Seat unleashes its pocket rocket

Road test: Seat Ibiza Cupra Sport

Self-denial in the name of a social conscience is officially over. Or at least it is as far as cars are concerned. Why else would a magazine called Max Power, full of souped-up hatchbacks painted in outrageous colours, be the most popular motoring rag in Britain? No doubt we can put this phenomenon, and the regrettable laddishness that goes with it, down to youthful rebellion. But there has always been a case for a good, hot hatchback, and on the back of its extreme resurgence in youth culture comes a rebirth in the mainstream.

Into this encouraging auto-sociological scenario is pitched Seat's latest and hottest Ibiza, the 2.0 GTi 16V, which is powered by an engine lifted from Volkswagen's Golf GTI 16V. The Ibiza is a small car, virtually a supermini, and a 2.0-litre engine with 150bhp ready to burst forth is a big motor for one so small. The idea of big-engined tiddler has always appealed, which is why the Peugeot 205 GTI 1.9 and the Renault Clio Williams came close to cult status among connoisseurs of driving, and this new Seat fills just perfectly the gap left by their demise.

There have been rapid Ibizas before, specifically a 1.8 16V, and a 2.0- litre with a lazier eight-valve engine, but the combination of cubic capacity and free-breathing valve-gear lifts the experience to a new level. You can guess this even before you scorch off into the distance, because the Seat sits on 12-spoked alloy wheels of enormous dimensions. There are various items of aerodynamic addenda, too, and inside we find rainbow- hued seat facings and silver dials to relieve the dark dourness elsewhere in the cabin.

What you don't see outside, though, is an obvious exhaust pipe. That won't impress the Max Power folk at all. You do hear its presence, though. It emits not the expected rorty rasp, but a whoosh like that of a huge hairdrier a fraction of a second after you press the accelerator. Simultaneously, the small Seat shoots forward - even if you're in a high gear and starting your spurt from a low speed - as though near-weightless.

That's one of the most appealing features of this crazy little car. It hurtles with so little apparent effort, with potent push on offer right up to 7,000rpm. This is not the sweetest of engines, but its muscles are abundant. And the easy hurtling ability is especially useful given the gear change's obstructiveness - some honing is needed here - because you are not forever having to shift up and down to keep the power coming.

Then there's the handling, so interactive that you practically feel you're part of the car. You would expect a car like this to grip firmly and feel planted on the road, but the steering tells you exactly what's happening under-tyre, and there's a feeling of balance which eggs you on into fine- tuning your cornering line with the accelerator as well as the steering wheel. The combination is captivating. You may even, for a fleeting second or two, imagine you're a rally driver.

Here's something to help your imagination along. Seat won the Formula Two World Rally Championship - open to 2.0-litre, front-wheel-drive cars - last year, using Ibizas not too far removed from this one. This year, the Spanish company's UK arm has created an organisation called Cupra Sport, to prepare cars for the British Championship. That's why the first 2.0 16Vs have loud "Cupra" stickers on the flanks and the tail, and lack a sunroof and air-conditioning. Later in the year, there will be a more discreet version with those accessories, and inevitably a higher price (pounds 15,600) than the Cupra car's pounds 14,595.

This is a lot of money. But then the Seat lbiza 2.0 GTi 16V, from the extrovert arm of the Volkswagen empire, is a heck of a lot of fun. Welcome back, truly hot hatchback. It's as though you've never been away.

Seat Ibiza Cupra Sport

Price: pounds 14,595 on the road. Engine: 1984cc, four cylinders, 16 valves, 150bhp at 6,000rpm; five-speed gearbox, front-wheel drive. Top speed: 134mph, 0-60 in 7.7sec. Fuel consumption: 28-33mpg

Rivals (with on-the-road prices)

Alfa 145 1.8 Twin Spark, pounds 14,600 approx: Arrival of revised 145 imminent in UK, with quality and refinement to match startling looks.

Peugeot 106 GTI, pounds 12,605: Smaller-engined than the Seat; cheaper, too. Not as fast but nearly as amusing. Suitable successor to 205 GTI.

Renault Megane Coupe 16V, pounds 15,340: Intended to replace Clio Williams, whose engine it shares. Looks good, has less room and stodgier steering.

Rover 200vi, pounds 15,995: Very quick, with clever Variable Valve Control engine, but less surefooted than Seat. Rover wood looks odd in a hot hatch.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

    £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

    Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

    £28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

    £16575 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity is ava...

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Executive

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading and innovative con...

    Day In a Page

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

    Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
    Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

    One day to find €1.6bn

    Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
    New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

    'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

    Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
    Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

    Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

    The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
    Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

    Historians map out untold LGBT histories

    Public are being asked to help improve the map
    Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

    Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

    This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
    Paris Fashion Week

    Paris Fashion Week

    Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
    A year of the caliphate:

    Isis, a year of the caliphate

    Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
    Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

    Marks and Spencer

    Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
    'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

    'We haven't invaded France'

    Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
    Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

    Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

    The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
    7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

    Remembering 7/7 ten years on

    Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
    Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

    They’re here to help

    We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
    Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

    Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

    'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
    What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

    What exactly does 'one' mean?

    Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue