Ibiza hots up with FR

It's amazing how fast hot-htachbacks have become, writes Steve Walker. The constant battle to outdo each other among the leading manufacturers has pushed the limits to a point where we don't bat an eyelid when compact family car is announced that can cover the 0-62mph sprint in under seven seconds.

It's amazing how fast hot-htachbacks have become, writes Steve Walker. The constant battle to outdo each other among the leading manufacturers has pushed the limits to a point where we don't bat an eyelid when compact family car is announced that can cover the 0-62mph sprint in under seven seconds.

At the top end of the shopping rocket market, things get pretty extreme and very expensive. These are cars that are great to marvel at in the pages of a magazine but if we were spending our own money on a hot-hatch, most of us would take a cautionary step back from the edge and get something a little more sensible. A SEAT Ibiza FR TDI perhaps?

The 2.0-litre TDI engine is a hefty piece of metalwork to fit into a supermini, particularly one with the sporting intent of the Ibiza FR TDI.

A less-advanced 1.9-litre unit worked well in the previous-generation Ibiza Cupra TDI, however, and when you need genuinely lively performance from a diesel, there's little alternative but to go large. The engine produces 143PS in the Ibiza FR TDI and a massive slug of torque is positioned usefully low in the rev range. It's this low-down muscle that will have the greater impact on the FR TDI's performance, making it feel quicker in real world driving than even the 8.2 seconds 0-62mph time would suggest. The top speed, where conditions allow, is 130mph.


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The FR TDI is based around the three and five-door SEAT Ibiza bodystyles, the three-door being dubbed the Sports Coupe in recognition of its rakish lines and sporty stance. To this framework, the FR adds sports bumpers at the front and rear ends, 17in alloy wheels and an upgraded interior that includes sports seats along with various trim enhancements.

The Ibiza runs on the Volkswagen Group's latest small car platform dubbed the 'agile chassis'. The car features a wider front and rear tracks to give it a four-square, planted stance on the road while the body structure is extremely rigid to enhance the driving dynamics.

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Positioned towards the top end of the Ibiza range, the FR TDI comes with a detailed specification. All models get ESP stability control, climate control air-conditioning, sports suspension and an MP3-compatible CD stereo.

Also thrown in is the XDS electronic differential system which uses the stability control function to mimic the action of a mechanical limited slip differential.

For a hot hatchback, the Ibiza FR TDI should prove agreeably affordable to run. It wasn't that long ago when car buyers had to settle for some tiny citycar with a power output equivalent to their kitchen blender in order to benefit from 60mpg economy. Today, the SEAT Ibiza FR TDI returns 62.7mpg and 119g/km carbon dioxide emissions while also harbouring the performance to harry Porsches on a twisty road. Company car drivers who thought a proper hot-hatch would equate to the mother of all tax bills might like to reconsider in the light of this SEAT.

The FR TDI isn't one of the quickest hot-hatchbacks around but it can certainly shift when prompted and it looks like it means business, making the most of the Ibiza's attractive styling.

With economy close to 63mpg, it should be refreshingly affordable to run and its availability with the three or five-door Ibiza bodystyles means buyers can go for extra visual impact or practicality.

SEAT IBIZA FR TDI

PRICE: from �16,465 on the road

PERFORMANCE: 0-62mph 8.2 seconds; top speed 130mph

MPG: combined 62.7

EMISSIONS: 119g/km

INSURANCE GROUP: 11 (estimated)

WILL IT FIT IN THE GARAGE: Length 4,034mm; width 1,693mm; height 1,428mm

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