The Ibiza is enjoying something of a return to form. Inspired by the Leon Cupra, which is our current pick of the front-wheel drive hot hatch elite, the Ibiza’s engineers have set off a firecracker at the top of the range.
With the latest 1.8-litre turbocharged engine, a simplified driving mode structure (just Normal and Sport) and the benefit of the Leon’s research and development, the Ibiza Cupra is looking to take the sub-200bhp hot hatch fight to the class leaders. You don’t get a limited-slip differential of any sort, but the traction control is tuned to give the 189bhp pocket-rocket a longer leash. And the engine, well, the engine is an absolute peach.
There’s a real neatness about the Ibiza SC’s shape; three doors and a curvaceous roof line. On the Cupra Black model, gloss black alloy wheels and mirror covers give it that slightly modified look, like a miniature street racer. Shame about the two pea-shooter exhaust tips visible within the falsely menacing trapezoidal exit in the rear bumper, though.
Cupra is Seat’s traditional fast-car tag. Anything wearing that chequered flag-derived emblem has to have a certain level of performance and excitement about it, and anyone who knows the hot hatch scene will be well familiar. The fact that this Ibiza Cupra is more powerful than the first-generation Leon Cupra, which didn’t hang about, should give it a context that only adds desirability.
Leave the Sport button well alone and the Ibiza Cupra is brilliant. Quick steering launches at the apex like a duck at a crust.
Like in any three-door supermini, rear passengers need to squeeze past the fold-forward front seats, but the Ibiza’s run forwards quite a long way before returning to where you want them as opposed to ratcheting back into place at any old position as some other seats do.
You should be able to make good use of the hatchback boot. There’s plenty of space for arranging and stacking bags, although boot organisers and protective trays are optional. Rear parking sensors are available for a price, as are various roof bars, boxes and racks.
One note of caution: the 17in wheels protrude a long way outwards. Stay clear of kerbs!
Leave the Sport button well alone and the Ibiza Cupra is brilliant. Quick steering launches at the apex like a duck at a crust. The standard suspension is supple enough to soak up bumps even under modest power out of corners, which you can’t say for Sport — it gets badly skittish over choppy surfaces, so leave that button alone.
The engine is stupendously good. Minimal turbo lag between 1,500rpm and 2,500rpm gives way to mighty acceleration through the gears...
The engine is stupendously good. Minimal turbo lag between 1,500rpm and 2,500rpm gives way to mighty acceleration through the gears, and once you pass 3,000rpm it’s a bomb. Brute force, and lots of it. Tall gearing and a rev limiter set close to 7,000rpm is perfect for using the barrel-chested midrange through the twisties, between 2,500rpm and 5,500rpm. Do that and not much will keep up.
There’s no movement in the chassis but the grip is incredible. Lean on the outside tyres harder than you’ve ever dared before and it just sucks it up. A limited-slip differential would be a benefit, but the traction control is pretty well judged.
The interior is a bit plain in the context of the car. The perceived value would go up if there were a few more special design touches, but at least Seat hasn’t fallen into the trap of fitting cheap-looking trim inserts. It does look and feel solid. With this much power on tap the Cupra Black doesn’t look out of place against the bigger hot hatchbacks and their arguably superfluous extra size and poke.
This is a hot hatch of the old school, born into a later age. Its engine is more than powerful enough for (very) fast-road driving at the weekend, the shape and size is practical enough for everyday life, and the image thing gives it the prestige to impress (or annoy) the neighbours.
Younger drivers are the targets, clearly, but anyone looking for a manageable, rapid, stylish hot hatch should take a look.