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Driven: Seat Ibiza FR – on sale now



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When it comes to truly hot hatches no one does it better than Seat. The Leon Cupra R is a fantastic car and previous performance incarnations of the old Ibiza and Cordoba have always looked the part with engines to match.

The current Ibiza has been around for more than two years now, but there hasn’t been a real performance version to speak of. Seat has now remedied this with the launch of the Ibiza FR (FR standing for Formula Racing).

The styling may not be quite as extreme as the soon to arrive Cupra, but the FR still looks the part with 16-inch alloy wheels, low profile tyres, a honeycomb-mesh front air damn and twin exhausts.

This is what the Ibiza should really look like.

The 1.8-litre engine is absolutely superb and belies the 150bhp figure, seeming much quicker and more responsive. It’s very difficult not to wind it up to 6,500rpm at any given opportunity, while in- gear performance is equally as impressive, making the little Ibiza a surprisingly good motorway cruiser.

But where the FR really excels is in the handling stakes. The sports suspension with its MacPherson struts along with a well balanced chassis make the Ibiza handle superbly well and there is excellent grip. Switch off the traction control off and there is plenty of fun to be had.

The petrol FR comes with a five-speed manual gearbox, unlike the diesel which has a six-speed, but the close ratios mean you can really get the best from the turbocharged 20-valve engine.

The rewards is a lovely throaty buzz from the twin exhausts and acceleration that just seems to keep going. At last Seat has realised the Ibiza’s potential. If the Cupra is even better than this, we’re in for a treat.

Strengths: Superb handling, great styling, and quick
Weaknesses: Interior a little sparse
Opportunity: Seat does well with performance versions
Threat: Cupra variant already on its way
The USP: The Ibiza gets sporty – at last
Price: £13,515
Engine : 1.8-litre 20v turbo, 150bhp/6,500rpm
Transmission: 5-spd manual, fwd
Performance: 0-62 mph 8.4sec, top speed 134mph
Efficiency: 35.8mpg combined; 190g/km CO2
Rivals: Fiat Punto 1.8 HGT, MG ZR, Peugeot 206 GTi, Renault Clio Renaultsport 182, Vauxhall Corsa SRi

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