SEAT Ibiza FR 1.5

TSI EVO

SEAT FR, front static
SEAT FR, front action
SEAT FR, front action 2
SEAT FR, side action
SEAT FR, rear static 2
SEAT FR, rear seats
SEAT FR, dashboard
SEAT FR, rear static
SEAT FR, badge

IT'S not the way this fastest current SEAT Ibiza hits the legal limit that leaves the most lasting impression, it's the way it goes slowly.

On paper this 150 horsepower hothead is a real flyer, punching to 134mph when you find your stretch of deserted autobahn. It gets there pretty quickly, too, for a spacious family hatchback that doesn't cost the earth.

But when you calm down and head for the city it's the way this crisply cut contender stays firmly on your side that you'll remember.

It must have taken millions of euros of patient development to make the gearchange so sweet, the clutch so forgiving and the steering so smooth.

There's SEAT's place in the huge VW Group to thank for that (and why a Skoda feels much the same... and a VW... and an Audi). Other car makers don't spend on this scale and it can show.

So it then means SEAT needs to make its own cars stand out in the scheme of things at VW and they've decided to give their cars a sporty edge. Doesn't mean they need to go fast but they do need to feel a little bit eager.

Mission accomplished, you'd have to say with this one - in more ways than one. Firstly, there's plenty of performance when you wring the neck of the 1.5-litre petrol engine. Not quite hot hatch territory, but close enough to make this an entertaining drive.

Even using most of the available performance, this is one of an increasing band of petrol cars that make the case for ditching diesel - 51mpg after a more than averagely busy week is a very decent return.

Secondly, and this is where the sporty bit might come up against the family hatch bit, there's a ride that is never less than sportily firm and sometimes simply downright uncomfy on those minor roads that haven't seen a decent set of road menders in a decade.

Like almost every new generation of car this latest Ibiza has gained in width (up 87mm) but is a mere 2mm longer and 1mm lower than before. Stretching front and rear wheels 60mm further part means a bit more room for rear seat passengers and boot space is usefully increased by 63 litres to 355 litres.

The result is a car plenty big enough for a quartet of adults or mum and dad and the sprogs in the back and a boot big enough for the weekly shop, if it isn't these days dropped at the back door by a man in a white van and a hurry.

Sitting towards the top of the Ibiza hierarchy, the FR badge brings lots of goodies. Included are an excellent sat nav, climate control, cruise control and a leather rimmed steering wheel flattened at the bottom in F1 grid style.

FAST FACTS

SEAT Ibiza FR 1.5 TSI EVO

Price: £18,475

Mechanical: 150ps, 1,499cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving front wheels via 8-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 134mph

0-62mph: 7.9 seconds

Combined MPG: 57.6

Insurance Group: 19

C02 emissions: 112g/km

Bik rating: 23%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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