Future dreams for VW's forgotten brand
ANYONE remember Seat? You may recall it as the car firm that makes the rental cars for tourists in Spain. Surprisingly, it also sells some of those cars here. Not very many, mind you, but a few. It seems from the sales figures that most of you have forgotten it exists. Never a stellar performer, it has fallen off the radar of most buyers.
It’s a vicious circle for any brand: slip down the sales tables and you slip out of the motoring consciousness. Before you know it you are in Rover territory and battling for survival.
It’s all the more surprising when you consider that Seat is part of the German behemoth Volkswagen Group. From Skoda to Porsche, the VW group is boasting rude health for all its brands – except one. Seat is the sick child of the group. It’s the loss-maker, the brand that doesn’t seem to fit the portfolio. If Skoda is the value proposition and Volkswagen the eponymous group flagship brand, it’s never quite clear what Seat represents. Previously it hung on the catchy tagline “auto emoción”, but while the marketing department deserved credit for the catchline, it never matched the models.
When auto emoción was whispered at the end of any ad it was hard to see how it fitted with diesel-powered people-carriers such as the Alhambra, or models such as the Exeo or Toledo. The only emotion involved there was resignation to family life.
Aside from the fetching Leon hatchback, the rest of the range was staid, functional and in no way emotionally appealing. That tagline has been dropped; in its place comes the rather cringeworthy “enjoyneering”. The less said about that the better.
Then there was the pricing: often more expensive than an equivalent Skoda and increasingly squeezed by its better Korean rival, Seat simply made no sense.
That’s all about to change, however – or so they tell us. Faced with a choice of watching the brand die or giving it one more spin, VW has opted to invest in a new future for Seat. Over the next while we will have a new small SUV crossover and a completely revised Leon. And that’s only the start.
In the meantime a new pricing structure is being introduced that hopes to give Seat some price advantage.
This Ibiza is surprisingly spacious, if a little noisy. The 1.2-litre petrol engine at motorway speeds sometimes sounds uncannily like the motor is on full spin cycle.
The smaller engine doesn’t qualify for the lowest rate of tax, either, coming in with emissions of 125g/km. It claims a combined fuel economy of 5.4 litres/100km (52.3mpg), but in the week we spent in the car – with a lot of motorway driving – it rarely fell below 7 litres/100km, and it often resided above 8 litres/100km (35.3 mpg). That’s not an impressive figure in this day and age.
Many rivals have small petrol engines in their superminis that achieve lower emissions and arguably better fuel economy. And it’s not just the big-name brands. Suzuki’s very admirable Swift comes with a 1.2-litre petrol engine that falls into the lowest tax band, with emissions of just 116g/km.