Good: generously sized boot, refined engine, stylish design
Not so good: divisive red detailing, gutless engine, lots of road noise
FR used to stand for Formula Racing on a SEAT, a sub-Cupra brand for those that wanted sporting looks, but at a lower price with more palatable running costs. It still does to a certain extent, though you can think of it as a trim level now, rather than a standalone model as it once was. In the revised SEAT Ibiza line-up there are three different Ibiza FR engine options: buyers choose from a 1.4 TDI diesel with 90hp and between two 1.2-litre TSI petrol alternatives, with 90- or 110hp. If you prefer the sportier looks of the three-door Ibiza SC then, oddly, you're limited to the two 90hp engines (one petrol, one diesel). Here we review the entry-level five-door car, the 1.2 TSI 90, priced from €18,910.
It's not easy to ignore, is it? That's mainly because whoever specified the test car ticked the boxes marked 'Dynamic red alloy wheels' (a €331 option where perfectly attractive 17-inch alloys are standard) and 'Red Exterior', adding glossy red to the door mirror caps and radiator grille surround (for €110). We're all for personal choice, and the red-on-black theme certainly grabs your attention, but we'd go for the Titanium exterior detailing and the 'Dynamic' rims in silver for a more subtle, but still sporty appearance. In fairness, the Ibiza didn't need much of a visual makeover, as it's always been one of the best-looking cars in the segment. This FR version additionally comes with twinkly bi-Xenon headlights and LED daytime running lamps up front along with LED rear lights, giving it an upmarket appearance.
SEAT Ireland also ticked the 'Red Interior' option box (€221), which means red seatbelts and steering wheel detailing (which we like) and glossy red plastic surrounds for the air vents (which we don't). The standard cabin is mostly black, with subtle red stitching in places and upgraded upholstery. The FR-badged steering wheel is a highlight and there's a five-inch colour touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth and USB connectivity, which can be upgraded to include Mirror link, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto using the SEAT Full Link system. In terms of interior space, the Ibiza is average rather than impressive, though the boot is a good size for the sector.
On the road, the Ibiza FR in this specification is a bit of a mixed bag. While the TSI engine is commendably quiet, it's short on fizz, even compared with the 110hp version of it. That could well be down to the gearing, as the lower-powered model makes do with a five-speed manual gearbox, whereas the 110hp version gains a six-speed transmission. The good refinement of the engine, however, is irrelevant once you're up to speed, as there's way too much road noise. This is not a car you'll want to use for long motorway journeys. It's most likely to do with the relatively large wheels and wide tyres so perhaps go for a more modest specification if you need long-distance comfort.
A suitably specified Ibiza SE or Sport would make a better all-rounder if you can't stretch to the 110hp engine in the FR. There's a decent chassis underneath trying to get out, but in this guise it doesn't have the oomph to test it so it never really lives up to that Formula Racing promise in reality.