SEAT Ibiza FR – Review

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Seat-Ibiza-FR-Review

By Liam Bird

“I haven’t driven one of these in ages,” said the driver when he turned-up to collect the SEAT Ibiza FR press demonstrator. Funnily enough, just a week beforehand I could’ve said the very same thing.

In a world of Clios, Corsas, Polos, Fabias, i30s, Yaris, and the like – not to mention many a mini SUV and urban crossover (whatever it is they might quite be) – it’s perhaps all too easy to overlook SEAT’s Ibiza.

That said, it is perhaps a little all-too-easy to overlook SEAT these days too. Just where does the Spanish brand fit in amongst its fellow VW group siblings? Volkswagen, obviously, are the solid sensible choice; Skoda offer much the same only with the promise of saving a few quid; Audi offer the promise of premium brand quality, a little more tinsel, and entry-level luxury; and now Cupra, once SEAT’s sub-brand, offers youthfulness and the promise of performance. Quite where that leaves SEAT – the brand that once promised “auto emocion” (Say it in a faux Spanish accent) appears to be anyone’s guess.

Seat-Ibiza-FR-Review

“Sporty-looking”

But anyway, back to the Ibiza…

Believe it or not, the SEAT Ibiza has been around since the late 1980s – older readers may remember the boxy Giorgetto Giugiaro designed 3-door original which more often than not sported System Porsche decals on the lower flanks of its front doors. Now in its fifth generation SEAT’s perennial best-seller has matured nicely into a roomy (well, roomyish) 5-door only hatch, that offers all the goodness of the VW parts-bin (It sits on VW’s MQBA0 platform, and uses all the oh-so familiar switchgear), but at a more palatable price.

SEAT offer the Ibiza with the choice of three petrol engines, the most powerful available with an optional DSG automatic gearbox – and six trim levels. It’s the 999cc 3-cylinder, 109bhp (110ps), petrol TSi, in sporty-looking FR spec that we have here.

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“Never felt underpowered”

Standard equipment is generous. Needless to say SEAT’s press office loaded “my” car with a few extra goodies; panoramic sunroof (£765), Safety and Driving Pack (£250), and BEATS Sound System (£560). Also, FR spec Ibizas get 17 inch alloy wheels, Led lights front and rear, and exclusive rear bumpers and (simulated) twin exhausts.

All Ibizas benefit from Bluetooth, DAB, an 8.25 inch touch screen as standard, plus air-con, hill-hold control, USB ports aplenty, auto-headlights, ISOFIX, Cruise control, Emergency Brake Assist and Mirror Link, which incorporates Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

I’ve long been a fan of the VW group’s little 3-pot motor, and its effervescent and free-revving nature, in conjunction with SEAT’s light and precise 5-speed gearbox seems to suit the SEAT Ibiza FR really well. Not only was it fun to introduce this thrummy little motor to the upper reaches of its rev-range across the nearby Welsh Marches – where despite the steep inclines it never felt underpowered – it also made for relaxed and quiet cruising along the M5, A34 and M4 on a recent schlep and back to Porsche’s HQ in Reading.

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“Refined”

SEAT claim their diminutive three-pot is good for 48.7 – 52.3 on the combined cycle. Even with my usual sense of urgency, plus the inclines of Shropshire Hills I’ve no reason to doubt such things. You only need travel a few miles and it’s instantly clear, tyre rumble aside, that the Ibiza is now both quieter and more refined than it ever was. I’m still not a fan of the black plastic interior door handles though: they feel a bit cheap. Still, I suppose costs have to be kept down one way or other.

On the whole however, the Ibiza feels well-built, sophisticated, and it’s spacious and refined enough to shame certain machinery from the so-called class above. And let’s be honest here: while the Ibiza may not exactly be bristling with feel, hatchbacks always drive better than SUVs.

We’ve become accustomed to seeing the Ibiza almost on a daily basis. Nevertheless, it still very-much deserves not to be overlooked.

SEAT Ibiza FR 1.0 TSi 110 PS manual
Engine: 999 cc 3Cyl 12V turbo
Transmission: 5-speed manual front-wheel drive
Power: 109 bhp @ 5,500 rpm
Torque: 118 lbft @ 2,000 – 3,500 rpm
0-62MPH: 10.4 Sec
Max Speed: 121 mph
CO2 (WLTP): 123 g/km
MPG (WLTP): 48.7 – 52.3 (combined)
Price: from £22,510 (as driven £24,085).

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