Living with a Seat Ibiza Cupra: Fourth report

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The Ibiza Cupra has settled into the office car park well, but as I've been
discovering this month, it belongs out on the open road.

Until recently, I thought the little Seat was quick and well built but a touch
too dull and sensible to mix it with hot-hatch royalty such as the Ford Fiesta
ST and Peugeot 208 GTi.

After a couple of long trips home and a quick visit to the Yorkshire Dales,
however, I'm now completely sold on the Cupra.

First of all, it really is fast, and the comparatively large displacement of its
1.8-litre engine gives it a meatier feel than some of its rivals, as well as
genuinely decent real-world economy. On a long run, the trip computer told me it
had managed 46.7mpg – a slight improvement on the official economy figure and
respectable considering I wasn't exactly hanging about.

It's fairly comfortable, too, managing to iron out the lumps and bumps of
Britain's motorways without hesitation. The only complaint is that when I'm
stuck in traffic for too long it completely ruins my back. I can only assume
this is something to do with my left leg hitting the clutch at a strange angle.

It even has a big-car feel, with the impeccable build quality you'd expect from
a VW product and plenty of equipment, such as satellite navigation and Apple Car
Play.



I still find the cabin a little bit bland – there are some vast expanses of
plain plastic on the passenger side and the black-and-grey interior colour
scheme is hardly revolutionary – but I actually like that little bit of
understatement and stealthiness. To the casual observer, it's just another
Ibiza. Then it dashes away from the lights like a stabbed rat.

When the time came to take the Ibiza into the Dales, I discovered just how
quickly it can move. The 190bhp output isn't as impressive as it was when the
Cupra was first revealed, but it's more than enough to drive the three-door
supermini on to impressive speeds in a relatively short space of time.

When the turbo's on song it makes a good noise, too, and I took more than a
little childish pleasure from the whooshy turbo wastegate sounds produced on the
overrun.

I enjoyed it so much that I even made peace with the Seat over my main bone of
contention – the steering. From my all-too-brief previous encounters, I had
noticed that the wheel felt light and inert in my hands – an unpleasant contrast
to the solid feel of a Fiesta ST's wheel.

On the twisting roads of the Dales, it never really felt reassuring, but I grew
used to it, estimating with relative success just how much lock was needed for
each corner. I don't know whether it's just me, but I felt like it weighted up a
bit in 'Sport' mode, which was welcome, but the firmness of the ride on
Yorkshire's rutted roads was less so.

All in all, though, I like the Ibiza. I like the way it doesn't shout about its
power and the way it just slots into my life so easily. Maybe I'm growing out of
traditional hot hatches, but given £25,000 and a choice of fast superminis, I
know which dealership I'd end up in. From now on, anyone who wants the keys to
our Ibiza is going to have to fight me for them.

Model: Ibiza Cupra
Price: £18,900
Engine: 1.8-litre turbocharged petrol
Power: 189bhp
Max speed: 146mph
0-60mph: 6.8 seconds
Emissions: 145g/km
Mpg: 45.6mpg (combined)
Mileage this month: 300

By James Fossdyke