Our Seat Ibiza Cupra is a great example of turbocharging done properly. It’s potent, responsive and, if allowed to, offers respectable economy.
The engine’s responsiveness comes in part because all of its 236lb ft arrives at just 1450rpm, and the potency is helped by the fact that maximum power doesn’t arrive until 4300rpm. It means you can work with a wide window of performance, which is best felt when accelerating flat out in second or third gear. You can make really rapid progress once you learn to keep the engine on song.
I’ve decided that the car definitely feels faster when running on high-octane fuel. The Cupra can run on RON95, but with super-unleaded I feel the engine offers more grunt for longer, plus it’s ever so slightly more responsive. Anyway, I’ve always firmly believed that if you’ve parted with more cash to buy a hot model, you shouldn’t scrimp on cheap supermarket fuel.
Talking of fuel, the Ibiza’s economy can dip into the teens when you’re really on it, but minutes later it will settle on the motorway at 70mph and easily surpass 40mpg — which trumps the real-world economy of a Ford Fiesta ST by a good 4-5mpg. Thanks to the six-speed gearbox, the engine is near silent at this pace, although those 215-section tyres produce a lot of road noise.
I’ve started to think of the Cupra less as a red-hot hatch with its eyes set on track days and more as a really usable daily driver that packs enough of a punch to get your pulse flowing when you open it up. A sort of mini Volkswagen Golf GTI, if you will — which makes sense, really, considering the Ibiza Cupra is a sibling to the Polo GTI.
But the Cupra is better than the Polo because that car costs from £19,125 but features a less sporty set-up without standard-fit adjustable dampers. To my eyes, the Seat is the better looker, too.