SEAT Ibiza FR 1.5 TSI Evo review

Warm hatchback arrives with powerful turbo engine, but is it fun enough to justify its price premium?

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

Price alone means this new 1.5-litre TSI Evo engine misses out on our ‘pick of the range’ accolade. It’s punchy, refined and respectably economical, but the cheaper three-cylinder cars offer almost all the fun for a fraction of the cost. If you’ve got your heart set on a warm (but not quite hot) Ibiza, then you won’t be disappointed, however.

We’ve already been promised big plans for SEAT’s forthcoming Cupra sub-brand. But until the standalone models arrive, bosses are looking to add a little heat into the line-up by installing the VW Group’s new 1.5-litre TSI Evo engine across the range.

First up is the firm’s Ibiza supermini. Available only in FR trim, the four-cylinder TSI Evo engine is now the most powerful (and most expensive) Ibiza on sale – packing 148bhp and 250Nm of torque. That means 0-62mph in a sprightly 7.9 seconds, as well as a 134mph top speed.

Best hatchbacks on sale

The Ibiza has been one of our favourite and finest handling small cars, since it launched earlier this year. Its taut chassis control and direct steering mean even the most basic 1.0-litre cars are fun to drive, while the snappy gearbox is a great match, too.

By choosing this new 1.5-litre turbo petrol engine, you’ll ramp up the power without much impact on running costs or refinement. The Ibiza remains a funky but grown-up choice that is as at home on the motorway as it is zipping around town. The ride is on the firm side – especially on our car’s optional 18-inch (£325) alloy wheels – but the engine is quiet even at high speeds.

Acceleration is brisk, but SEAT’s sub-eight-second 0-62mph claim seems a little ambitious. Proper hot hatchbacks like the Peugeot 208 GTi are much more lively, especially with regards to in-gear punch. Still, it requires very little effort to make swift progress, especially when accelerating off motorway slip roads.

Of course, you get all the same niceties as you’ll find in the 1.0-litre FR, including the glorious touchscreen system with built-in sat-nav, sporty body kit and jazzier seats. Cruise control, air conditioning and SEAT’s Drive Profile adjustable drive modes are also included. The driving position is good, and visibility is decent – even without the optional parking sensors or reversing camera.

Our only real reservation with this new engine is the price. While the £1,050 premium may seem trivial – especially on a competitive PCP deal – the excellent 113bhp 1.0 TSI will offer most buyers more than enough performance and practicality day-to-day. Its lower CO2 emissions (108g/km vs 112g/km) put it in a cheaper BiK company car tax band, too.

Fuel economy is barely affected, however, and our car’s cylinder-on-demand technology means it can run on just two cylinders when cruising on low throttle. If you regularly carry passengers, the added oomph could come in handy, too.

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