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SEAT Ibiza 2.0 TDI CR FR 5-door

Click to view picture gallery“SEAT has just added a new high-
  performance, low-CO2 FR sports
  model to its Ibiza line-up. Family and
  business user-friendly, it’s another
  potential hot seller for SEAT...

SEAT, THE SPANISH ARM of the Volkswagen Group, first came to the UK market in 1985 so 2010 is the marque's 25th anniversary here. The sporty Spanish brand now has a wide range of models to offer including the Leon family-sized five-door hatchbacks, the higher-roofed Altea and Altea XL five-door hatches-cum-MPVs, the Exeo saloon and roomy Sports Tourer estate and the large Alhambra MPV.

But it is SEAT's longest serving model range, the Ibiza, that still accounts for well over half of the brand's UK sales — it also happens to be the brand's best-selling model range worldwide. Available as three-door SC and five-door versions plus the soon-to-arrive ST estates and powered by a wide range of petrol, diesel and ECOmotive engines, the Ibiza models are all very competitively priced.

Ibiza prices range from 9,350 on-the-road up to 17,245. Engine sizes range from older 1.2, 1.4 and 1.6 petrol units through to the fiery latest VW Group 1.4 TSI petrol as well as 1.4 and 2.0-litre TDI diesels. Power comes in all sizes and many states of tune, ranging from 59 to 178bhp. And, depending on the engine and body style chosen, there's an extensive range of specification levels — from basic E through to the hugely entertaining 178bhp Cupra Bocanegra.

I have just had a very entertaining week driving the Ibiza five-door with the new FR (Formula Racing) specification and powered by the impressive 141bhp 2.0-litre TDI engine.

For the potential fleet and company car customers, this high-performance diesel engine has low CO2 emissions of 123g/km which allows for a First Year road tax cost of 0 and then 90 for year two onwards. Benefit-in-Kind company car tax is an attractively-low 13 per cent. With these figures fleet managers can no longer discourage company cars drivers from having a supermini-sized, hot performance car.

There is no downside as far as the purchase price, road tax or BIK taxes, and at 8E/19E insurance is not prohibitive. And it's still light on the fuel — officially 60.1mpg in the Combined Cycle and an impressive 54.5mpg during my test driving covering all types of motoring. Top speed is 130mph and 0 to 62mph takes 8.2 seconds. The Ibiza FR SC three-door model is also available with this engine.

“The gear changes
are slick, the steering
is very accurate
and precise,
and there’s loads
of front-end grip.
However, if petrol is your fuel then the impressive 146bhp 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine, with twin-clutch DSG auto transmission and paddle shift, is priced at 15,520.

Top speed is 130mph, 0-62mph takes 7.7 seconds, average fuel consumption is 44.8mpg, CO2 emissions are 146g/km, VED is 125, BIK company car tax is 18% and insurance groups are 11E/22E.

For me, of all the FR Ibiza versions, the five-door, 141bhp variant — or, as SEAT calls it, the 2.0 TDI CR — makes the most sense because of the low taxes, much better fuel economy, the pure performance and driveability the turbodiesel unit offers and the more user-friendly five-door body style.

It isn't, however, totally perfect because fifth and sixth gear ratios are relatively high so gear changes are more frequent than I like in a diesel powered car; and in fact the car will not run smoothly below 50mph in sixth gear. With the impressive maximum torque (236lb ft from 1,750rpm) in a five-door hatchback of this size, there should be lots of response in high gears making it a more memorable drive. As it is, it means lots more gear changing but the pay-offs are the low official CO2 emission figures which, of course, bear fruit when it comes to low taxes.

Low and mid-range acceleration are strong thanks to the torquey, free-revving and relatively quiet turbodiesel unit. Thankfully, the many gear changes are slick and the steering is very accurate and precise, giving good feedback, and there's loads of front-end grip.

On smooth motorways the ride comfort is just about okay but main and side roads with poorer surfaces and potholes bring out the worst in the ride control and comfort. Most SEAT models, sporty or not, are known to give a firm ride. The Ibiza FR is no different; worse in fact because of the faster speeds being used and the fitment of low profile tyres.

“Reasons to buy one
include the high
performance, low running
costs and taxes, good
fuel economy, attractive
purchase price, sharp
handling and the good
equipment tally
In addition to the hot performance, the Ibiza FR also looks 'hot' — courtesy of some distinctive styling extras including specific style bumpers, front honeycomb grilles with a chrome surround for the centre section, silver-coloured door mirrors, 215/40 tyres on bespoke 17-inch alloy wheels, twin exhaust pipes and FR badging.

Inside it is just as sporty, with a bespoke instrument display carrying the FR logo, sports steering wheel with a flat bottom rim but, oddly, not having any steering wheel-mounted controls. Sports front seats with stitched upholstery carry the FR logo.

Standard specification includes ESP stability programme and traction control with ABS and Brake Assist. There are front, side, head and thorax airbags, a split/folding rear seat, Hill Hold control, electrically-operated windows and heated door mirrors, good sound system with six speakers, cruise control, trip computer, remote central door locking and low tyre pressure warning.

Space in the front is impressive for what is classed as a 'supermini' — as in Fiesta, Corsa and Peugeot 207. The rear legroom is just about enough given the five-door Ibiza is just over four metres in length; not much shorter than a VW Golf. And, for the record, boot space can be as little as 292 litres or as much as 847 litres depending on how you configure the seats. This more family and business user-friendly five-door (rather than the three-door) bodystyle makes this new addition another potential hot seller for SEAT.

Reasons to buy one include the high performance, low running costs and taxes, good fuel economy, attractive purchase price, sharp handling and the good equipment tally. About the only niggle is the high fifth and sixth gear ratios that dull the full potential of the impressive torque. — David Miles

SEAT Ibiza 2.0 TDI CR FR 5-door
| 16,840
Maximum speed: 130mph | 0-62mph: 8.2 seconds | Overall test MPG: 54.5mpg
Power: 141bhp | Torque: 236lb ft | CO2 123g/km