi etc. As power outputs dropped due to more stringent emissions requirements, a 1.7-litre version of the engined was developed for the Sportline version. For the same reason, a 109 PS (80 kW) turbocharged version of the 1.5-litre engine was developed for the Swiss market and presented in March 1989.

In the meantime, SEAT had already signed a cooperation agreement with Volkswagen (1982) and in 1986 the German car maker became SEAT's major shareholder. Though a light restyling of the Ibiza Mk1 came in late 1988 with a moderate facelift in the exterior, a less radical interior and many changes in the mechanical parts, the most profound restyling was launched in 1991 under the name New style. Next year in February 1992 SEAT launched the Ibiza "Serie Olímpica" to celebrate SEAT's participation in the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona as a sponsor and the SEAT Ibiza Mk1 along with the SEAT Toledo Mk1 became the official cars of the Games. The larger sedan version SEAT Málaga was a closer relative to the Seat Ronda and Fiat Regata, although it shared engines with the Ibiza.

The Ibiza Mk2 (Typ 6K) was the first Ibiza developed and produced under the Volkswagen Group ownership. It was based on the Volkswagen Group A03 platform, which was also used by the Typ 6N Volkswagen Polo Mk3. This Ibiza was available in three- and five-door models, whilst the saloon/coupe variant was known as the SEAT Córdoba, and the estate was known as the SEAT Cordoba Vario.The 6K Ibiza had a minor facelift in 1996, which included changing the general aesthetics of the car, by adding smoother bumpers and changing the grille and headlamps. Other than changing the appearance of the car, the powertrain and running gear changed, with the addition of the 110 kilowatts (150 PS, 148 bhp) 2.0 16v 'ABF' petrol engine, and the demise of the 1.8 16v and the 2.0 16v engines previously in the Volkswagen Golf Mk3.

The 1999 Ibiza Mk2 facelift (Typ 6K2, also known as 6K GP01, and sometimes referred to in the UK as the Mk3) was the second Ibiza to be produced under Volkswagen Group management, and used the underpinnings of the revised Polo Mk3. It suffered a little from 'brand identity' issues on release. Originally seen as a cheap Volkswagen, the launch of the Cupra models, along with success in rallying gave it a much stronger, sporty image, which helped with the alignment of Volkswagen Group's acquisition of Škoda Auto as a budget brand. The Ibiza's 1.05, 1.4, 1.6 and 1.8 litre petrol, and 1.9 litre Turbocharged Direct Injection (TDI) and Suction Diesel Injection (SDI) diesel engines were the same as those used in the Volkswagen Polo. The Ibiza's powertrain and running gear was also used in the SEAT Córdoba saloon, estate and coupe. Under Volkswagen's ownership, SEAT was marketed as a sporty and youthful brand, whose cars were sold at competitive prices. The original Ibiza's problems with bad build quality and unreliability were rectified, as the Ibiza proved itself to be one of the best built and most reliable small cars in Europe. SEAT later introduced a more powerful hot hatch, dubbed Cupra, and equipped with a turbocharged 1.8 litre engine, followed by the 1.8 litre turbocharged Cupra R, of which only 1000 units were produced. The main difference between the two was suspension, Brembo four-opposed piston front disc brake calipers, and a power upgrade from 156 PS (115 kW, 154 bhp) to 180 PS (132 kW, 178 bhp) on the Cupra R model. By the time production of the second generation Ibiza/Cordoba ceased during 2002, the range had established itself as one of the most popular superminis in Europe of the past decade.

In 1995, 18 years without getting involved in the World Rally Championship since the 1977 season, SEAT returned with a SEAT Ibiza 1.8 16v driven by Erwin Weber in the Rally of Portugal in the category of 2-wheel drive. That same year, Erwin Weber wins the first place in the 2-wheel drive category in the Acropolis Rally, with Antonio Ríos occupying the second position. The successes of the 1995 season encourage SEAT to participate next year in 1996 in the World Rally Championship in the category of 2.0 litre engine with the SEAT Ibiza Kit Car, a decision which proved to be successful as SEAT won the 1996 FIA 2-litre World Rally Championship title becoming the first brand to win the world title in its debut year. SEAT Sport in the next two seasons reaffirmed its domination winning in 1997 and 1998 two consecutive 2-litre WRC championship titles with drivers Harri Rovanperä, Oriol Gómez, Toni Gardemeister, Jörgen Jonasson and Gwyndaf Evans.

The Ibiza Mk3 (internal designation Typ 6L, and sometimes incorrectly referred to in the United Kingdom as the Mk4) is the third model to be produced under Volkswagen Group ownership. Built on the same PQ24 platform as the Typ 9N Polo, it is intended to have a sporty, performance image, and was styled by the Italian designer Walter de'Silva. The model line up includes two hot hatch variants, the Ibiza FR and Cupra, which compensate for the lack of Polo hot hatch variants (the Polo GTI wasn't launched until 2006). Its production was initially focused in SEAT's main plant in Martorell-Spain, however in September 2002 a decision was taken by the Volkswagen Group, i.e. SEAT's parent company, so that a part of it - up to 50,000 units annually - would be transferred to Volkswagen's own plant in Bratislava-Slovakia. Apart from the more aggressive styling, it is also the largest Ibiza to date, with room for five adults, and a spacious (if rather short) boot. The standard trim level on this model is noticeably higher than previous models. This is regarded by some magazines to be the best supermini, with What Car? magazine calling it 'Car of the Year' in 2003 and their best 'Supermini of the Year' for three years in a row.

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