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Dublin: 2°C Sunday 5 December 2021

Review: the SEAT Ibiza FR is fast, fun and frankly hard to beat

Is the new SEAT Ibiza FR supermini offers style, space and sporty driving dynamics.

Image: Dave Humphreys

THIS SHARPLY STYLED supermini is the new fifth-generation SEAT Ibiza.

This test car is the ‘sporty’ FR version which is differentiated from the other models with lower stiffened sports suspension, dark tinted rear windows, sports bumpers, twin exhausts and 17-inch alloys, although this car is fitted with optional (€440) low-profile 18-inch ‘Performance’ wheels.

I have it say, it looks the business. Unlike many of its rivals it doesn’t come with a plethora of personalisation options, but when a car looks this good, it doesn’t need to.

Source: Dave Humphreys

While it may not appear radically different from the previous generation, it is a completely new car and the first to be built on the Volkswagen Group’s new MBQ A0 platform. It is quite a big deal that SEAT gets to use the platform before Volkswagen and Audi – we’ll see the same platform used on the 2018 Volkswagen Polo and the next Audi A1.

What that essentially means is that the Ibiza uses the same oily bits as its Teutonic relations, but they are packaged in different body work and interior trim.

Source: Dave Humphreys

You’ll notice this as soon as you sit inside the cabin as it feels and looks very familiar, very much like a Volkswagen except for the materials used. The Ibiza has a lot more scratchy and hard plastics than say a VW Polo but this has to be this way in order for the Volkswagen Group to keep Volkswagen and Audi more premium offerings with higher price tags.

Having said that, the interior is lovely and has a good ergonomic design. I love the well-positioned, leather-wrapped multi-function sports steering wheel and glossy piano black dash (although if greasy finger prints drive you mad, this may not be the option for you).

Source: Dave Humphreys

Cars come as standard with a five-inch touchscreen media system, but this model has the optional (€456) SEAT Media System Plus with an eight-inch colour touchscreen with proximity sensors that offer up a series of ‘soft buttons’ when your finger draws near. It is very slick, the graphics are sharp, and the whole system is quick and responsive and very nice to use.

Source: Dave Humphreys

All cars come with hill hold control, Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and Front Assist including City Automatic Emergency Braking as standard.

Sitting inside the cabin, another thing that grabs your attention is just how roomy it feels. It’s very spacious for this class of car.

The boot is very generous too and has a 355-litre capacity which is 40 litres more than the family-sized Ford Focus. However, with the Ibiza’s rear seats folded space only increases to 823 litres, which is less than that of the Micra (300 – 1,004 litres) and Fiesta (292 – 1,093 litres).

Source: Dave Humphreys

Hitting the tarmac, the Ibiza shines with its sweet chassis and cracking three-cylinder engine. Its long wheelbase and wide track make the car feel stable on the motorway and bumpy back roads and it is composed with not much body lean in bends. The Ibiza FR has decent levels of grip too which means you can have plenty of fun in the corners if that’s your sort of thing. Overall, the Ibiza feels like a bigger car than it is in terms of handling and road manners. Impressive stuff.

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Source: Dave Humphreys

Even with the lower stiffened suspension of the FR, the ride felt well damped and dynamic without compromising on comfort. There is a great balance between ride and handling. However, as much as they aid handling, those low profile 18-inch wheels are not made for Irish roads. The road noise is very noticeable, and on poorer road surfaces the ride can get a wee bit harsh. Also, the fear of damaging the wheels as you hit yet another pothole is not worth the stress, no matter how gorgeous they look. Just stick with the standard 17-inch ones.

There’s a nice weight to the pedals and the steering is light but weights up progressively, it is sharp too, making the car feel agile but there isn’t much in the way of feedback.

Source: Dave Humphreys

Under the bonnet is a thrummy three-cylinder 1.0-litre 115hp TSI engine which is smooth, punchy and full of character. It is mated to a six-speed manual gearbox, which is slick, feels nice in hand and has a reasonably mechanical feel to it. The sixth gear ratio is quite long-legged for economy reasons, which means the Ibiza feels nice and refined at motorway speeds but you may need to drop down to fifth when faced with long uphill stretches of motorway.

The sweet triple engine combined with the slick six-speed gearshifter and the sharp steering and handling make for one fun and rather engaging driving experience. Lose the larger wheels and this Ibiza FR is a slick supermini that feels like it belongs in the class above without the price tag to match.

The SEAT Ibiza range starts from €14,995 with this 115hp FR model priced from €20,185.

Source: Dave humphreys

We’ll have to wait until the new Ford Fiesta ST-Line gets here to see which sporty supermini will be crowned ‘best in class’ but with the Ibiza FR’s wide range of talents, well-rounded dynamics, sharp styling, spacious cabin, modern equipment and tempting price it is going to be a very tough car to beat.

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READ: Review: The new Renault ZOE is long on range and easy on the pocket >

About the author:

Melanie May  / https://www.melaniemay.com

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