Stuart Milne
24 January 2013

What is it?

The hottest of the current Seat Ibiza range, with the revisions introduced as part of last year’s standard-car facelift applied. That means the new Seat Ibiza Cupra gets a fresh nose and rear lights and an interior spruce-up.

Of more interest is this latest version of the Ibiza Cupra features a new engine management configuration which helps boost performance. The net result is a 0-62mph time reduced by 0.1sec to 6.9sec and a top speed raised by 2mph to 142mph. 

Running costs are also reduced, with the official combined fuel consumption figure improving to 47.9mpg – a 4.2mpg improvement – while a 9g/km drop in CO2 shoves the hot hatch down a tax band.

The Navigon-developed Seat Portable system is now standard. The detachable navigation system also features integrated Bluetooth connectivity and a range of information displays.

What is it like?

The pre-facelift Ibiza had an impressively tractable twin-charged 1.4 engine, and the tweaks that Seat’s engineers have made improves this further. There’s urge from 2000rpm round to the redline. Coupled with a good application of the VW Group’s 7-speed DSG gearbox, there’s always plenty in the tank for swift overtaking manoeuvres.

In slow-speed urban environments, the Cupra is surprisingly smooth. The gearchanges are as quick as ever, but the DSG's ability to auto-shift even when in manual modes means that occasionally a tug of the downshift paddle means you’ve swapped two cogs instead of one.

There’s a disconnected feeling to the steering you wouldn’t find in a Clio RenaultSport, and it is enough to put most of the car’s improvements in the shade. The steering lacks ultimate precision and there’s an inconsistent feeling as you wind lock on and off.

Better are the changes made to the rear suspension set-up, which gets a new axle bearing configuration for a more gently-sprung feeling. It is claimed to make it more forgiving on longer runs, and on smooth Spanish roads, it appears to be the case.

What is certain is that the Cupra has a tightly controlled front end during hard cornering. The XDS electronic diff, which brakes the inside wheel, reduces understeer. Changes to the suspension and steering mean you can feel the system working more than ever. The effect is profound, even if the ESP is ever-so-slightly too eager to kick in.

The available test cars featured an optional AP Racing brake set-up, distinguished by bulging red ‘Seat Sport’ branded callipers. Without the ability to test them against the standard set-up it’s hard to say if they’re worth the £1000 outlay. In isolation, the four-piston callipers and 312mm discs (compared to 288mm as standard) offer fairly ferocious stopping power and a decent, positive pedal feel.

The Cupra receives the same basic visual upgrades as the standard car, although the requisite number of go-faster styling upgrades are applied inside and out. The car’s centrally mounted exhaust, front and rear bumpers, alloy wheels and sports seats are all specific to the Cupra. Happily, Seat’s designers have spared the Cupra the type of thick-rimmed steering wheel that appears in some of the Ibiza’s rivals.

Should I buy one?

It all depends on your definition of a small hot hatchback. If you want the last word in delicacy and dynamics, you might be better served to consider the Clio RenaultSport or even the Suzuki Swift Sport.

The Ibiza Cupra excels in the pragmatic areas: ride, build quality and comfort. But hot hatches are all about offering the maximum amount of excitement on the maximum number of occasions, and by that measure, the Ibiza Cupra falls short of the class best.

Seat Ibiza Cupra

Price £18,570; 0-62mph 6.9sec; Top speed 142mph; Economy 47.9mpg combined; CO2 139g/km; Kerb weight 1259kg; Engine 4-cyl, turbocharged and supercharged petrol, 1390cc; Power 178bhp at 6200rpm; Torque 184lb ft at 2000-4500rpm; Gearbox 7-spd twin-clutch automatic

Join the debate

Comments
14

That's an impressive remap:

1 year 40 weeks ago

That's an impressive remap: les CO2, improved MPG and more power.

"But hot hatches are all about offering the maximum amount of excitement on the maximum number of occasions" - which more often or not means a car that is compromised day-to-day - eg, engine and tyre cacophony and a jarring ride on long motorway trips. Not great qualities if you want an 'everyday car'.

Ant

Polo Gti

1 year 40 weeks ago

Can't help but think the price gap needs to be bigger between this and the Polo Gti.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Estoril M135i Manual

DSG gearbox...

1 year 40 weeks ago

Third picture caption "Automatic gearshifts in the DSG's manual mode makes it easy to miss gears"

I nolonger want a DSG, I can miss my own gears and save money.

Does that sentence even make

1 year 40 weeks ago

Does that sentence even make sense??

I believe the improved

1 year 39 weeks ago

I believe the improved figures are now identical to the GTI. Up until now, the GTI has been cheaper to tax with slightly higher MPG/performance.

As for the DSG making it easy to miss gears, I believe this happens if it is in 'D' or 'S' and the paddles are used, but if the lever is shifted to the left it stays in whatever gear is selected. It only changes down if, for example, you put it in 7 and you brake to drop the speed. I have only ever noticed this happening when properly slowing down for a junction, the rest of the time it stays in whatever gear has been chosen.

DSG Spoils the broth (again)

1 year 39 weeks ago

"The gearchanges are as quick as ever, but the DSG's ability to auto-shift even when in manual modes means that occasionally a tug of the downshift paddle means you’ve swapped two cogs instead of one"

In a hot hatchback I want control.  No ifs, no buts.

Next.

Good news on the improved

1 year 39 weeks ago

Good news on the improved performance and fuel economy but the rest of the car leaves me cold.  

For me the steering is a very important element in enjoying a good performance car.  As with other parts of the car is should interact with what I am doing.  Without it, it becomes little more than a computer game and that gives me no satisfaction. 

I'd possibly find it acceptable on an FR model but not a Cupra, which has clearly been warmed over to a greater extent.

 

 

 

It's all about the twisties........

Reason I'm left cold is the

1 year 39 weeks ago

Reason I'm left cold is the fact you know VW are holding it back. Sure thats fine, like Teg says with the FR model, but for the Cupra its annoying. Nothing SEAT can do either with VW pulling the strings.

 

Car looks a bit boring too for what is supposed to be VWs "sporting" brand.

I still don't understand why

1 year 39 weeks ago

I still don't understand why the VW group persist with not offering manual versions of the petrol Cupra and its Polo and Fabia cousins. Surely they're massively restricting sales of these models.

Reading the 'Honest John' reviews of the Polo there seem to be massive problems with the DSG gearboxes, in China and France in particular, so even if I wanted an auto I wouldn't risk it.

The Truth is out there...

1 year 39 weeks ago

"I still don't understand why the VW group persist with not offering manual versions of the petrol Cupra and its Polo and Fabia cousins. Surely they're massively restricting sales of these models."

Because, if they did a manual version, most people who strech to £30k for Golf GTI wouldn't - they 'd just buy a Polo GTI (etc.) instead and that means less revenue for VW.

Don't labour under the impression that Car manufacturers strive to give the the best car or the car that you really want... marketing departments exist to work very hard to make sure that you can't - and end up paying more money for something you don't quite want.

Simples.

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Our Verdict

The Seat Ibiza Cupra is fast and green, but is it fun?

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