The SEAT Ibiza looks good in its fancy FR trim, doesnít it? In fact, itís arguably better looking than the Volkswagen Polo, more glamorous than the Skoda Fabia and sharper than the Audi A1. It certainly talks a good talk ñ 17-inch alloy wheels, rear privacy glass, black and chrome cosmetic upgrades and twin exhausts. But scratch beneath the surface, and youíll see that the Ibiza FR canít quite walk the walk. The twin exhausts are fake news.
There is, in fact, just a single exhaust, hidden away behind the rear bumper and itís cosmetic trickery. I wouldnít exactly call it smoke and mirrors because, well, thereís no exhaust smoke to speak of, not from the very back anyway. But does it matter? SEAT isnít alone in this act of illusion, and the majority of onlookers will be fooled. As the teenagers in the village said: ìThe car looks sick, dude.î
Itís not as though the FR is all show and no go. The sports suspension, rear disc brakes, sports seats, flat-bottom steering wheel and four selectable drive modes combine to create a driving experience that could rival any junior hot hatch. The ride is suitably firm, but not to the extent that itís uncomfortable, while the car corners with virtually no body roll. In fact, the weakest link from an entertainment perspective is the 94bhp 1.6-litre diesel engine. Thereís plenty of mid-range torque for ease of overtaking, but the off-the-line performance is sluggish, and it all gets a little coarse when the engine is worked hard. Itís an engine that feels more at home on a motorway when it cruises quietly at just below 2,000rpm at 70mph. Itís also economical at these speeds ñ I saw 72.1mpg on a recent 100-mile stint on the M5. The best of both worlds, then? A comfortable and quiet motorway slogger and a sharp and nimble supermini for the back roads. Put it this way: nine times out of ten Iíll peel off the M5 near Tiverton and take the country roads across mid-Devon rather than continuing down to Exeter and on to the A30. The route is more direct, but takes longer and is a tremendous amount of fun. Thereís even a decent farm shop, which is far superior to any motorway services this side of Gloucester.
Speaking of Exeter, this month I received an email from the SEAT press office telling me that the car had received a parking fine following a late-night visit to the city. Itís from one of those private parking firms, which I must thank for plunging the car park into near darkness, making it impossible to see the payment machines, let alone the signs. Not much I can do other than pay the fine. My first fine and the most Iíll ever pay for an hour of parking. Unless I drive to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea any time soon. Sadly, the parking ticket is very much real and definitely not fake news. Shame.
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Date arrived 28th August 2018
Fuel economy 74.3mpg (combined) 51.3mpg (on test)
The rear of the Ibiza FR
“looks sick, dude”.
But the ‘twin exhausts’
are smoke and mirrors.