Advertisement

SEAT Ibiza Cupra vs Volkswagen Polo GTI

Has SEAT's revamp of the Ibiza Cupra upped the fun factor enough for it to beat sister brand Volkswagen's Polo GTI?

SEAT has a strong track record when it comes to building scorching hot hatchbacks. Its Leon Cupra has scooped the Best Hot Hatch award two years in a row at our New Car Awards, having seen off talented rivals in the form of the Ford Fiesta ST and Volkswagen Golf GTI.

Advertisement - Article continues below

Best hot hatchbacks

However, every time the brand has tried to apply its performance-car treatment to its supermini-sized Ibiza, the results have been lacklustre. But now there’s a new Ibiza Cupra model on sale; it boasts a more powerful 1.8-litre turbocharged engine that replaces the old 1.4-litre turbo and supercharged unit, and it delivers greater performance and improves efficiency in the process.

The Ibiza will have to overcome its closest rival to take victory here, though, as the Polo GTI from sister brand Volkswagen uses the very same engine and platform.

Unlike its predecessor, the Ibiza now also comes with a six-speed manual box, which adds extra driver involvement. Plus, it’s £995 cheaper to buy than the Polo, but is this and its sportier image enough to see it conquer parent company VW and its GTI heritage? 

Head to head

Heritage

SEAT’s Cupra performance division has been around for 20 years. Although it can’t match the 41-year history of VW’s GTI badge, it’s worthy competition to established hot-hatch players. The Ibiza may not boast quite as much quality or panache, but it doesn’t totally live in the shadow of its Leon big brother, either. 

Driving modes

Both the VW and SEAT feature adjustable driving modes to tune their character, but the Ibiza’s has the broader repertoire, offering more comfort in Normal and greater focus in Sport. This is standard on the Cupra, whereas the Sport performance pack is a £250 option on the Polo GTI.

How many doors?

Only the Polo GTI is available in three and five-door form (the latter is £630 extra), so if you’ll be carrying passengers regularly, the VW will be a better bet. The Polo is also the only car that gets the option of a seven-speed DSG auto, adding £1,245.

Verdict

First place: SEAT Ibiza Cupra

The Ibiza Cupra doesn't hold its value as well or feel quite as upmarket inside as the Polo GTI, but it's more fun to drive. That's what matters most here, and it sees the SEAT take victory by the slightest of margins. There's enough practicality on offer to make the Cupra usable day-to-day, while its more comfortable ride, effervescent personality and sharper agility will put a smile on your face.

Second place: Volkswagen Polo GTI

Next to the Cupra, the GTI feels like a more sensible choice. There's still impressive performance on offer and more practicality, but its higher price counts against it in a sector where fun and affordability matter more. Ultimately, the VW doesn't have as much character as the SEAT, but if quality and refinement matter more, then the Polo GTI is worth a look.

Coming soon

Ford Fiesta ST200

Ford Fiesta ST200 - front
Due: Summer 2016
Advertisement - Article continues below
Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below
Price: £20,000 (est)
Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl, 197bhp

Our current compact hot-hatch king's been treated to a mid-life makeover. Power is up from 180bhp to 197bhp, while there's exclusive Storm Grey paint and two-tone alloys. Expect the ST200 to hit dealers later this summer.

Figures

 SEAT Ibiza CupraVolkswagen Polo GTI 3dr
On-the-road price/total as tested£18,100/£19,210£19,095/£21,705
Residual value (after 3yrs/30,000)£7,251/40.1%£9,076/47.5%
Depreciation£10,849£10,019
Annual tax liability std/higher rate£931/£1,862£908/£1,815
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)£1,707/£2,845£1,587/£2,645
Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost29/£677/F/£14529/£667/E/£130
Servicing costs£498 (3yrs/30,000m)£288 (2yrs)
   
Length/wheelbase4,055/2,469mm3,983/2,468mm
Height/width1,420/1,693mm1,443/1,682mm
Engine4cyl in-line/1,798cc4cyl in-line/1,798cc
Peak power 189/4,300 bhp/rpm189/4,200 bhp/rpm
Peak torque 320/1,450 Nm/rpm320/1,450 Nm/rpm
Transmission 6-spd man/fwd6-spd man/fwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel45 litres/space-saver45 litres/space-saver
Boot capacity (seats up/down) 292/847 litres204/882 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight1,260/440kg/N/A1,272/513/1,100kg
Turning circle10.0 metres10.6 metres
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery3yrs (60,000)/2yrs3yrs (60,000)/1yr
Service intervals/UK dealers10,000 miles (1yr)/128Variable/223
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.18th/27th^24th/30th^
NCAP: Adult/child/ped./assist/stars82/77/59/71/5 (2011)90/86/41/71/5 (2009)
   
0-60/30-70mph6.4/5.3 secs6.4/5.4 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th 2.8/3.6 secs2.6/3.5 secs
50-70mph in 5th/6th 4.6/5.3 secs4.4/5.4 secs
Top speed/rpm at 70mph 146mph/2,500rpm146mph/2,500rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph 47.4/33.7/8.7m46.9/35.1/9.3m
Noise levels outside/idle/30/70mph64/52/67/76dB64/52/69/76dB
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range34.3/7.6/340 miles36.9/8.1/365 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined36.2/53.3/45.6mpg37.2/55.4/47.1mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined8.0/11.7/10.0mpl8.2/12.2/10.4mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket190/145g/km/26%177/139g/km/24%
   
Airbags/Isofix/park sensors/cameraFour/yes/£220/noFour/yes/£295/£240
Auto gearbox/stability/cruise controlNo/yes/yes£1,245/yes/£400
Climate control/leather/heated seatsYes/no/no£380/no/£360
Metallic paint/xenon lights/keyless go£530/yes/no£545/LED/no
Sat-nav/USB/DAB radio/Bluetooth£580/yes/yes/yes£700/yes/yes/yes
Advertisement
Advertisement

Most Popular

New Skoda Octavia vRS 2020 ride review
Skoda Octavia vRS Hatchback

New Skoda Octavia vRS 2020 ride review

We get our first taste of 242bhp Skoda Octavia vRS with Skoda tech development boss Christian Strube in the driver’s seat
10 Jul 2020
New Kia e-Niro 2020 review
Kia e-Niro SUV

New Kia e-Niro 2020 review

All-electric Kia e-Niro mid-sized SUV 
benefits from same updates as hybrid Niro versions
9 Jul 2020
New Cupra el-Born electric hot hatch offers 310-mile range
Cupra el-Born

New Cupra el-Born electric hot hatch offers 310-mile range

The sporty Cupra el-Born is the Spanish brand’s first all-electric vehicle – and it has a maximum claimed range of 310 miles
8 Jul 2020