SEAT Ibiza Cupra

Black 1.8 TSI

SEAT Ibiza Cupra, front
SEAT Ibiza Cupra, front
SEAT Ibiza Cupra, engine
SEAT Ibiza Cupra, front
SEAT Ibiza Cupra, front
SEAT Ibiza Cupra, rear
SEAT Ibiza Cupra, boot
SEAT Ibiza Cupra, detail
SEAT Ibiza Cupra, detail
SEAT Ibiza Cupra, interior
SEAT Ibiza Cupra, interior
SEAT Ibiza Cupra, interior
SEAT Ibiza Cupra, wheel

BACK in 1996 the Ibiza was the first car to carry the badge of SEAT's Cupra performance division.

The Leon Cupra soon followed, however, and it is fair to say that, from then on, the souped up Ibiza has lived in the shadow of its bigger brother, which rapidly became a firm favourite with the boy racer brigade.

This year, however, the Spanish car maker turned up the heat on its sporty supermini - giving it much more grunt as part of a mid-life makeover.

External changes were kept to a minimum, with the clean, sharp lines of the Ibiza already making it one of the better lookers in its class.

Cupra models are distinguished by accentuated rear shoulders, exclusive 17-inch alloys, gloss black wing mirrors and grille and a bespoke rear bumper and diffuser, framing the centrally mounted trapezoidal tailpipe.

The new Black grade model which I drove also gets black alloys with eye-catching red brake calipers to maximise the muscular, sporty styling.

The key change came under the bonnet, where a 1.4-litre supercharged TSI petrol engine has been replaced by a more punchy 1.8-litre turbocharged block.

That's a potent power plant for such a diminutive motor, pushing out an additional 12ps, and crucially, a hefty dose of 70Nm of additional torque, up to 320Nm, across a much broader rev range of 1,450 to 4,250rpm.

The result is a significant boost in performance and responsiveness for the Ibiza Cupra, with the benchmark 0-62mph sprint dispatched in just 6.7 seconds, on the way to a top speed of 146mph.

But this extra potency doesn't come at the expense of frugality, with fuel economy of 45.6mpg on average only decreased slightly from that of its predecessor and still pretty good for a sporty hatchback.

SEAT has also reverted to a smooth-shifting manual six-speed gearbox - the previous Ibiza Cupra was only available with a seven-speed automatic - which is better suited to the hot-hatch experience, offering much more involvement for the driver.

On top of these changes come larger front brakes and the Cupra Drive Profile, which offers a choice of comfort and sport modes and adjusts damping and steering depending upon which is selected.

What impresses most from behind the wheel is the smooth and controlled manner in which the Ibiza Cupra's newfound power and pace is harnessed and delivered.

An electronic differential lock, quick and accurate steering, high-performance brakes and stability control programme all help to keep the car safe and settled - inspiring great confidence when overtaking or pushing on into fast bends.

The ride on the 17-inch alloy wheels us a little firm as a consequence, but rarely strays the wrong side of comfortable.

And while this impressive control means the Ibiza Cupra may lack the raw edge that diehard enthusiasts are looking for, it does make it an ideal car for those who prefer some every-day usability to go with their performance credentials.

Needless to say, the easy pace and diminutive dimensions make it an enjoyable and practical car to drive in town, where nipping in and out of the traffic and manoeuvring into tight spaces are a doddle.

Upgrades to the interior also help to make the latest Ibiza Cupra a more appealing proposition, with a new steering wheel, air vents, instrument panel and infotainment systems all boosting perceived quality - although there's still a little too much scratchy plastic on show for a range-topping model.

Despite only being available in two-door SC guise, space is on a par with most rivals and better than some with reasonable rear legroom and a decent sized boot for a supermini.

Standard equipment includes a five-inch touchscreen media interface, digital radio, Bluetooth, automatic lights and wipers, Cupra front sports seats, climate control and tinted rear windows, with Black models getting an upgraded 6.5-inch touchscreen with integrated satnav.

FAST FACTS

SEAT Ibiza Cupra Black 1.8 TSI

Price: £18,900

Mechanical: 192ps, 1,798cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 146mph

0-62mph:6.7 seconds

Combined MPG: 45.6

Insurance Group:29

C02 emissions:145g/km

Bik rating: 26%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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