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Published on Saturday 18 May 2013 18:57
Ten Second Review
SEAT's Ibiza hasn't always delivered the goods in its hotter guises but there can be few complaints about this 180PS Cupra model. Capable of 62mph in just 6.9 seconds and 47.9mpg, it comes with a trick twin-clutch transmission and stacks of equipment at a bargain price.
You don't get a lot of car for twenty grand these days. Or so you'd think. Do a bit of homework though and you'll find that there's some genuinely talented metal available for under £20k. Joining this admittedly select group is SEAT's Ibiza Cupra. Yes, at first it does look a bit underdone, powered as it is by a mere 1.4-litre engine, but stick with it. There's genuine substance here.
We've seen Ibiza Cupras before and while they've been fairly impressive, they've never been nailed-on solid recommendations. Not in the same way the old Leon Cupra was and with the competition getting better and better, it seemed that SEAT would never be able to play catch-up. Things have changed though and the latest Ibiza Cupra comes to market at a critical time. Does it have what it takes to stake a claim?
Although there is 'just' a 1.4-litre direct injection engine under the Ibiza's bonnet, it's got both a turbocharger and a supercharger bolted to it , so you have 180PS and 250Nm under your right boot and not very much weight in the nose. The TSI powerplant is genuinely tiny. Open the bonnet and it looks lost but it does sound big thanks to a sound actuator in the exhaust system that gives a breathy bass tone when you tread on the throttle hard. The Cupra will scuttle top 62mph in just 6.9 seconds, so it's genuinely quick for a supermini-based GTI, and it'll run on to a top speed of 142mph. It's helped to that excellent sprint time by its standard DSG seven-speed twin-clutch transmission and you can either leave it to do its own thing or you can bang in the shifts with the wheel-mounted paddles.
The chassis of the Ibiza Cupra has been given a bit of a working over too. The ride height has been lowered compared to the standard car, and an optional AP Performance braking system is available, offering serious stopping power. An XDS electronic differential lock reduces the tendency to understeer and improves handling through fast corners. Compared to something like a Suzuki Swift Sport, the SEAT is a more serious, aggressive thing, un-frightened by the prospect of rivals like Peugeot's 208 GTI or Renaultsport's Clio.
Design and Build
This Ibiza Cupra is quite different to that which has gone before. Every other Ibiza Cupra has been a bit portly but this latest car is very different. It's taut and looks gym-honed, the sheet metal stretched keenly over its compact shape. The front end gets a broad grille and very aggressive air intake combo, with standard fit bi-xenon lights providing the dress jewellery. LED daytime running lights trace the line of the headlamps to deliver an eye-catching light signature, as do the LED rear lights. The bi-xenon headlamp technology delivers strong illumination, while cornering lights are integrated into the large fog lamps.
The side view of the three-door coupe is brought to life by the sharply defined riot of swage lines and edges, with exclusive 17-inch alloy wheels catching the eye. They're a good size too, not too big and not too puny. The black, high-gloss exterior mirrors, matte black diffuser and the trapezoidal exhaust outlet all underscore the Ibiza's sporting credentials. The interior's not bad either, with a sports steering wheel featuring the Cupra logo and sports seats that you can option with two-tone leather.
Market and Model
There's just one model with one bodystyle on offer here, a car for which you'll need to budget around £19,000. That's not bad value for money when you pause to consider that the SEAT is quicker than a Vauxhall Corsa VXR, undercuts it on price and adds in the not inconsequential value of the fancy DSG twin-clutch transmission. It gets a whole lot of other kit too. Given that this is the range-topping Ibiza, SEAT have thrown a lot of equipment into the mix. Climate control, rain-sensing automatic windscreen wipers, bi-xenon headlamps, LED daytime running lights and 17-inch alloy wheels are standard fit, as well as the aforementioned Cupra styling and performance-enhancing extras, including signature gloss black mirrors, Cupra front and rear bumpers, a matte black rear diffuser incorporating a large trapezoidal central tailpipe and a pair of unique front sports seats.
The entertainment system in the Ibiza Cupra is something you probably haven't seen before. The audio set-up is enhanced by the innovative SEAT Portable System. The highly functional unit, which debuted in the Mii city car, is removable for mobile use, yet integrated into the vehicle's electronics. Its functions include sat nav, Bluetooth audio streaming, a Micro SD card slot for music storage, hands-free phone compatibility with voice control and an on-board computer. Neat.
Cost of Ownership
You'd be right in thinking there's a real payoff with that 1.4-litre TSI engine in terms of economy. If we take that Corsa VXR as a benchmark, it'll return some pretty good figures - 38.7mpg on the combined fuel consumption cycle for example. You wouldn't be unhappy with that for a focused sports hatch would you? But SEAT would be. Choose the Ibiza and you're looking at 47.9mpg as a combined cycle return. That's not just a few clicks better. It's more than 26 per cent better than the Vauxhall. And this Ibiza's quicker too. Did I mention that?
Residual values will no doubt be buoyed up as a result. The market for performance cars these days might look a little flat in the mid ranges but it's still very strong at the top end and also at the bottom, where cars like this SEAT Ibiza Cupra retain a strong appeal to those who want thrills without the bills.
The market into which the SEAT Ibiza Cupra finds itself pitched is in a state of flux. Some traditional big hitters are just being phased out or are only now finding their feet and as a result, the Cupra, which always used to be a bit-part player, suddenly emerges as a really strong contender for your money. With a genuinely impressive turn of speed, amazing efficiency and the added bonus of that delightful DSG transmission, the Cupra is a real draw.
SEAT has been given the hand-me-downs from the Volkswagen empire for a long time now, so it's refreshing to see it turn a corner and start producing cars which stand up to the harshest scrutiny. The company needs vehicles like the Ibiza Cupra if it's to pay its way. And your job, gentle reader, is to reward it with your patronage when it transforms an also-ran into a contender for class leader.