Last week, SEATCupra.net were invited to Barcelona for a select unveiling of the New SEAT Ibiza
Dominated by the FR models, the bright sun, and excellent roads lent themselves to just getting out & having fun in the sporty wagons!
Ibiza's - as far as the eye can see
The FR sub brand in the SEAT Leon is the most popular model in the UK – it combined a decent specification, as well as enhanced styling over the cooking models and combined with saucy engines it's clear why it quickly became a staple 'warm to hot' hatch.
The pre facelift Mk5 Ibiza was no exception, the FR was available soon after launch with a detuned 1.4TSi petrol from the Cupra & a CR140 Diesel (common across the VW group) with the oil burner outselling almost 2:1
So – now the FR brand is established as a 'sub' brand to SEAT (like Cupra is already), SEAT tested the water with the facelifted Leon to showcase the FR as a style option, rather than the higher output models.
We find ourselves presented with the 'New' SEAT Ibiza – which at a glance looks remarkably similar to the old SEAT Ibiza. This is no bad thing, it was hardly an ugly duckling to start with.
The updated styling, is largely limited to the nose, bonnet & rear tail lights, as well as new alloy wheels. They work well together, bringing what was already a fresh face in line with the rest of the new models either here (like the Alhambra) or on their way (like the Toledo). I think it's a vast improvement on the lower models of the outgoing Ibiza, and the FR is no worse for a nip & tuck.
The model range is nicely simplified with commonality across the body styles and trim levels. Though there are some notable exceptions.... The 'E' trim is only available in the SC & most surprisingly the ST doesn't gain the CR140 2.0 Diesel – certainly a shame, though I can only imagine the battery would need to be relocated to the boot eating into the colossal boot space.
Driving the cars, they feel very similar to the old Ibiza – which is confirmed that no under the skin chassis details have been changed – largely the FR spec, didn't gain the “FR” sporty suspension, just the 'Sport' suspension. It's the subtle things, but the cars are better for not over stiffening.
I had high expectations of the 1.4TSi – having extensively driven my own 1.4TSI Cupra I expected more of the same thrills, but at 75% of the power. As expected the delivery was smooth, and the DSG box did everything it always does. The engine felt a little staid though, lacking either torque for in gear progress, or power for letting kickdown rev it out.
However, the 1.2TSi with DSG I couldn't get enough of. Even though it has 'only' 105bhp it still drive exceptionally smoothly, and quickly both on the motorways or the twisty back roads on the test loop. It revs, has torque & can do fuel economy, though it's immense fun not to!Click for a short video of the 1.2TSI on a very wiggly mountain road
As expected the 2.0 TDi is the engine of choice for making the most progress, with the minimal fuel consumption (down to the under-stressed engine, and long gearing) – last year SEATCupra.net took the same engined Ibiza to Barcelona and back and regularly saw 60+mpg.
More likely, the FR will sell in the UK in the 1.6CR Diesel variant. It's keen enough with 105bhp, and has a good level of torque for a car of that size, but will need some careful coaxing to get truly excellent mpg from the engine.
SEAT seem to be chasing the mainstream market with a huge amount of gusto – in a way SEAT fans haven't seen before. The new tagline of 'Enjoyneering' is a clunky joining together of Enjoyment & Engineering – kind of a fun though technology statement. Certainly with the spainish flair for design & chassis dynamics, added to the germanic engineering to underpin the range it has as much scope as the much loved 'Auto Emotion' that many SEAT owners aspired to.