AN eight second 0-60mph hot hatch isn’t much to write home about these days. But 0-60 in eight seconds and just 119g/km CO2? If someone had suggested that was possible two years ago you’d have said they were having a giraffe.
Engine and efficiency technology have come a long way, baby. In combining a 143bhp version of the Volkswagen Group’s 2.0-litre TDI common rail turbodiesel with Ibiza FR looks and chassis tuning, Seat has created a supermini that’s sporty but not that naughty. Or is it the other way round?
On paper, the promise is excellent: the Seat Ibiza FR TDI is fast, and it is frugal. Official combined fuel consumption is an epic 61.4mpg, it’ll cost just £35 a year to tax and the engine produces more torque than a 2.9-litre Porsche Cayman – 320Nm, to be exact.
Arriving in a lump from 1,750rpm to 2,500rpm this means substantial low to mid-range shove. Get it rolling, stamp the throttle, short shift, and enjoy – you’ll find the car thumps you up the road in a series of purposeful lunges, effortlessly leaving lesser traffic in its wake. That’s diesel power for you.
Some 15mm lower than a regular Ibiza, with bespoke spring, damper and anti-rollbar settings, the FR chassis simply soaks it up. Even on 17-inch alloys as standard the ride avoids becoming overly harsh. But the XDS electronics are the real secret – acting via the ESP sensors as a kind of artificial limited slip diff.
This doesn’t completely kill the understeer – a 2.0-litre diesel is a lot of engine weight to keep on line – and the Ibiza FR lacks the razor sharp responses you get with a Renaultsport product. But then FR doesn’t top the Seat hot hatch line-up either; this car is about friendly, cost-effective fun, not ultimate lap times.
Even so it’s a shame about the steering. This is so light, imprecise and devoid of feedback the FR TDI is tiring to keep in a straight line, let alone inaccurate in the corners.
Sporty? Not so much. As with all Ibizas the interior is functional, easy to use and dominated by dark, scratchy plastics – bolstered here by FR badging and sports seats. A six-speed manual gearbox, for the first time in any current gen Ibiza, sits in place of the petrol FR’s seven-speed DSG auto.
The change is generally for the better – though if you follow the guidance of the fuel economy-minded gearshift indicator you’ll find yourself vibrating along in sixth at just 1,200rpm.
At which point the engine has all the responsiveness of a hangover – it’s shaky to say the least. And although that 143bhp doesn’t peak until 4,200rpm, the motor we tried wasn’t exactly keen on higher revs.
The petrol FR is cheaper to buy and quicker off the line. But the diesel offers lower running costs and the option of five doors as well as three, making it a more practical choice. With sharp looks and no direct competition it should suit undemanding, budget-conscious drivers just fine.
by CJ HUBBARD