The SEAT Ibiza is currently in its fourth generation, and it has been the brand’s bread and butter since the first installment of it bowed in 1984. It came to life thanks to SEAT’s need to quickly and cheaply introduce a new model after its separation from Fiat. The exterior design was penned by Italy’s Giugiaro as a potential replacement for the original Volkswagen Golf/Rabbit. When Volkswagen turned it down in favor of a softer design, SEAT picked it up and ran with it.
The early Ibizas suffered from a poor build quality, but the problems were quickly remedied with the help of Volkswagen. The Ibiza went on to become a major player in the European auto industry. It is credited for making SEAT a household name outside of Spain.
To make sure that the Ibiza could keep up with the competition in all market segments, SEAT launched a performance-oriented version of it dubbed the SXi for the 1987 model year. It was only available as a three-door hatchback, whereas the rest of the Ibiza lineup was also offered as a five-door.
Under the SXi’s hood was a belt-driven 1,461cc four-cylinder engine. It was fitted with a Bosch LE-2 Jetronic fuel injection system that bumped the power output to 100 horsepower, 15 more than the carbureted model. Torque was rated at 94 lb-ft. The SXi took a leisurely 10.8 seconds to hit 62 miles per hour from a stop, and it reached a top speed of 114 miles per hour in fifth gear.
The four-cylinder featured the same Porsche system found in other members of the Ibiza lineup. The “SEAT-Porsche” logo found on period SXi ads and brochures was slightly misleading: Porsche didn’t actually design the engine, it merely helped SEAT to finetune the top end of it.
The standard Ibiza’s ride was deemed too soft so SEAT fitted the SXi with slightly stiffer shocks. Ventilated discs up front and drums in the back took care of stopping the car. The finishing touch was a model-specific set of alloy wheels.
SEAT unveiled a facelifted Ibiza called the Ibiza New Style at the 1991 Geneva Motor Show. The front and rear fascias were less square and more in tune with the 1990s, and the interior was revamped as well. The redesign was applied to the SXi, which was also fitted with a more discrete body kit.
Not long after, the European Union passed a law that made catalytic converters mandatory on gasoline-powered cars. The SXi’s 1.5 fitted with a converter would have been too anemic, so SEAT’s response was to increase the engine’s displacement to 1.7 liters. This lowered the power output ever so slightly to 98 horsepower.
The SXi was phased out with the rest of the mk1 Ibiza lineup in 1993 when the second generation of the Ibiza hit the market.