SEAT Ibiza FR Red

Edition 1.2 TSI

SEAT Ibiza, front
SEAT Ibiza, front
SEAT Ibiza, front
SEAT Ibiza, side
SEAT Ibiza, rear
SEAT Ibiza, interior
SEAT Ibiza, interior
SEAT Ibiza, detail
SEAT Ibiza, wing mirror
SEAT Ibiza, wheel
SEAT Ibiza, detail
SEAT Ibiza, detail
SEAT Ibiza, seat belt

A BLOKE the wrong side of 50 with a receding hairline and expanding waistline is not who you'd normally expect to see behind the wheel of a car that screams boy racer from every angle.

Fortunately my time with the SEAT Ibiza FR Red Edition came in midwinter and meant that I was quite often driving it in near darkness - sparing me, to a degree, the disdainful and judgmental glares of those who would instantly conclude that I was going through some sort of mid-life crisis.

With its garish 17-inch red alloys, red wing mirrors and red-framed grille, the Red Edition is undoubtedly aimed at those a few three decades my junior.

The theme continues inside with bright red seat-belts and red trim around the circular air vents and on the FR branded sports steering wheel.

All this is on top of the bespoke front and rear bumpers, twin tailpipes, sports front seats and sports suspension of the standard FR and creates a youthful stand-out-from-the-crowd package.

Nevertheless, under cover of darkness, I revelled in driving this sporty little number around town, my advancing years adding a certain guilty pleasure to the whole experience.

This colour coded special edition arrived late last year as part of a refresh for the fourth generation of the popular Ibiza as it battles some stiff competition in the supermini market.

Exterior changes were minimal but inside the dashboard is refreshed and now echoes that of the larger Leon while six of the 10 engine options available are brand new and the others upgraded.

The FR Red Edition is also one of four new trim grades which, in conjunction with a host of personalisation options, offers and array of Ibiza choices to suit all pockets.

The FR is a sort of halfway house for those who want more muscular, distinctive looks but not the extra power and cost of the full-on Ibiza Cupra hot-hatch.

With the Cupra only available in two-door SC form, the FR also offers a more sporty option for those who favour five-door practicality.

This particular car was powered by a 1.2-litre TSI petrol engine, which is one of the survivors from the previous line-up but has been tweaked to offer more power at 110ps.

And while it may lack the outright pace of the Cupra, it's peppy enough to make this Ibiza an enjoyable car to drive - especially around town where the responsive throttle, light steering and sharp handling make zipping in and out of the gaps in the traffic a pleasure.

The snappy six-speed manual transmission, with its short throw and precise action, also helps to promote driver engagement as well as offering versatility.

The sports tuned suspension on the FR does mean a slightly firm ride - and you will find yourself holding your breath when negotiating large potholes - but for the most part it manages to stay on the right side of comfortable.

As well as bringing influences from the Leon, the interior changes have also seen an improvement in the quality of the fixtures and fittings which makes the Ibiza and pleasant place to be.

In the back, though, the sloping roofline means headroom will be tight for taller folk and rear legroom would have to be described as adequate rather than generous.

The boot, though, is spacious for a supermini and, at 292 litres, is capable of swallowing a few bags of shopping while the split rear seats also fold down for extra load space if needed.

With the FR Red Edition sitting just below the Cupra at the top of the range most creature comforts are taken care of.

Sat nav will cost you extra but standard kit includes touchscreen interface, aircon, Bluetooth, DAB radio, automatic lights and wipers, auto folding wing mirrors, cruise control and stability control.

FAST FACTS

SEAT Ibiza FR Red Edition 1.2 TSI

Price: £15,735

Mechanical:110ps,1,197cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 122mph

0-62mph: 9.1 seconds

Combined MPG: 54.3

Insurance Group: 17

C02 emissions:119g/km

Bik rating:18%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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