SEAT Ibiza FR
By Bill McCarthy
THE Ibiza has been one of the many success stories for SEAT. It more than holds its own in the hugely competitive supermini segment that includes such names as Fiesta, Corsa, its own Polo stablemate and the Korean newcomers.
SEAT has always been proud of its sporty tradition with sharp, dynamic design and handling across the range and its appeal to younger drivers.
There are a number of reasons for it being a favourite among first-timers, including excellent economy, low insurance and low taxation, plus dynamic handling and comprehensive safety features.
So there is little reason to change it, but tweaks and technology upgrades are always necessary to keep pace with the market and that’s why it has just undergone a mid-life makeover.
There are no dramatic changes and the outside features new front and rear light clusters and the badging has been re-designed to appear as handwritten in a two-tone body. In addition there are new alloy wheel designs plus LED headlights and daytime running lights.
There are six trim versions including the FR driven here. It does look good. Sporty and chic with sharp angles and creases, with FR rear bumpers, twin exhaust outlets, tinted rear glass and very smart 17-inch alloy wheels and heated door mirrors.
Inside, controls are dominated by a new 9.2-inch, on this model, display with sharper graphics that controls full smartphone integration, navigation and infotainment.
Additionally, SEAT Connect allows you, among other things, to lock and unlock your vehicle, check on the status of lighting, doors and ventilation, use Parking Position to reveal the location of your car and get alerts if a possible theft attempt is detected.
The FR logo features repeatedly throughout, while the interior has a sturdy, well laid-out feel, with some classy soft-touch trim, chrome detailing, leather flat-bottomed steering wheel with red stitching, illuminated red air vents and comfortable, figure-hugging front seats and classy ambient lighting.
Supermini it may be, but space has been maximised with a surprising amount of legroom for all occupants and four adults are accommodated in reasonable comfort and there is excellent stowage space.
Other features in this model include dual-zone climate control auto-dimming rear view mirror, and rain-sensing wipers.
Powered by an efficient one litre, three-cylinder engine with sports suspension, it is an engaging drive. While official figures suggest acceleration is modest, hitting 60mph in 10.9 seconds, it feels quicker, due to the throaty rasp of the three-pot engine under acceleration.
Mated with a slick five-speed manual gearbox it pushes the car to a top speed of 116mph where permitted. Economy is excellent with around 50mpg on average according to the latest WLTP figures.
Handling is one of the best features with the tuned sports suspension delivering a firm ride, but with excellent grip and sharp steering. It’s a proper fun car.
In practical terms, it is one of the roomiest in its class, with more than adequate boot space of 335 litres, which can be expanded up to a maximum of 1,165 litres and accessed via a low loading lip.
Safety kit is also comprehensive, with an array of airbags, ISOFIX child protect, cruise control, lane departure warning, speed limiter, ABS, stability control, emergency brake assist, hill hold and tyre pressure monitoring.
Prices start at just over £17k, with this model retailing at a shade over 19.5k. It’s quite a package for the money and remains one of the best handling and best looking superminis around.
SEAT Ibiza 1.0 FR
Mechanical: 95PS, 999cc, 3-cylinder, petrol engine driving front wheels via 5-speed manual gearbox
Max Speed: 116mph
0-62mph: 10.9 seconds
Combined MPG: 48-51
Insurance Group: 11E
C02 emissions: 124g/km
Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles