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First drive: SEAT Ibiza ST FR. Image by SEAT.

First drive: SEAT Ibiza ST FR
SEAT revises its Ibiza, and in doing so adds the FR trim to its practical ST for the first time.

   



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

Overall rating: 4 4 4 4 4

If you're looking for a sporty, petrol-powered, supermini-based estate then your choices are currently limited. However, far from being here purely due to lack of choice the SEAT Ibiza FR 1.4 TSI tested is present on merit. Great looking, spacious and entertaining from behind the wheel, it's worthy of further investigation.

Key Facts

Model tested: SEAT Ibiza ST 1.4 TSI FR
Pricing: 17,080
Engine: 1.4-litre 'twincharged' four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: seven-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door estate
Rivals: Skoda Fabia vRS Estate
CO2 emissions: 139g/km
Combined economy: 44.8mpg
Top speed: 132mph
0-62mph: 7.6 seconds
Power: 150hp at 5,800rpm
Torque: 220Nm at 1,250rpm

In the Metal: 4 4 4 4 4

The Ibiza ST has always split opinion, with one camp championing the sports estate styling, and others likening it to an Ibiza hatchback with an unfortunate growth. Still, the latest additions to the design, including new bumpers, headlights, wheels and a crease down the bonnet, ensure it looks sharp. FR models stand out in particular thanks to the new LED daytime running lights.

Like the hatchback models the interior has changed little, with revisions to the speedometer and rev counter complemented by an easier to use climate control system. The steering wheel now sports a flat bottom and the sports seats walk a perfect line between support and comfort. And of course the boot remains this car's biggest selling point at 461 litres with the rear seats in place.

Driving it: 4 4 4 4 4

Once again the petrol engine is a bit of a star of this show, the Twincharged (super- and turbocharged) 1.4-litre four-cylinder unit providing ample power and torque. Smooth, keen to rev and refined to the redline it's a pleasure to make use of the available performance.

Coupled with the talented seven-speed DSG twin-clutch gearbox it makes for effortless progress, the transmission swapping cogs quickly and with the minimum of fuss. If you've yet to be convinced by an automatic gearbox then this is the unit that will do it - no matter how you use the car.

FR trim does have its drawbacks though - sporting SEATs are renowned for their firm ride and the new Ibiza FR does little to challenge that preconception. The suspension sends shudders through to the cabin, especially when dealing with sharper road imperfections, and proves particularly noticeable along motorway stretches.

Still, it puts forward its case on a more flowing road, where the body control and grip make a convincing argument. On the flip side the steering remains free from real feel and the sharp brake pedal can take some getting used to. But, for those after a sporting petrol supermini estate this new FR specification Ibiza ST proves a worthwhile addition to the segment.

What you get for your Money: 4 4 4 4 4

Considering its performance (sub-eight-second 0-62mph time and 130mph top speed) the economy and efficiency of this load lugger are truly impressive. The 139g/km CO2 output means annual road tax is only 120 and average fuel economy nearing 45mpg allows owners to go further between fill-ups.

FR trim adds such niceties as a flat-bottomed leather steering wheel, sports seats and the firm's clever XDS electronic differential for a sportier drive. Its 17,080 price isn't inconsequential though, but few rivals can offer such a blend of carrying capacity and performance.

Worth Noting

For now FR will be the most overtly sporting Ibiza in the new range, but the legendary Cupra model is on its way. With no changes to power output further down the range, you can expect the forthcoming hot hatch to retain the same 1.4-litre Twin-charged engine as tested here, mated only to the DSG gearbox - and sprightly performance. However, as before it will only be available on the three-door SC hatchback.

Summary

In some ways the 2.0-litre TDI estate makes more sense, especially for those with family and budget priorities, but regardless this 1.4-litre TSI is an appealing choice. And offering FR trim on its most practical Ibiza is a shrewd move by SEAT, allowing those looking to downsize (as many are) the opportunity to mix practicality with pleasure at the same time.


Graeme Lambert - 2 Apr 2012



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2012 SEAT Ibiza ST FR. Image by SEAT.2012 SEAT Ibiza ST FR. Image by SEAT.2012 SEAT Ibiza ST FR. Image by SEAT.2012 SEAT Ibiza ST FR. Image by SEAT.2012 SEAT Ibiza ST FR. Image by SEAT.

2012 SEAT Ibiza ST FR. Image by SEAT.2012 SEAT Ibiza ST FR. Image by SEAT.2012 SEAT Ibiza ST FR. Image by SEAT.2012 SEAT Ibiza ST FR. Image by SEAT.2012 SEAT Ibiza ST FR. Image by SEAT.



2012 SEAT Ibiza ST FR. Image by SEAT.
 

2012 SEAT Ibiza ST FR. Image by SEAT.
 

2012 SEAT Ibiza ST FR. Image by SEAT.
 

2012 SEAT Ibiza ST FR. Image by SEAT.
 

2012 SEAT Ibiza ST FR. Image by SEAT.
 

2012 SEAT Ibiza ST FR. Image by SEAT.
 

2012 SEAT Ibiza ST FR. Image by SEAT.
 






 

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