Thursday 01 September 2016
A turbocharged petrol supermini with 148bhp is a junior sports car to its buyers, but this one can also crack 59mpg, says its makers.
This is the only Ibiza where you buy one and get another free. On the face of it it’s the sportily-trimmed warm hatch little brother to the full-fat Ibiza Cupra, but on days where you want fuel economy rather than fun, this little fella transforms into a supremely fuel-efficient runabout.
The clue is in the name EcoTSI. The engine borrows technology first seen on hyper-expensive sports and luxury cars to shut down two cylinders under light loads, letting you biff along at anything up to and including motorway speeds on less than 700cc. An ‘eco’ logo appears on the digital instrument cluster display to let you know you’re saving the ice caps.
The five-door here isn’t as sharply dressed as the SC three-door, but it’s clearly more practical and it hardly needs a bag over its head. The 17-inch wheels look the business, too, and they’re not too hard to clean. Once you’re in
one you realise how many Ibizas are out there, including plenty of FRs, so while it’s good-looking you could argue that the EcoTSI version doesn’t really stand out. Good or bad thing? You decide.
Lift your baggage over the boot lip and you’ll find a spacious and evenly shaped load area, in this case with a spare wheel underneath the floor (£100). The rear doors are shorter than the life span of an ice cube in Hell, so it’s a bit of a squeeze for the longer-of-leg to get out. There’s not really much room for rear passengers, to be fair, but you wouldn’t complain if it’s your only option.
With the turbocharger spinning up freely at low revs the Ibiza is deliciously brisk out of corners and roundabouts. It feels light and eager, even if its throttle response is a bit dull at first. Get ham-fisted with the loud pedal and
it might surprise you with its overtaking punch.
Ultimately it’s best used up to around eight tenths. After that the faster you go, the less feel the car gives you and it’s only really taut and controlled under hard acceleration. Its home turf is suburbia and the city limits, where it’ll blast around all day long at 20-60mph making most other cars look a bit dim-witted.
Using the cylinder deactivation doesn’t take much effort; just stop accelerating. It cuts in and hey presto, up shoots the instant fuel economy readout. In the right circumstances it gains 15mpg or more in one go, with no
loss of drive. And 99% of the time you can’t even feel it cut in or out.
The problem is the ride. Overly harsh damping is to blame, and boy does this car thump over rough surfaces. It’s severe enough to cloud the overall experience. Come on, Seat, put some better bouncy bits on it.
What you see here is an FR Technology model, which with the trick EcoTSI engine costs £16,695, plus the Chilli Red metallic paint at £530 and a few more options that up the ante to a total of £18,240. Given its cheekily quick real-world performance and abundant style, plus the Media System Plus and its 6.5-inch touchscreen, potential for 59mpg and £30 annual road tax, it’s actually not bad value at all. You can have your cake and eat it.
Younger men who want something sharp-looking, sporty and genuinely quick without costing themselves a fortune in road tax and fuel (if they have the patience to drive gently, anyway) will be impressed by this latest Ibiza. It skips the insurance nightmare of the Cupra but still delivers plenty of excitement.
This car summed up in a single word: Active
If this car was a…: creature it would be a worker bee. Good looking, reliable and capable of switching easily between aggressive action and minding its own business.
Seat Ibiza FR Technology 1.4 EcoTSI 150PS, from £16,695
Engine: 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol producing 148bhp and 184lb/ft
Transmission: Six-speed manual driving the front wheels
Performance: Top speed 137mph, 0-62mph in 7.6 seconds
Economy: 58.9mpg combined
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