During the years of partnership with Fiat, Spanish carmaker Seat used to make badge-engineered models. An example is the Seat Panda, which didn’t try to distinguish itself from its Italian counterpart even in name.
However, when the brands parted ways in 1986, Seat desperately needed its own models. But due to limited time and logistics, the best they could do was raid the Fiat parts bin and come up with a new name. Since the new car was purportedly being positioned as a more upmarket car than the Panda, Seat chose to name it after the swanky resort town of Marbella.
But despite Seat’s lofty aspirations, the Marbella was in many ways a sub-standard Panda with a different name. Since it didn’t have access to Fiat’s impressive new Fire range of engines, it had to settle for the ageing lackluster 903cc from the Fiat 127. It also lost out on the styling updates the Fiat Panda received in 1986.
So, without the flair or the performance of its estranged Italian cousin, the Seat Marbella obviously didn’t do nearly as well as the Panda. And the flimsy build quality and a notorious predisposition to rust dented its image and that of Seat badly. After dragging on until 1998, the Marbella was discontinued, which also led to the closure of the Zona Franca factory where it was produced.
The Panda wasn’t the best of templates to start with, but Seat managed to build something shoddier on it than Fiat had.