Road Test: SEAT Ibiza EcoTSI FR Technology
A clever, and potent, new engine option turns the Ibiza into an efficient warm hatch, explains Alex Grant.
Sector: Supermini Price: £17,495 Fuel: 58.9mpg CO2: 112g/km
The fourth-generation SEAT Ibiza might be well into its twilight years – the factory is already set up for its replacement – but via a late-life dip into the Volkswagen Group’s extensive parts bin, and a little extra technology, there’s a newcomer in the range with plenty of driver appeal.
A good fit for a car which has sold on sportiness as much as value, the key here is the 148bhp 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine, most often used in the Group’s larger models. It arrives as the second most powerful model in the range, behind the Cupra, but it’s also a warm hatch with a green side. At 58.9mpg and 112g/km, it’s one of the most economical petrol Ibizas.
It’s a sophisticated engine for a small car. The 1.4 EcoTSI, as SEAT calls it, features ‘cylinder on demand’ technology so, on stretches where the engine isn’t under load, it’s only using two of its four cylinders. Not that you’d know, unless you’re watching the dashboard display. The transition between its two modes is barely noticeable; if you need full power, all four cylinders kick into life available instantaneously.
Putting mid-spec Ateca power into an Ibiza is predictably very entertaining. This engine is reserved for the FR Technology trim, and comes paired with sports suspension, a locking differential and semi-Cupra styling uprades. So it looks, and performs, like a junior hot hatch, yet it’ll return over 50mpg on a gentle motorway run. It’s got plenty of muscle for motorways, and it’s as smooth as it is quiet, but it’s quite firmly sprung for drivers with regular long-distance needs.
The equipment list is grown up too. FR Technology versions include essentials like cruise control, automatic lights, rear-view mirror dimming and wipers, and have included a proper built-in navigation system since the supermini was upgraded in 2015. Unfortunately Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone connectivity are both optional – the £150 additional cost is worth it.
Of course, there are some downsides to picking a car this late in its life.
Shrunken Leon styling means it’s aged well on the outside, but most of the cabin hasn’t changed since 2008. Drab plastics and previous-generation SEAT styling mean it feels a little dated, even with the FR’s sports seats and flat-bottomed steering wheel.
Sparky performance and generous standard equipment mean the Ibiza has grown up, rather than getting old. An appealing warm hatch option for those who can’t opt into the Cupra, or who need five doors.