SEAT Ibiza Cupra

SEAT Ibiza Cupra front action
Credits: Pete Gibson
25 Jan, 2013 9:45am Luke Madden

The revised SEAT Ibiza Cupra is better looking, faster and more comfortable, but is it good enough to compete with the new Ford Fiesta ST?


The Ibiza Cupra is now subtly better than it ever has been. Not only is it slightly quicker but SEAT has also managed to make it cheaper to run and a little bit more comfortable, too. Updates to the styling and the interior help to maintain the upmarket feel and the long list of standard kit means the £18,570 price-tag isn’t likely to go much higher. Still, it is more expensive than the upcoming Fiesta ST and that could turn out to be a bit of an issue for SEAT.

The SEAT Ibiza had a bit of a makeover in 2012 but until now the Cupra performance version was left untouched. That’s all changed now - and just in time, too, because Ford is gearing up to release its Fiesta ST any day now and Renault is looking to replace the Renaultsport Clio this year.

The Ibiza Cupra looks prepared for a fight, though, and while it’s always been a good-looking car, this facelifted model is even better looking. The exterior changes amount to a new nose, a set of bi-xenon headlights with a stylish LED shape and some new taillights at the rear.

Power comes from the same twin-charged 178bhp 1.4-litre TSI but with an engine re-map that’s dropped the 0-62mph time by three-tenths to 6.9 seconds – that’s exactly the same as the forthcoming Fiesta ST.

Impressively, the same engine remap has improved fuel economy by 8 per cent, up to 47.9mpg and dropped CO2 emissions by 9g/km to 139g/km.

Changes to the way the Cupra drives are pretty minimal, with a few tweaks to the suspension aimed at improving comfort. There’s a noticeable improvement to the ride, though, which feels a lot more forgiving over bumpy roads. Potholes are heard as a ‘thud’ more than they’re actually felt in the cabin.

Handling is seriously impressive thanks to the near complete lack of body roll and a quick steering rack, which lets you throw the Cupra from corner to corner. There’s loads of grip, too, and an XDS electronic differential to help snub out understeer. However, the steering itself is a little light and could do with more providing more feedback.

The 1.4 TSI engine is fantastic during any kind of driving, with enough low-end torque for dawdling around town and plenty of punch at the top end. It sounds great as well, with a low growling exhaust note combined with the whoosh of turbo waste gates.

Our car was fitted with larger optional racing brakes, which are an extra £1,000 and while they provided immense stopping power and good pedal feel, we’ve never had complaints about the standard brakes on the Cupra.

The seven-speed DSG auto is as fantastic as ever, making the Cupra seriously usable in traffic and around town. It still can’t match the purity of a manual but selecting your own gears using the steering wheel-mounted paddles comes close.

There are some improvements to the interior, including a redesigned centre console. The gearshift surround is finished in gloss black along with the door handles and the steering wheel insert, helping to make the Cupra feel more premium.

Buyers will no doubt be impressed by the amount of gadgets included as standard like climate control, cruise control, Bluetooth and SEAT’s Portable system, which includes touchscreen sat-nav.

The Ibiza Cupra costs £18,570, which is about £600 more than the new Fiesta ST-2. The Cupra is the better equipped of the two but there’s definitely room for the Fiesta and the new Renaultsport Clio to offer more fun from behind the wheel.

Disqus - noscript is already offering the Cupra for £15,228 .. helps take some of the high list price blow!

I sat in a Cupra a couple of months ago at a dealer, it was nice but I couldn't help but notice there wasn't much difference compared to the FR. The lack of no proper manual gearbox option is also disappointing.

Wow! Thats pretty much what I paid for a Leon FR 3 years ago. I think its a great little car the Ibiza, but agree there's not enough to justify the premium over the FR version IMO.

That car looks very very very boring! And it has a grands worth of brakes on the options list, A GRAND! It is a Seat right?
Pug have announced the 208 GTI will start from 18,9. So even that is priced above the ST. Will be some very interesting group tests coming out me thinks....

Interestingly in spite of having the same power output as the Ford Fiesta ST and a 20bhp less than Peugeot 208 GTI, the Seat Ibiza Cupra races to 62mph faster than both its rivals. The good pretty much ends here.

Cupra is two grand pricier than Fiesta which will beat it in handling and ride quality. Similarly priced 208 not only looks stunning we can expect it to handle better too. The deal-breaker for me though is the car's auto transmission.

Its a shame they haven't used the opportunity to offer a manual gearbox which would take about a grand off the list price, produce slightly better emissions and mpg, reduce weight and make it a better driver's car in the process. As it stands the value for money evident in the rest of the Ibiza range is wasted - the dsg box has a place but not here.

hasn't this engine got reliability issues??

The Ibiza is one ugly, down-market-looking car no matter what bells and whistles you add to it.

Key specs

  • Price: £18,570
  • Engine: 1.4-litre turbo/supercharged 4cyl
  • Power: 178bhp
  • Transmission: Seven-spd auto
  • 0-62mph: 6.9 seconds
  • Top speed: 142mph
  • Economy: 47.9mph
  • CO2: 139g/km
  • Equipment: Climate control, cruise control, sat-nav, Bluetooth, bi-xenon headlights
  • On sale: Now