Priced from £17,680 Release date On sale now
Consider 150 horsepower, or, as we like to quote here at What Car?, 148 British horsepower. Now, it wasn’t that long ago that those sorts of numbers in a small car meant we were talking about an exciting new hot hatchback.
So you’d be forgiven for thinking this 148bhp Ibiza must be the new high-performance Cupra model. Err, no. Seat has said it isn't going to do one of those. This is merely the lukewarm Seat Ibiza 1.5 TSI 150 FR.
The 1.5 TSI 150 is a new turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine that's being rolled out gradually across the VW Group’s brands. It replaces the previous 1.4 TSI 150 and comes coupled to a six-speed manual gearbox driving the front wheels.
You can get it only in this sportier FR trim, and while the styling changes are restrained, you do get a bespoke rear bumper with two chrome-trimmed exhaust finishers and bigger, 17in alloy wheels.
2017 Seat Ibiza 1.5 TSI 150 Evo FR on the road
We’ve found that in bigger cars, such as the Skoda Octavia, the older 1.4 TSI 150 engine felt a little stronger than this new 1.5. Yet if this was your first taste of it, you might wonder what on earth we were on about. You see, the Ibiza is smaller and lighter, and with that much poke, it feels properly peppy.
Starting from a standstill, the engine whizzes willingly around to 6500rpm in first and second gears en route to 60mph in just 7.9sec. And from 2000rpm in third and fourth gears, it proves just as useful for everyday motoring, pulling with the tenacity of a wee rhino pup. Okay, it doesn’t sound exciting, but on the plus side, neither does it make you wince and plug your ears when you gun it.
The manual gearbox is a gem. The throws are short and light, and some slight notchiness just as the gears engage simply adds some welcome mechanical texture. So with a precise clutch, which is still near effortless to press even after an hour of snarled-up motorway traffic, you won’t resent the absence of an automatic gearbox option.
This latest-generation Ibiza has already proved itself a dynamic revelation over its predecessor, and the stiffened sports suspension of the FR model takes the driving experience up yet another notch. Body control is tight, so you can really carry handsome speed through corners without it leaning over alarmingly, or the nose pitching like a shovel about to scoop up the asphalt if you press hard on the confidence-inspiring brakes. There’s also plenty of grip from those bigger tyres, but the steering remains fluid and fluent as it weights up uniformly the moment you flick in to a turn.
As always, there’s a trade-off to taut springing: a firmer ride, at least in comparison with more supple regular Ibizas. Yet it’s not overbearing; you just need to put up with the odd heftier thud over scraggier town roads, but at speed the difference is less pronounced. The bigger tyres don’t dramatically worsen road noise, but then all Ibizas generally suffer from a bit of drone at speed. And, likewise, wind noise continues to be noticeable, but it's not hellish.
2017 Seat Ibiza 1.5 TSI 150 Evo FR interior
This FR model has a plenty of benefits to justify its price. It’s darn well equipped for a start, with a sharp and easy-to-use 8.0in touchscreen that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring, as well as in-built sat-nav.
Privacy glass, cruise control, automatic emergency braking and a tiredness monitor also come as standard. And for a little extra razzmatazz, Seat has added red-stitched, part-Alcantara-draped sports seats, a sporty flat-bottomed, leather-wrapped steering wheel and funky red interior ambient lighting.
Beyond tha, it’s standard Ibiza fare. That means good space for a supermini both front and rear, so it will fit four 6ft-tall adults in relative comfort. The boot is deep, square and one of the biggest in the class, so it’ll fit a buggy or up to five carry-on suitcases with ease.
For the full nitty-gritty of this and every other aspect of the Ibiza’s usability, why not head to our main Ibiza review.
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