Test drive the new SEAT Ibiza

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - MOTORS -

YOU don’t have to buy a sports car to have sports car per­for­mance – great news if you are on a tight bud­get, writes Jon Smith.

I’ve just been driv­ing a small three-door hatch with a sub-£16,000 price tag that’s guar­an­teed to put a wide grin on your face.

The SEAT Ibiza SC FR has a pocket-sized 1.2-litre en­gine un­der its bon­net but belts out no less than 108bhp – that’s nearly the same as the orig­i­nal Golf GTi, the ar­che­typal hot hatch.

But more sig­nif­i­cant than im­pres­sive statistics, it feels ev­ery inch a pol­ished, dy­namic piece of ma­chin­ery that com­bines swift ac­cel­er­a­tion with sure-footed road hold­ing and han­dling that shames many so-called sports cars.

The SC is a three-door with a racy pro­file but it’s still ca­pa­ble of ful­fill­ing fam­ily obli­ga­tions, with a full four seats and a suf­fi­ciently big boot to ac­com­mo­date hol­i­day lug­gage.

If you want more ver­sa­til­ity, there’s a five-door ver­sion or an es­tate but the semi­coupe SC body per­fectly matches the model’s peppy per­for­mance.

Shar­ing many of its me­chan­i­cal bits with VW and Audi mod­els, it pos­sesses the same ro­bust, ea­ger na­ture and sense of dura­bil­ity.

Ac­cel­er­a­tion is lusty enough with a time to 62mph of 9.1 sec­onds and a max of 122mph via a light, en­gag­ing six-speed man­ual gear­box.

Even when revved hard, the four-cylin­der turbo en­gine re­mains sweet and smooth. And there’s more torque than you might ex­pect, al­low­ing you to trun­dle around in fifth at un­der 30mph, then pull away strongly.

More sen­si­tive and in­tu­itive than its brother, the VW Polo, the steer­ing is well-bal­anced and has good com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills over slip­pery sur­faces.

There’s lit­tle sign of front ‘steer­ing tug’ when ex­it­ing bends un­der full throt­tle.

The cabin is rea­son­ably spa­cious although those us­ing the rear seats may have to make a some­what crouched en­try. Front seats are well-shaped and sup­port­ive with ad­e­quate ad­just­ment even for tall driv­ers.

Those in the rear, how­ever, may need to com­pro­mise on their legroom. Boot space in the rear hatch­back is up to usual su­per­mini stan­dards with 292 litres of cargo space.

While the in­te­rior is prac­ti­cal and smart enough, it doesn’t pos­sess the up­mar­ket feel of a Polo or the panache of a Fi­esta.

SEAT prides it­self on turn­ing out mod­els with a sport­ing ac­cent and the FR cer­tainly de­liv­ers on that score.

Not only does it feel live­lier than the stats sug­gest – it per­forms in such a will­ing fash­ion and the com­posed ride strikes the right bal­ance be­tween per­for­mance and com­fort.

De­spite the car’s warm-hatch char­ac­ter, it re­mains cheap to run. Emis­sions lev­els of 119g/km al­low low road tax and most own­ers will find they are get­ting more than 45mpg in ev­ery­day driv­ing.

With the Ibiza FR, SEAT proves it’s pos­si­ble to have fam­ily mo­tor­ing that’s fun with­out break­ing the bank.

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