Oil-burning Ibiza FR offers attractive mix of pace, refinement and cost-effectiveness

What is it?

The latest addition to Seat’s Ibiza supermini range, and one that offers both sense and sensation: the Ibiza FR TDi.

Coming to UK showrooms this month, this 141bhp TDi version of the Ibiza is a 130mph warm hatch capable of 62mph in a whisker over eight seconds, and of bettering 60mpg. This car emits just 119g/km of CO2, so it’s just £35 a year to tax, and for the first time for an FR Ibiza, it’s available as a five door.

This car succeeds the old 128bhp Ibiza FR TDi. It uses the VW Group’s current 2.0-litre diesel engine, but has a lighter, larger capacity intercooler than the last car, and together with common rail injection, that makes it much more refined on the run than its immediate forebear.

Seat has fitted stiffer, shorter springs than standard to this car; it rides 15mm lower, and has a stiffer anti-roll bar too. This Ibiza is also the only one with its battery in the boot, to the improvement of weight distribution, and is the only hot Ibiza available with a manual gearbox.

What’s it like?

It’s certainly handsome, trendy-looking and nicely turned out inside. Seat’s FR treatment adds FR logos on the gearlever and steering wheel, as well as a smattering of carbon-effect trim, some comfy yet supportive leather sports seats, and extra standard specification such as cruise and climate control, and a ‘limited slip differential’-effect electronic traction management program called XDS.

And from behind the wheel it’s clear that this Ibiza FR has one of Seat’s better sports chassis, as well as an excellent driving position. On Spanish roads it feels taut but not harsh (although UK surfaces may not suit it as well) and maintains good body control even at very high speeds.

It steers well too – fluently and quickly, with good weight and feel – and certainly has enough in-gear pace to make you sit up and take notice.

When it comes to quickening your pulse, diesel-powered warm options like this one still seem the poorer cousins of petrol ones; winding them up just isn’t as entertaining as it might be. Truth be told, this feels like a small car that’s had a fairly refined but ordinary 2.0-litre diesel engine shoehorned under the bonnet, which is exactly what it is.

Unfortunately, that will leave many fast hatch fans wanting a bit more character from this car’s powertrain.

Perhaps if it had been fitted with the VW Group’s 168bhp diesel motor, we’d be more impressed with this car’s sporting credentials, but it’s unlikely. The only really sporting four-cylinder diesel engine anyone makes at the moment is BMW’s twin-turbo as fitted to the 123d. More’s the pity. And, just for the record, Seat says there will be no new Ibiza Cupra diesel; the last one was a bit of sales flop, apparently.

Should I buy one?

Even if it’s not the greatest driver’s car, this is a smart, well-equipped and desirable supermini, a punchy motorway performer, would be decent enough to drive down a favourite backroad, and would make an attractive fleet option.

It may lack a bit of sparkle under the bonnet, but to many, this car’s economy and emissions performance, as well as its commendable straight line shove, will be persuasive enough to outweigh that. 80 per cent of all of the last Ibiza FRs sold throughout Europe were diesels, after all.

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So if you’re looking for a peppy hatch to buy with your head more than your heart, give this one serious consideration.

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

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tottygal 1 June 2013

seat ibiza FR 2.0 DIESEL

hi im very dissapointed in the seat ibiza ive just brought one, ive taken back to garage 6 times in 2 months the exhaust light keeps coming up,plus glow plugs. spending alot of money on buying this car any advice 

Challenger440 13 March 2010

Re: Seat Ibiza FR TDi

"Tough - you live on treasure island. Now stop moaning and give us your money..."

- - Automobile Manufactuer, 2010

private 13 March 2010

Re: Seat Ibiza FR TDi

Just had a look on SEAT's Spanish website. This model of Ibiza is 1225 Euros less than the DSG petrol FR. So how they can justify a £1000 premium over here i don't know?