Bobbies take an interest in Autoblog UK first drive
This is the diesel version of SEAT's edgy-looking Ibiza FR, a warmed-up performance hatchback with a 2.0-litre TDI engine and more torque than a Porsche Cayman.
Rather than the sort of screaming high-revs persona we usually associate with conventional hot hatches, the diesel FR uses large swells of mid-range shove to thrust down the road. It'll do 0-62mph in a respectable 8.2 seconds but because it doesn't wail like a petrol hot hatch, and you don't thrash it until the valves pop out, it never really feels that fast. In fact it drives a bit like a tiny torque-laden grand tourer.
We proved as much on a bumpy Suffolk road, where the lack of real visceral thrill meant we were going quicker than usual and attracted the attention of a disgruntled copper who decided to offer some words of advice (or maybe he just wanted to look at the shiny new car?) after spotting us making progress around his county.
We slowed down. And that's when you discover that diesel-engined hot hatches do have other advantages, specifically that the Ibiza FR returns 60mpg when driven gently, so is very cheap to run. It's also in a relatively low insurance group which should help it appeal to the younger buyers that SEAT are after.
Money saving performance is a compelling plus point, and one that could make this semi-performance hatch a strong everyday proposition if only the ride and steering were better. Alright, so Britain's roads are rubbish, but the FR TDI too often felt fidgety and unsettled to the point of being harsh. Rivals at Renaultsport engineer higher-end suspension into their cars, which seems better suited to ironing out the bumps on our rutted roads.
That doesn't make this a bad car, though. It is still sort of quick because of the 2.0-litre diesel engine's abundance of torque and it still stops and turns with more verve than an everyday hatchback. But we wonder if there's a danger that SEAT is sticking the FR badge on cars that don't really warrant it. And it's not like the FR TDI is particularly cheap, either. It has merits but there are better warm hatches out there.