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First Drive:  SEAT Ibiza FR TDI. Image by Mark Nichol.

First Drive: SEAT Ibiza FR TDI
Last but not least, here's the diesel Ibiza FR, which should prove tempting because it's cheap to run and fast. Score.

 



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| First Drive | Barcelona, Spain | SEAT Ibiza FR TDI |

Because you're at Car Enthusiast we can assume you know a thing or two about cars. So we'd like you to have a think about something. We'd like you - without using a search engine - to think about a hot diesel supermini. Not just a quite quick one, but a fully badged-up, ready to brawl hot little hatch with a diesel engine under the bonnet, on sale right now.

Finished thinking? Drawn a blank, have you? That's ok, because there are none. Not a single one. There are some quick diesel superminis - but there are none quite like the SEAT Ibiza FR TDI, which stands alone as a properly logoed mini hot hatch powered by compression combustion. Weird, eh?

In the Metal

The car we drove was the three-door SC, though a five-door version can be had too. We're already fans of the Ibiza's well-proportioned crease work, its squat stance and aggressive detailing; the FR addenda make the car even better to look at. Visually it's exactly the same as the petrol version, so it gets chrome effect mirror caps, twin chrome tailpipes, 17-inch alloys and FR badges front and rear.

The inner work really lifts the cabin too, because while we like its design, we're not convinced about the plastic quality - especially considering some of the materials SEAT's 'budget' sister brand Skoda is using now. FR spec brings a flat-bottomed leather wheel with carbon effect trim, the same carbon-ette stuff for the instrument cowl, a spherical leather gearstick top, and FR-branded sports chairs. The contact points are spot on; both the wheel and the gearstick are lovely to both hold and behold.

What you get for your Money

Alongside the visual accoutrements, standard kit includes the XDS electronic 'limited slip differential' as found in fast Leons and the Golf GTI, cruise control and climate control. It's well spec'd for a supermini.

At the same time, it's not exactly cheap. That's not to say it's too expensive, but 16,495 is big money for a little car. That's for the SC; if you want more doors it'll cost 380 for an extra pair. You can add leather if you want, and, as per other Ibizas it has the TomTom mount in the dash, which we thought we'd mention because we like the concept (even though the little screen doesn't handle sunshine very well).

But we're not getting to the point of this car: running costs. SEAT is already offering the same business case in the Leon FR TDI, and it makes sense to shrink down the 'same looks, less bucks' principle here too. This car, for all its 140bhp and 236lb.ft, does 61.4mpg combined and costs 35 per year in VED because it puffs out a mere 119g/km. And it's only in insurance group eight. Cha-ching.

Driving it

But to suggest the Ibiza FR TDI (or the Leon, for that matter) is all show and no go is not what we intend; this car has poke. We reckon everyone in Europe must have driven or been driven in a car powered by this VW Group common rail TDI diesel engine by now. Thankfully it's pretty good. SEAT's engineers never seem to be able to muffle the inevitable compression combustion clatter quite as well as others do. No great shakes though - literally - because it's still smooth and potent in this application, dishing out a thick spread of torque right across the range, in all six gears. It's the sort of power that's easy to tap into, and that makes it feel slightly quicker than an 8.2-second 0-62mph charge looks on paper.

The ride, though. Ooh. That's not a big camp mesmeric 'ooh' either. It's more of an inhaling through gritted teeth thing. It's too stiff. The springs and dampers are notched up a few percent front and rear, the anti-roll bar is thicker and the ride height dropped by 15mm compared to a Sport pack car. Is it unbearable? Absolutely not, but we do wish SEAT would stop doing what Audi sometimes does: equate 'feel' with ride hardness. Like our long-term Leon, the Ibiza waves and crests at motorway speeds as the suspension's lack of give makes the body follow every road undulation. It can't deal with potholes very well either.

Still, no big deal because we could have predicted that setup and it also makes the FR feel like something more focused than a regular supermini. As does the meaty steering. We like that, although we think it could be a tad sharper, which became apparent through a few tightening hairpins we dealt with on the Spanish test route - the car needed a bit more lock to get round them than we'd expected. There's loads of grip though, and because the engine has quite a wide spread of torque, that starts nice and low in the rev range, it's a satisfying little car to drive quickly, as it should be.

Worth Noting

In some parts of Europe the TDI FR will be offered with the Bocanegra pack, for 900, as it happens (which seems like a lot for some lipstick, but there you go). However, we're not getting that because SEAT UK wants to keep the Bocanegra nice and special, so it stays Cupra only.

And rare it will be among hot Ibizas too - unlike the TDI FR. Here are some stats for you: of all the Ibizas sold, around a third are sporty ones. Of those, the vast majority are Sport trim cars, with the FR version taking about five percent and the Cupra just 1.5. Anyway, back to the five percent FR: up to 80 percent of those will be this diesel. Which begs the question, 'why didn't SEAT make this one before the petrol?'

We couldn't get an answer. Interesting though, if you're into percentages and things. Wake up at the back.

Summary

If we were dead cynical we'd approach the Ibiza TDI FR with a hint of derision, because it's arguably been put together with sales in mind: it's not truly hot hatch fast, really, and it's arguably been developed in a sort of pre-packed way (Ibiza plus VW group diesel engine plus sport branding equals nice seller).

But my, that would be harsh. And wrong. No, it's not class-leading to drive (the Fiesta kicks its Spanish ass), but it looks great, offers strong, easily accessible performance, and actually, isn't that far behind the Ford in terms of the way it'll be driven by most people. You'll have to put up with, rather than enjoy, the grainy ride during your daily schlep, but if you want something canny quick with admirably justifiable running costs, this could be just your spruced up supermini. It's available to order now.

Mark Nichol - 8 Feb 2010









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2010 SEAT Ibiza FR TDI. Image by SEAT.2010 SEAT Ibiza FR TDI. Image by SEAT.2010 SEAT Ibiza FR TDI. Image by SEAT.2010 SEAT Ibiza FR TDI. Image by SEAT.2010 SEAT Ibiza FR TDI. Image by SEAT.

2010 SEAT Ibiza FR TDI. Image by SEAT.2010 SEAT Ibiza FR TDI. Image by SEAT.2010 SEAT Ibiza FR TDI. Image by SEAT.2010 SEAT Ibiza FR TDI. Image by SEAT.2010 SEAT Ibiza FR TDI. Image by SEAT.



2010 SEAT Ibiza FR TDI. Image by Mark Nichol.
 

2010 SEAT Ibiza FR TDI. Image by Mark Nichol.
 

2010 SEAT Ibiza FR TDI. Image by Mark Nichol.
 

2010 SEAT Ibiza FR TDI. Image by Mark Nichol.
 

2010 SEAT Ibiza FR TDI. Image by Mark Nichol.
 

2010 SEAT Ibiza FR TDI. Image by Mark Nichol.
 

2010 SEAT Ibiza FR TDI. Image by Mark Nichol.
 

2010 SEAT Ibiza FR TDI. Image by Mark Nichol.
 

2010 SEAT Ibiza FR TDI. Image by Mark Nichol.
 






 

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