What is it? The SEAT Ibiza FR is updated for 2012, as the Ibiza range gets a mid-life refresh. Changes are pretty subtle, though – sharper styled headlights and bumpers, new interior bits – and many models are now a little bit cheaper. This FR 1.4 TSI DSG costs from £15,875. Technical highlights? The top-spec petrol FR gets the VW group’s twin-charged 1.4-litre TSI engine, which uses both super- and turbocharging to endow it with power at both ends of its rev-range. It’s exclusively twinned to a seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox; thanks to those mild price cuts and, apparently, customer demand, it no longer gets steering wheel-mounted paddles, not even as an option. The more powerful Cupra model, due later in the year, will still have them. What’s it like to drive? The clever engine serves up 148bhp and 162lb ft of torque, and pace is impressive. It’ll rev cleanly and keenly to its red line, before the standard-fit seven-cog DSG gearbox changes up for you, regardless of whether you’ve pulled the knob into manual mode or not. And here lies the FR’s problem – its slick engine and gearbox combo rarely encourages you to grab the Ibiza by the scruff of its neck. Light, quick-witted steering and decent grip levels mean it isn’t a failure when you do, but it defaults to understeer when really pushed and the overwhelming impression is of a classy, fast supermini rather than a pulse-raising hot hatch. How does it compare? The warm hatchback class packs plenty of talent nowadays – if you don’t mind something raw, the Renaultsport Twingo is fantastic, if you want class and style, a basic Mini Cooper is hard to beat, and if you want a well-equipped all-rounder, the Suzuki Swift Sport is currently our choice. The Ibiza FR is a good looking, value-for-money alternative, but all three beat it for fun. Anything else I need to know? Your FR can be a three- or five-door hatchback or a five-door 'ST' estate, and on top of this 1.4 TSI, you’ve a choice of three other engines – a 104bhp 1.2-litre TSI, 104bhp 1.6-litre TDI and 141bhp 2-litre TDI. All three get a six-speed manual gearbox as the standard, and the latter is our favourite FR.
|Engine||1390cc, 4-cyl, twin-charged|
|Max power||148bhp @ 5800rpm|
|Max torque||162lb ft @ 1250rpm|