Seat Ibiza Cupra – International Press Launch

Seat’s new Ibiza Cupra is the Spanish brands latest hot-hatch but as we discovered at its international launch in Barcelona, its more than just a big engine squeezed into a small car. A quick walk through of the main details by Seat’s product guru Neil Reeve reveals a very clever 1.4 litre TSI engine with dual-charged induction that’s knocking out 180 bhp and 250 Nm of torque which should bode well for a car of this size. It completes the 0-100 km/h dash is 6.9 seconds and claims fuel consumption of just 5.9 l/100 km which would appear like the ‘enjoyneers’ may have possibly gotten their maths wrong – best go find out if they’re right.

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Visually the Ibiza Cupra has a sporty, purposeful stance even while parked. It sits 15mm lower and on 17″ alloys exclusive to the Cupra. The front end is dominated by a huge air intake that’s crowned by those recognisably-Cupra four vents below the grille. New headlamp units with LED daytime running lights not only help compliment the sharp front-end design but also give a slightly more premium look to the little Ibiza. Behind the split-spoke alloys are (optional) AP Racing performance brakes with Seat Sport logos.

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Jumping in for the first drive and the immediate items of note on the interior are the cool two tone sports seats which hug their occupants (but not too tight) and the flat bottoms perforated leather steering wheel behind which are the shift paddles for the standard 7-speed DSG gearbox. On top of the centre console is the now standard Seat Portable System which incorporates sat-nav, bluetooth and media streaming. Twist that ignition key and you’re greeted but a rather meaty sound from that engine.

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Pulling out onto the smooth roads around Barcelona, my first test would be to get the Ibiza Cupra down the C31 motorway into downtown Barcelona to see how the DSG box performs in city driving. Pressing hard on the throttle pedal in the Cupra generates a fantastic engine note inside the cabin and certainly encourages el diablo on your shoulder to press it harder.  In standard D mode the DSG shift ever-so smoothly while slipping it into S makes it hold onto the gears a good deal longer allowing you to get every bit of that 180 bhp from the TSI engine. The stop-start nature of the city’s traffic makes the DSG ‘box a joy to live with. As you’d expect from the VW-developed box it stays buttery smooth throughout.

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City driving is one thing but doesn’t offer the best test of the Ibiza Cupra’s 250 Nm of torque so the twisty hill rounds are called for and this is where it really shines. The stiffer suspension combined with the XDS electronic differential lock virtually eliminates understeer and allows the driver to push quite hard through even the tightest of corners. The XDS works by applying a small amount of braking to the inside wheel when cornering to limit wheelspin. This combined with the standard fit low profile 215/40 R17 tyres give the Ibiza more than enough grip.

Overall the Cupra represents a very well-rounded package combining sharp looks with performance and handle that match. The most impressive discovery from the first drive of the Ibiza Cupra is that fuel economy – despite a near full day of hard driving it still had almost a full tank of fuel left. It appears to be a much sexier alternative to the Fabia VRS and if the expected price of circa €23K materialises it could be a good value buy for the performance-hatch lovers of this world.