SEAT has been producing hot hatches for decades and it clearly shows with the latest Ibiza Cupra. It’s much quicker than SEAT will lead you to believe, easy to live with day-to-day and relatively inexpensive to keep on the road. It’s also £1,000 less than the mechanically identical VW Polo GTI, despite being better to drive. In short, it’s a cracker and the best Ibiza Cupra to date.
Despite appearances, there have been some rather drastic but welcome changes to the hottest Ibiza supermini. The old 1.4-litre supercharged and turbocharged engine is out – along with the clunky automatic gearbox – and in comes a punchy 192bhp 1.8-litre turbo mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. It’s the same basic powertrain combination found in the Volkwagen Polo GTI.
Attached to the front axle is an XDS electronic differential to help govern the additional 70Nm of torque (now 320Nm), while adjustable dampers have also been added as standard for the first time.
SEAT says the Cupra will chase its way from 0-100kph in 6.7 seconds, but it feels much faster – so much faster we timed at less with little effort. It’s down to a slug of torque that arrives at 1,450rpm, and the long gearing that sees you nudge 110kph in second gear.
The engine revs to just shy of 7,000rpm, but it’s largely out of puff by 5,500rpm. So rather than chase the red line, it’s best to shift up early and ride that wave of torque. The Cupra is deceptively fast and sounds good, too. Selecting Sport mode stiffens up the dampers slightly, adds more weight to the steering and turns up the volume in the cabin. It’s largely synthetic, but you get a lovely rasp from the exhaust as the revs build. It just makes the whole experience a bit more characterful – a trait hot hatches need more than most sports cars.
Rifling through the gears is no longer the clunky and arduous task it once was, either, thanks to the new and standard six-speed manual box. Changes are weighty and slick, plus the steering has a directness to it that you just don’t get in the Polo. In its normal setting it’s a touch too light, but in Sport it gives the Cupra a feeling of agility that the VW lacks.
When driving on the Nordschleife for the first time you quickly realize that power is not the most important thing. Track knowledge is. The 73 corners will challenge even the most prepared driver so bringing a guide along on the first lap is highly recommended.
95% of all accidents are solo accidents which means that people drive over their own Nordschleife capabilities.
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All prices are excluding fuel and lap tickets