This is certainly the best hot hatch I have ever owned (and I've owned a few in the past - Metro GTI, Mark 2 VW Golf GTI, Nissan Almera GTI). It reminds me a lot of the Golf GTI I owned for three years. Not surprising given that the Ibiza chassis front end is taken straight from the Mk2 Golf.
The 1.8 turbo engine in stock form is absolutely fabulous. Massive amounts of low-down grunt (from about 1800 rpm) and it pulls cleanly and strongly all the way to 6000rpm. The engine is very flexible, making round-town driving a doddle, and motorway cruising is equally pleasurable. The car responds quickly and well when stabbing your foot down in fifth gear at motorway speeds - no need to change down. Throttle response is immediate - a "fly-by-wire" system is employed here.
The gearbox is excellent. It is a cable-change mechanism, providing smooth and positive changes. However, the throw is a little long from second to third.
The car's interior is superb. The build-quality is what one would expect from any German car manufacturer. Passengers always comment on the red instrument display at night! My father prefers the half-leather seats to the Recaros in his Mk4 Golf GTI-Turbo. There were a few trim squeaks which the dealer rectified under warranty. Rear legroom is very tight, but then I hardly ever have rear passengers.
Standard equipment is very generous (TCS, Climate control power-everything etc etc), but a CD changer is missing. I fitted a Sony 6 disc changer which was very easy given that the bus cable was already present in the boot.
I've just replaced the two front tyres - Pirelli P-zeros being the original fitment. They offer good levels of grip, especially in the wet. The car's handling can be described as sharp and precise, certainly not perfect (I've driven a Ford Puma and would concur that it does handle better). Though, the Ibiza's minor handling imperfections (slight understeer) make the car more entertaining.
In all, a fantastic car. I'm thinking about having the engine chip-tuned. 195bhp is easily obtained. I would appreciate comments from those that have had it done though.