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SEAT Ibiza Cupra review: 3.0/5

SEAT may have spotted a Ibiza Cupra-sized gap in the hot hatch market. We've driven the new halo model.

Kyle Fortune

Words: Kyle Fortune

Published on: January 28, 2013

Words: Kyle Fortune

Published on: January 28, 2013

When: January 2013

Where: Barcelona, Spain

What: SEAT Ibiza Cupra

Occasion: International first drive

Overall rating: 3/5

The combination of a DSG seven-speed automatic, twin-charged super- and turbocharged engine and XDS virtual limited slip differential should add up to an intoxicating drive, but the SEAT Ibiza Cupra falls short on real fun.

Pricing: circa €23,000
Engine: 1.4-litre four-cylinder turbo- and supercharged petrol
Transmission: front-wheel drive, seven-speed DSG automatic
Body style: three-door hatchback
Rivals: MINI Cooper S, Clio Renaultsport, Skoda Fabia RS
CO2 emissions: 139g/km (Band B2, €280 per annum)
Combined economy: 47.9mpg (5.9 litres/100km)
Top speed: 229km/h
0-100km/h: 6.9 seconds
Power: 180hp at 6,200rpm
Torque: 250Nm at 2,000- to 4,500rpm

In the Metal:

No question about it the SEAT Ibiza three-door is a fine looking supermini. Add some flagship sporting accoutrements for the Cupra model and that's even truer, the unique front and rear bumpers, central exhaust and 17-inch alloy wheels giving the smart supermini even more visual appeal. There's a black grille and mirror caps outside as well.

Black features heavily in the Cupra's interior too. It's tidy inside, SEAT's Navigon system atop of the dashboard relatively easy to use and beautifully integrated. There's little in the way of flair though, the only splash of contrast in the dark cabin being a light frame around the sports seats. They hold you tightly, the steering wheel also pleasing with its perforated leather hand-holds. Less clever is the arm rest between the front seats, that, even with the standard DSG automatic gearbox, always seems to be in the way - even when it's stowed away. There's not much space inside either, the Ibiza's cabin feeling tight compared to its rivals, that exacerbated by the dark trim.

Driving it:

We had our reservations about the Cupra when it was originally launched, and despite a few revisions to the engine management and suspension they remain as true now as they were then. For a supermini hot hatch it's light on involvement, which is largely down to the specification of its drivetrain. While the 1.4-litre engine, with its super- and turbochargers, is fiendishly clever, it's not a unit that's particularly engaging. Peak power remains at 180hp, though SEAT's revisions elsewhere have dropped the 0-100km/h time a bit to 6.9 seconds.

There's lots of torque, the combined efforts of the turbo- and supercharger meaning decent mid-range urgency, though the seven ratios of the paddle-shifted DSG transmission don't really exploit what's on offer. The gears feel short, the busy gearbox at odds with the engine's delivery. It sounds good though, just sporting enough to raise a grin, but not so loud as to be obnoxious.

Indeed, if anything it's the civility of it all that's disappointing. It's efficient at going around bends, accelerating and stopping (even more so if you spend more on the bigger AP Racing brakes option), while it also returns decent economy and emissions figures, but it's to the detriment of enjoyment. The steering is quick and decently weighted, but there's precious little feel through the cut off wheel's rim. The suspension works nicely enough on the unscarred roads of its Spanish homeland, though whether that'll translate to a decent ride on Ireland's less than perfect tarmac remains to be seen.

What you get for your Money:

Pay your near €23,000 at a SEAT dealer and you'll have an Ibiza that wants for nothing on the equipment list. Along with the usual sporting additions the Cupra comes with SEAT's Navigon satnav, which brings with it impressive connectivity via your mobile phone. There's an option for larger AP Racing brakes, as I said, but it's unlikely you'll find the standard set-up lacking for normal road use.

Worth Noting

The Ibiza Cupra features XDS, a braking based system that mimics the action of a limited slip differential. It works decently enough too, the Ibiza's front end keen, though for all the clever technology the Cupra fails to deliver the sort of engaging, fun drive you'd anticipate looking at its impressive specification.

Summary

This is a clever, if uninvolving hot hatchback though it's difficult not to be impressed by its technical specification. It's always been so with this generation of Ibiza Cupra, and the recent revisions do little to change that. However, the looks and range-topping status will appeal to Cupra fans and will do no harm to SEAT Ireland's image in general.