From £18,2658
A new 1.8 turbo petrol engine and manual gearbox make the Ibiza Cupra a more satisfyingly brutish, hands-on hot hatch, but it's still not the best of its breed

Our Verdict

Seat Ibiza Cupra

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

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    2016 Seat Ibiza Cupra review

    A new 1.8 turbo petrol engine and manual gearbox make the Ibiza Cupra a more satisfyingly brutish, hands-on hot hatch, but it's still not the best of its b
20 November 2015

What is it?

As facelifts go, this is about as comprehensive as they come. Gone is the 1.4 turbocharged engine and dual-clutch automatic gearbox, and into this new Ibiza Cupra comes a 1.8-litre blown petrol complete with six-speed manual gearbox (familiar from the Polo GTI). There’s no automatic transmission on offer even if you wanted one.

The hot Ibiza now brakes a spinning inside wheel when appropriate, too, and comes as standard with adjustable dampers. There’s a long list of newfangled connectivity tech now available, too. The 5.0in touchscreen with Bluetooth, USB and DAB is standard, but most will opt to add the optional 6.5in screen complete with sat-nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

What's it like?

It’s a big improvement on the old car, that’s for sure. The 1.8 motor has a broad, fairly continuous plateau of torque that’s easy to surf around on for snappy pace and predictable response.

The Cupra doesn’t feel dramatically fast - the fairly muted exhaust note is a little short of drama, too - but this engine has got usefully more brute force to it than its predecessor and balances a happy medium between really vigorous pace and a low enough power output that you can wring it out thoroughly even on awkward roads. That manual six-speed gearbox comes with a shift light and all the extra involvement you’d expect of a three-pedal hot hatch.

The tweaked suspension and new two-phase dampers do good things. High-frequency bumps and creases are managed without fluster in normal mode, and most drivers wanting something with this level of grit will forgive the fairly firm damper compression over high-speed undulations. It’s safe to say that it’ll be one of the more comfortable cars in this class for the daily grind.

The steering also has two weights, although neither provides much feedback; it’s perfectly precise and easy to use, and the weight is judged well enough in both modes to give you confidence even in hard use, but it never feels particularly connected or feelsome in the way that the steering in a Fiesta ST does.

The brakes have been uprated on the new Cupra, too. They’re really effective, with a fair amount of feel through the pedal and great stopping power. Red calipers are a nice touch, too.

Unfortunately the interior is drab-looking, with little variety to the texture and material finish other than the gloss surround to the vents. Still, while it feels more durable than classy, it is a dash that’s easy to use and the seats are supportive and comfortable even over long distances.

The optional, full infotainment system we tried has just about every feature you could want, although you don’t need to have particularly fat fingers to find it hard to hit some of the small icons on the touchscreen.

There isn’t all that much space in the back – tall adults will feel hemmed in – but kids or shorter adults will be fine. That’s likely to be all that’s expected of the Ibiza Cupra, though, which is only available in three-door SC guise.

The boot, similarly, is far from best in class but is likely to be more than fit for purpose for most Ibiza buyers.

Should I buy one?

The Ibiza Cupra SC is a really accomplished car. It’s fun in a safe yet invigorating way, it looks pretty cool and it’s fast enough to thrill while being small and benign enough to suit UK roads well. Prices haven’t been confirmed yet, but it’ll certainly be over £18k, and at this point we have to stop avoiding the crucial question: is it as fun as a Ford Fiesta ST? No.

In the Seat’s defence, very few things are, and the Seat is more comfortable and more refined, so we can see why you would chose one over the Ford. However, the Cupra's mechanical twin - the VW Polo GTI - has a more appealing interior for not much more cash, so think that one through carefully if you've decided that everyday comfort is a key factor.

In the end, though, this is a hot hatch. Fun is their currency, and the Ford Fiesta ST still owns the bank. 

Seat Ibiza CupraLocation: Barcelona; On sale: January 2016; Price £18,400 (est); Engine 4 cyls, 1798cc, turbocharged petrol; Power 189bhp at 4300rpm; Torque 236lb ft at 1450rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual Kerb weight 1260kg; Top speed 146mph; 0 62mph 6.7sec; Economy 47.1mpg (combined); CO2 rating & BIK tax band 139g/km, 22%

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Comments
4

20 November 2015
Power 189bhp at 4300rpm, shouldn't that be more like 5400 rpm ? Another interesting Seat.

20 November 2015
Surprisingly No, looking at the figures for this engine in the Polo it lists peak power at 4200 rpm, this is for the manual gearbox though. The DSG version lists the peak as 5300 rpm, which is perhaps the figure you had seen. Differences extend to torque as well, 320Nm for the manual but only 250Nm for the auto ( probably the limit for the dry clutch DSG ) Three pedals the way to go whether the Ibiza or Polo I'd say.

21 November 2015
Stewart_Peters wrote:

Surprisingly No, looking at the figures for this engine in the Polo it lists peak power at 4200 rpm, this is for the manual gearbox though. The DSG version lists the peak as 5300 rpm, which is perhaps the figure you had seen. Differences extend to torque as well, 320Nm for the manual but only 250Nm for the auto ( probably the limit for the dry clutch DSG ) Three pedals the way to go whether the Ibiza or Polo I'd say.

Interesting, I just thought it unusual for a sporty hatch to employ such a low peak power/rpm figure given a 'revy' nature is often part of the appeal of this type of vehicle, even when fitted with a turbo.
Looking at a well known engine tuners/remap site it indicates this motor does continue to make power up to 6000 rpm, if unfettered by engine management restrictions. Although peek lb/ft does not arrive until about 2000 rpm, well above seat's quoted rpm figure.

20 November 2015
Why would anyone have this over a 208 GTI? apart from the idiotic steering wheel the pug is better in every way. Looks, handling and sheer power.

ofir

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