Refined and efficient, but lacking the flair and energy you’d expect

Our Verdict

Seat ibiza Cupra
New Cupra combines low running costs with hot performance

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

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    2016 Seat Ibiza Cupra review

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What is it?

This is the new Seat Ibiza Cupra, complete with 178bhp 1.4 TSI engine and seven-speed double-clutch gearbox as standard.

Here we’re also testing the Cupra complete with its striking Bocanegra style-kit that includes the black grille, unique 17-inch alloy design, a sunroof and a variety of interior styling tweaks.

What’s it like?

The Ibiza Cupra is an easy car to like but in essence lacks the flair you would expect of the hottest small Seat.

It’s rare that you can criticise a car for being too composed or over-engineered, but drive the new Cupra in virtually any situation and the overwhelming impression is one of comfort, composure and a relative lack of encouragement when it comes to the moment you want to explore the Cupra in your Ibiza.

That’s not to say that this isn’t a competent performance hatch. The 1.4 TSI engine is free-revving and endows the Ibiza with ample pace and acceleration, and the DSG box does an excellent job of swapping cogs smoothly.

In fact the Cupra excels as a relaxed drive, but as soon as you want to wring some performance out of it the gearbox becomes more of a hindrance than a help. In automatic ‘S’ mode it often changes down unexpectedly with little reward from the engine, and in manual mode it will still kick-down if you accelerate hard, resulting in the same over-revving and lack of response from the engine. Often this ends up leaving you in the upper rev ranges with the engine making a lot of noise with little actual progress being made.

However the high grip levels, well-judged damping and good body control goes a long way to proving that the Ibiza Cupra is still a worthy hot hatch. You can throw it gamely into corners and it will grip-and-go with little hassle and plenty of entertainment – mostly thanks to the combination of good chassis and the new ‘XDS’ system that electronically mimics a mechanical limited-slip differential.

Closer to the limits you also get a decent level of feedback as to what the tyres are doing and when they might lose traction, though much of the time the steering is quite sterile and uninvolving.

Should I buy one?

There is plenty of incentive to buy the new Seat Ibiza Cupra. Even without the optional Bocanegra styling pack you get a good equipment list, flamboyant styling and a truly tempting combination of economy and performance. For this reason it should appeal to a different kind of buyer than the Renault Clio, where you sacrifice build quality for undeniably brilliant and addictive performance.

Still, it’s difficult not to feel that if Seat had chosen to offer a standard manual box and a lower list price this could have been a genuinely excellent hot hatch contender. As it is, it’s good but still less than satisfying.

Join the debate

Comments
15

1 July 2009

£16,695 is too much.

I agree SEAT should offer a manual version for around £14995.

1 July 2009

seems like there is a complete mismatch on torque performance setup, peaking at only 1750rpm is terrible, maybe ok for a diesel, but when pushing upto 7krpm in a petrol when wanting to go fast where is the torque gone? this ties in with the road tester feeling no urge when the drop in gear kicks in and engine revs up.

i cant see it being a mistake so i must assume its what VAG want, a relaxed cruiser hot hatch, which is a bit of an oxymoron. i have to hope that because of this there will most surely be an R version which is hard edged. i would also guess it would be easy to create, all thats needed is setup and software alterations for the engine, transmission and suspension tweaking to give it more of a spirit or "auto emotion"...

i'm optomistic about an R version as this badge seems to be getting more progresseive recently, with the golf R, sirocco R etc. Cupra R will come and maybe a good effort from skoda aswell with the new Fabia VRS. Polo R?

2 July 2009

Bit dissapointing is the word me thinks. Seat have always in my opinion made very good fast cars - the seat fr in my opinion is a mixture of great performance and also comfort - is technology taking away the thrill of driving - I think it is - too many gizmos to then sell to us at a higher price - please seat do a manual version! Looks like I will be sticking with my sri 1.6 turbo corsa for a little longer.

Also may I suggest that my corsa responds in a similar way - lots of torque from about 1900 rpm - but you need to change by 5750 rpm - as anything above that is just noise like the seat.

2 July 2009

Whatever faults this car has you can forgive with a name like Bocanegra you have to love it.

2 July 2009

Per-lease Autocar! It's all very well continually praising the likes of Renaultsport Clios etc, which are fine as a 2nd-car used for country-lane blasts but a tad compromised in the real world as an only car if you need to travel on motorways once in a while. Call me old fashioned, but to be able to hear a car's stereo & converse with passengers, without resorting to shouting, is quite useful. Or perhaps some folks enjoy the sensations of tinnitus after a motorway journey? Seems that the Ibiza looks good, is well built, has "high grip levels, well-judged damping and good body control", plus an engine with plenty of punch, useful mpg & a competitive CO2 output. A shame about the flawed DSG (& why does Autocar still fail to acknowledge that the 1st-gen DSG has reliability issues??!!). I'll have a manual version, please. (Also, is there any chance of letting us have some interior pics & an idea of the car's performance - 0-62, top speed etc?)

3 July 2009

AFAIK, there won't be any more R-designated SEATs. This is because the original Cupra Rs - the Leon & the Ibiza - had their final brake (Brembos) & suspension assembly, + set-up, performed by the factory race team. At the time, SEAT Sport was in hiatus during its transition from rallying (WRC F2) to touring car racing (WTCC, BTCC etc). Therefore, the R suffix (R = Racing) was used to acknowledge SEAT Sport's hands-on involvement. Since then, of course, there hasn't been any input from the race team (too busy!) re road cars, so to call 'em Rs would be bogus. Hence, current hot SEATs are now called Cupras & the 'warm' versions - which at the time of the Cupra Rs were called Cupras! - are now designated FR. Erm, hope that explains it?! :)

4 July 2009

you maybe right but i think at least one of the brands will get an ultimate sports version of the 1.4 TSI, even if the bhp is still 180, but all the other factors are tuned to a racey nature.

i dont understand about this kickdown thing though, do these DSG systems really change gear without your permission in full manual mode?

6 July 2009

Seems like a good car. Don't like the look of the black front end, maybe best to get an all black one, rather than this white. Others have said it seems expensive, but you have to take into account the effect of the drop in the value of the pound recently against the Euro; we've all got to get used to cars costing £3 - £4,000 more than we might have expected as manufacturers gradually catch up with their retail prices.


Enjoying a Fabia VRs - affordable performance

6 July 2009

[quote ordinary bloke]we've all got to get used to cars costing £3 - £4,000 more than we might have expected as manufacturers gradually catch up with their retail prices.[/quote]

i know what you mean but you should have said a % rather than a figure. for example a toyota aygo does not now cost £10-£11k., which it would if you added 3-4k.

7 July 2009

[quote 6th.replicant]AFAIK, there won't be any more R-designated SEATs. This is because the original Cupra Rs - the Leon & the Ibiza - had their final brake (Brembos) & suspension assembly, + set-up, performed by the factory race team. At the time, SEAT Sport was in hiatus during its transition from rallying (WRC F2) to touring car racing (WTCC, BTCC etc). Therefore, the R suffix (R = Racing) was used to acknowledge SEAT Sport's hands-on involvement. Since then, of course, there hasn't been any input from the race team (too busy!) re road cars, so to call 'em Rs would be bogus. Hence, current hot SEATs are now called Cupras & the 'warm' versions - which at the time of the Cupra Rs were called Cupras! - are now designated FR. Erm, hope that explains it?![/quote]

that doesn't really make sence. a factory race team has no bearing on what a manufacturer chooses for its branding, if the name R fits then it will be R even if its made by robot monkeys in Iceland. and it does fit as that is what Seat uses for its top spec models.

the next R is said to be coming soon from the Seat Leon Cupra R, a 265bhp rival to the megane and focus hot hatches. should be priced under £25k, so a few thousand cheaper than the focus, but with VAG quality. now if they can make it lightweight it might be pretty good.

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