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First Drive

2017 Seat Ibiza FR review – price, specs, release date

The new Seat Ibiza is a thoroughly excellent all-rounder, but do big alloys and stiffer suspension help or hinder this sporty FR version?

Words By Will Nightingale

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If you haven’t read our full 16-point review on the new Seat Ibiza, that’s probably where you should start. But to quickly sum up, we think it’s really rather good: fun to drive, pleasant to sit in, roomy and great value for money.

On regular suspension – fitted to S, SE and Xcellence trims – it’s remarkably comfortable. However, Seat expects most buyers to be seduced by sporty looking FR trim, with its chiselled bodykit, twin exhausts and chunky 17in alloys – and that comes with lower and stiffer sports suspension, whether you want it or not.

On one hand, the sports suspension could make the Ibiza even more nimble and fun to drive. But even if it does, you probably won’t appreciate it if the payback is a punishingly firm ride. After all, the Ibiza FR isn’t a hot hatch – it’s just an everyday small car with a light dusting of sportiness.

FR trim is currently available with two engines – the 94bhp and 114bhp versions of the 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol – although it will also be offered with a punchier 148bhp 1.5-litre petrol later in 2017.

2017 Seat Ibiza FR on the road

Lower, stiffer suspension should, in theory, keep the Ibiza more upright through the bends and make it more eager to change direction in the first place. And it does to a point, although the differences compared with the regular Ibiza aren’t exactly huge. Not that they needed to be, because the Ibiza already cornered more sweetly than every rival apart from the Ford Fiesta. That pecking order doesn’t change here.

FR trim also gets you something called Seat Drive Profile, which allows you to make the steering heavier or lighter to suit the type of driving you’re doing (or just your personal preference). Whichever setting you pick, the Ibiza’s steering is always precise, allowing you to place the nose of the car exactly where you want it. Mind you, the Fiesta’s steering is quicker, meaning smaller inputs have a bigger impact on direction changes and it streams slightly more information to your fingertips.

Fortunately, FR trim doesn’t ruin the Ibiza’s supple and controlled ride. True, it’s noticeably firmer than other Ibizas around town, but never jarring or uncomfortable, even over nasty potholes. On fast A-roads and motorways, you’d actually be hard pushed to tell the difference.

The 94bhp engine is all you really need. In our tests, it managed the 0-60mph dash in a fraction under 10sec, and you don’t need to rev it very hard at all in everyday driving. We wouldn’t try to talk you out of spending an extra Β£600 on the more powerful 114bhp version, though – it adds some welcome zip to the acceleration along with a sixth gear for more relaxed motorway cruising.

2017 Seat Ibiza FR interior

One of our few criticisms of the regular Ibiza is that its front seats don’t hold you in place very well through corners. Thankfully, that’s less of an issue in FR models, because the standard β€˜sports’ seats have chunkier bolsters to make them more supportive around the shoulders. Long-distance comfort remains good, although it is a shame there’s no option to add adjustable lumbar support.

FR models also get a bespoke flat-bottomed steering wheel and some red stitching around the gearlever, but are otherwise the same as any other Ibiza inside. That means there’s lots of space in the front and back, plus a surprisingly large boot by the standards of the class. You’ll fit much more in it than you would in the Fiesta’s.

You also get an excellent 8.0in touchscreen infotainment system, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring included as standard. There’s a built-in sat-nav, too, meaning you don’t have to rely on your phone having signal to get you where you’re going.

Next: 2017 Seat Ibiza FR verdict>

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