Since that day, the Ibiza has remained SEAT’s most iconic and popular car, with sales approaching five million across three decades and four generations.
The car was a game-changer for SEAT, the first designed and developed completely by the Spanish company from start to finish – with a little help from some friends. Namely, collaborations with Giorgetto Giugiaro’s Italdesign design company, coachbuilder Karmann, and Porsche helped make the Ibiza a truly cutting edge small car, and the foundation of 30 years of ongoing success.
The very embodiment of the Spain of the ‘80s, the first SEAT Ibiza was ambitious, dynamic and ground-breaking. Its name, taken from the Mediterranean island, reinforced the exotic image given to it by virtue of its Spanish roots.
The backdrop chosen for the world première of the SEAT Ibiza was the prestigious Paris Motor Show in 1984, and from then on the car has gone from strength-to-strength, achieving success both in its domestic market (it has been the best-selling supermini in Spain since 2001, for example) and abroad, with almost seven of every ten produced exported; 69% of 5,000,000 total Ibiza production has been exported to more than 75 countries worldwide.
The most important markets for the Ibiza during the early years were Italy, France, Germany, United Kingdom, Portugal and Mexico, in addition to Spain.
SEAT will celebrate this resounding and continued success with the launch of a 30th Anniversary model, set to go on sale in June.1
History: the SEAT Ibiza and the Martorell production plant
SEAT ended the ‘80s with production and sales records, and became a member of the Volkswagen Group. Until 1993 the brand’s activity had been concentrated in the Barcelona Zona Franca, but its membership of a new group, the success of its new models, and the need to increase production meant that a new industrial production complex was required. SEAT would be provided with a new modern factory next to its Technical Centre in Martorell, opened in 1991.
The second-generation Ibiza would be the first vehicle built at SEAT’s new Martorell production facility. More than that, the establishment of the new factory would give rise to the creation of a suppliers’ industrial estate, which at that time comprised 20 companies.
Today Martorell remains one of the most modern and flexible factories in Europe, its international standing attested to when SEAT received the ‘Automotive Lean Production’ award. Almost 700 Ibiza vehicles are built every day on Martorell’s Line 1, employing around 1,600 people directly; all told, SEAT generates direct and indirect employment for approximately 70,000 families.
The Martorell facility is also among the most environmentally efficient in the world, not least because of the recent completion of the ‘SEAT al Sol’ project, which saw the Spanish company install 53,000 solar panels on the roof, capable of producing enough energy to meet one quarter of annual Leon production and reducing factory CO2 emissions by 7,000 tonnes per year.
Today the multiplying effect SEAT has on the economy is indisputable: SEAT cannot be understood without Martorell, and the Spanish car industry cannot be understood without SEAT.
The SEAT Ibiza: sporty, young-spirited and design-driven
The Ibiza is 100% SEAT, since it was the first vehicle designed and developed in its entirety by the company. Design has always formed part of the Spanish brand’s DNA, and in the case of the Ibiza the four generations have borne the hallmark of distinguished names in the field of automotive design.
For the first generation of the Ibiza (1984-1993), SEAT collaborated with Italdesign, the company of world famous Italian designer Giorgetto Giugiaro, with Karmann for the development of the bodywork, and Porsche for the technology of the ‘System Porsche’ engines.
There was a clear aesthetic leap in the second generation (1993-2002), which again bore the hallmark of Giugiaro. The lines were rounded and aerodynamic, and the car given a level of equipment and mechanical sophistication that were in those days normally only found in cars in the segments above.
Italian designer Walter de’Silva, the current Head of Design at the Volkswagen Group, was responsible for the outline of the third-generation Ibiza (2002-2008), which took another step forward in manufacture quality, engine range and dynamic performance. Walter de’Silva introduced more attractive aesthetics, while the car’s dynamic prowess took another leap forward thanks to the ‘Agile Chassis’ concept developed by SEAT’s Technical Centre in Martorell.
The current generation of the Ibiza (2008 onwards) is the work of Luc Donckerwolke, Head of Design at SEAT in 2008 and formerly of Lamborghini. The concept of ‘Arrow Design’ was introduced with the 2008 Ibiza, resulting in a car distinctively sportier than its predecessors.
The raciest Ibiza conquers the world rally championship
The first SEAT Ibiza with a clear sports calling was the SXI with a 100 PS engine, the forerunner of the current Cupra and FR versions. In 1996, the company presented the Cupra version, with a 2.0-litre 150 PS engine, offering outstanding performance and a distinctly sporty image.
The Ibiza Kit Car was a much-awaited launch, with which SEAT achieved a brilliant triumph in the FIA 2.0-litre World Rally Championships – a success that was repeated in 1997 and 1998.
Did you know that?
- The approximate price of the SEAT Ibiza in 1984 was 825,000 pesetas (€4,950). At today’s prices that would be €15,620.
- The SEAT Ibiza was the official car at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games.
- The second generation of the Ibiza was the first model in its segment to be equipped with a TDI diesel engine, in this case a 90 PS unit.
- The SEAT Ibiza was the first model in its segment to have ESP (electronic stability control) as standard in the whole range.
- Sales by generation:
- Ibiza I, 1984-1993: 1,308,461 units
- Ibiza II, 1993-2002: 1,522,607 units
- Ibiza III, 2002-2008: 1,221,200 units
- Ibiza IV, 2008-to date: 924,183 units