Compared with the similarly powerful Vauxhall Corsa Red Edition we recently tried, the Ibiza FR feels significantly quicker. With a claimed 0-62mph time of 7.6sec, the Seat beats the Vauxhall by 1.3sec.
Not only is it faster outright, but the Seat also feels more muscular across the rev range. It may lack the supercharger of its predecessor, but it doesn’t seem to have affected the low-end shove at all. If you’re pootling, you can almost treat it like a diesel – no surprise given that maximum torque arrives at just 1500rpm.
As we’ve found with other Volkswagen Group cars with the ACT tech, it’s virtually impossible to tell when the engine is running in its reduced-cylinder mode. There’s no real change to the noise and you don’t suddenly feel like the engine is operating on half of its cylinders, but put your foot down and there’s the briefest of pauses before the Ibiza pulls strongly.
If you're in the mood for some fun, you’ll find that the engine has plenty of thrust, although it isn’t really worth revving much past 5000rpm. The noise is sufficiently sporty, but there’s little chance any of the hairs on your neck will be standing up as a result.
The gearchange is light and precise but does without the mechanical feel of the best gearboxes out there. You also get the impression that economy was the main concern for those that picked the six long ratios. Thankfully the engine’s torque compensates for this.
The FR boasts lower and stiffer sports suspension compared with its more mundane siblings. It can feel firm over rougher roads at times but is quite comfortable given the sporting nature of the car. This does help handling though, as there’s masses of grip on offer and it turns in keenly.
It’s still lacking the final bit of tuning needed to make a good-handling car into a great one, though. There’s not the sense of adjustability you get from a Ford Fiesta Black Edition and the steering doesn’t have the same level of feel and feedback.
Step inside, and the upgraded infotainment system with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and Mirror Link is a welcome addition. It’s easy to use with clear menus and connects to smartphones easily. Improvements to material quality are also welcome although there are still plenty of cheap-feeling plastics.