Seat Ibiza FR TDI: Good chassis, but powertrain lacks excitement
Steering is fluid and quick
Ibiza FR TDI sits 15mm lower than standard car
First DriveDo revisions to the Seat Ibiza FR add any more spice to this warm hatch? We try the 1.4 TSI version on UK roads to find out
First DriveUpdated Ibiza gets a much-needed interior refresh, chassis tweaks and new options, and proves worthy of consideration
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.
So if you’re looking for a peppy hatch to buy with your head more than your heart, give this one serious consideration.