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SEAT Ibiza SC FR vs Ford Fiesta Zetec S Black Edition

Which warm hatch offers a better balance of driving thrills and low bills: the revised SEAT Ibiza FR or the Ford Fiesta Zetec S?

Hot hatchbacks can be great fun, and are perfectly sized for UK roads., But as some offer a firm ride, steep running costs and enough performance to humble some sports cars, they might not be to everyone's taste.

If you need a car to better cope with day-to-day jobs, but also deliver some fast-paced fun at the weekend, there are a select few warm hatches out there - and we've lined up two of the best for an Auto Express road test head-to-head.

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SEAT updated its sharp Ibiza supermini late last year, adding more customisation options to enhance its angular design, while inside, extra connectivity tech, increased cabin space and higher-quality materials boosted the car's appeal.

In sporty FR trim and with the firm's punchy 1.4-litre turbo EcoTSI petrol engine, the Ibiza has a useful slug of power, as well as some clever efficiency tech. As a result, it offers the best of both worlds.

But so does the racy Ford Fiesta Zetec S Black Edition. It uses the company's downsized 1.0-litre EcoBoost turbo to balance pace and economy, plus styling from the Fiesta ST ensures it looks the part.

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Only a few hundred pounds seperate these cars on price, so this test will come down to which delivers greater driving thrills and lower annual bills.

Head-to-head

Versatility vs fun

Boot space is important, and although there's not much to split our two contenders here, there's a difference in usability.

While the SEAT is easier to load, and offers more space inside as well as more advanced connectivity kit, you can forgive the Ford's small drawbacks in these areas because it's so much more fun to drive.

Technology

Smarter materials and improved connectivity give the Ibiza a much-needed injection of appeal, while at the same time highlighting the Fiesta's ageing kit list. But you have to pay for these items, and the options more than on the Ford, cancelling out the SEAT's price advantage.

Fast and frugal

Both cars use downsized turbocharged engines to deliver a blend of fast-paced action and frugal running costs.

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Yet while the advanced cylinder deactivation tech and extra power make the Ibiza faster on paper, it's simply not as fun to drive as the Fiesta.

Verdict

First place: Ford Fiesta Zetec S Black Edition

The Fiesta is still great to drive, and this Zetec S Black Edition adds that extra edge of sharpness and composure, without sacrificing running costs. In areas, the Ford looks and feels a bit dated, but the car's chassis, engine and steering are still brilliant. It's so engaging that it takes top spot here. Plus, it's good value, while the practicality drawbacks are only small compared to the Ibiza.

Second place: Seat Ibiza SC FR

While the extra customisation options and kit mean the Ibiza is just about competitive, the driving experience of this sportier hatch doesn't live up to the billing - or it's rival here. Its clever engine tech helped it record better fuel economy on test, but its numbers on paper mean it'll be costlier to run than the Ford, and it's only slightly more usable.

Other options in this category:

New: Volkswagen Polo 1.4 TSI BlueGT

Price: £18,105 
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Engine: 1.4-litre 4cyl, 148bhp
VW Polo BlueGT - front action

The Polo BlueGT uses the same engine as the ibiza, so you get the same blend of pace and efficiency thanks to the cylinder deactivation tech. But the smarter styling and higher-quality cabin make the VW a more appealing package.

Used: Ford Fiesta ST-3

Price: £16,800
Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl, 180bhp
Ford Fiesta ST - front

For around £150 less than the price of a new Black Edition, you could pick up a top-spec Fiesta ST-3 with delivery mileage. It offers punchier performance and more kit, but the addictive engine won't let you balance bills and thrills quite as well.

Figures

 Ford Fiesta Zetec S Black EditionSEAT Ibiza SC EcoTSI FR
On the road price/total as tested£16,945/£18,645£16,245/£17,790
Residual value (after 3yrs/36,000)£7,574/44.7%£6,875/42.3%
Depreciation£9,371£9,370
Annual tax liability std/higher rate£507/£1,013£550/£1,101
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)£1,611/£2,686£1,440/£2,400
Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost18/£438/B/£2023/£562/C/£30
Servicing costs£550 (3yrs)£20 pcm (3yrs/30k)
   
Length/wheelbase3,982/2,489mm4,066/2,469mm
Height/width1,495/1,709mm1,424/1,693mm
Engine3cyl in-line/998cc4cyl in-line/1,395cc
Peak power/revs 138/6,000 bhp/rpm148/5,000 bhp/rpm
Peak torque/revs 210/1,400 Nm/rpm250/1,500 Nm/rpm
Transmission 5-spd man/fwd6-spd man/fwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel42 litres/£10045 litres/£100
Boot capacity (seats up/down)290/974 litres292/847 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight1,128/422/900kg1,143/487/1,200kg
Turning circle/drag coefficient10.1 metres/N/A10.0 metres/N/A
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery3yrs (60,000)/1yr3yrs (60,000)/2yrs
Service intervals/UK dealers12,500 miles (1yr)/78110,000 miles (1yr)/128 
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.25th/26th15th/32nd
NCAP: Adult/child/ped./assist/stars91/86/65/71/5 (2012)82/77/59/71/5 (2011)
   
0-60/30-70mph8.7/7.7 secs7.8/6.4 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th3.7/5.0 secs3.2/4.3 secs
50-70mph in 5th/6th7.2 secs/N/A 5.7/7.5 secs
Top speed/rpm at 70mph 125mph/3,000rpm137mph/2,500rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph 54.9/33.9/9.4m54.0/35.0/10.0m
Noise outside/idle/30/70mph71/52/65/74dB 72/52/68/75dB 
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range34.5/7.6/319 miles38.6/8.5/382 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 50.4/72.4/62.8mpg47.1/68.9/58.9mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 11.1/15.9/13.8mpl10.4/15.2/13.0mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket189/104g/km/15%169/112g/km/17%
   
Airbags/Isofix/park sensors/cameraSeven/yes/£200/noSix/yes/£220/£230 
Auto box/stability/cruise ctrl/AEB*No/yes/£150/£200No/yes/yes/no
Climate control/leather/heated seats£275/no/£175£320/no/no
Met paint/xenon lights/keyless goYes/no/no£530/£425/no
Sat-nav/USB/DAB radio/Bluetooth£400/yes/yes/yes£580/yes/yes/yes
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