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SEAT Ibiza ST 1.6 TDI FR

We drive the facelifted SEAT Ibiza ST estate on UK roads for the first time

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

This sporty new model offers a well rounded package that gives the Ibiza estate a broader appeal than ever. The stylish fresh looks and added practicality make it an unusual proposition, as there aren’t many direct rivals – but the gruff 1.6-litre diesel can’t quite live up to the promise of the stylish exterior. The firm ride will deter some buyers, too.

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In a market that’s obsessed with crossovers, supermini estates such as the Ibiza ST are fast becoming an endangered species. Its only rivals are the Skoda Fabia Estate and Renault Clio Sport Tourer. However, SEAT has recently refreshed its Ibiza, and has even expanded the range to include the sporty FR tested here for the first time.
 
Angular new bumpers and a prominent central bonnet crease give the Ibiza a much sharper look than before, and the optional bi-xenon headlamps (£765) come with a row of funky upturned LED running lights.
 
The sharp styling does affect practicality, though, with the sloping roofline limiting rear headroom. Even so, the 430-litre boot is more than big enough for most people, and there’s added storage under the floor. Fold the rear seats flat and the luggage space swells to an impressive 1,164 litres, making the Ibiza ST surprisingly versatile.
 
Inside, updates such as smart new dials and gloss trim help to lift the cabin, but the Ibiza still feels a bit drab. The plastics on the dashboard look cheap and the centre console layout is dated. However, the FR model does add racy details such as a flat-bottomed leather steering wheel and sports seats.
 
The 104bhp 1.6-litre is the most powerful diesel available in the Ibiza ST, but it never feels as urgent or smooth as the 141bhp 2.0-litre TDI you can get in the hatch. It still gives punchy in-gear acceleration, and the five-speed transmission is slick and accurate, but it’s a shame SEAT doesn’t offer the larger engine. The 1.6-litre is very efficient, though, with economy of 65.7mpg and CO2 emissions of only 112g/km.
 
Overall the Ibiza ST handles well, and this FR version gets lowered sports suspension, bigger alloy wheels and an electronic differential to improve cornering agility. The trade-off for this dynamic poise is a ride that’s firmer than in lesser SE models.
 
At £16,380, the newcomer also undercuts even the entry-level versions of small crossovers such as the Skoda Yeti and Nissan Qashqai, and in this trim comes with much more standard equipment than either.
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