Not 2 Grand Cars, SEAT

The SEAT Ibiza Cupra…

You have to capitalise it, otherwise people think it’s a chair.

If you like your trainers white, your baseball cap’s cap flat and your dub to be steppy, we have the car for you. This is the SEAT Ibiza Cupra. You could spend your money a bit more wisely and buy the FR version, which has the same engines just in a slightly lesser state of tune. But who wants to do that? Cupra or nothing, are we right?

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We has the Leon Cupra, and we went bananas for it. It had all the grunt of a TT but with the added bonus of being practical and also somewhat discreet. It made for quite the Q car. But what if you wanted something that was a bit more shouty? A bit more… yellow (though other colours were available)? Well, you had the Ibiza.

Before you got to the Cupra bits, the fourth-generation SEAT Ibiza was already a good car. It was basically a VW Polo underneath, but with a body boasting a bit more Spanish flare and less German efficiency. It was a fun Polo, basically. Stuff it full of 1.8 20V turbo 180bhp petrol, or 1.9TDI 160bhp diesel engine though, and it because more than fun. It was a bloody riot.

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Both engines made the SEAT Ibiza Cupra a veritable magnet for the modifications, thanks in no small part to the VW modifying industry being gargantuan. Most upgraded mechanical parts were happily interchangeable with the SEAT, so it wasn’t long before they started gracing the pages of Fast Power and Max Car.

That, of course, makes buying one today, over a decade later, something of a gamble. But with a car such as this, there is a very real chance it’s been monkeyed about with by a complete dimwit. Probably with parts from eBay. But before you brick our windows, we’re not saying modifying is bad. Far from it – we love modified cars. We’re just saying you should be wary of shit, cheap mods. A prime example would be cheap suspension FOR TEH LOWZ, cheaper alloys and also remaps done on a BBC Micro.

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You need to have a good look for panel – or more severe – crash damage. The chances of a SEAT Ibiza Cupra having been wrapped around street furniture at some point in its life are… considerable. And while hate going all What Car? on you, we want you to enjoy your bargain SEAT, not resent it because all it does it turn left.

So, caveats aside, what else did the SEAT Ibiza Cupra have to offer? Well, there was the pace of the thing, obviously. The five-speed ‘box on the petrol was a sharp, direct transmission, as was the six-speeder on the derv. The chassis was pretty much brilliant, but only if you knew what you were buying. The Cupra is deliberately not an FR. So the suspension will compress your vertebra and chip all your teeth. It’s a performance hatch and it won’t apologise for it.

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Sadly, despite being from the VW stable, it didn’t share in the build quality department. Get in a SEAT Ibiza Cupra and you’ll know you’re not in a Polo. The interior is a dull, dark place to be. The plastics are cheap and scratchy, if you’re into scratching plastic, and the cloth is sub-premium. It’s passable though. But you buy one of these to drive it, not to look at the interior and go ‘oooh’.

And drive it you will. The damn thing is a riot. Out of the two, we’d probably go for the diesel, purely because of the fright train levels of torque. Though enjoy it too much and you’ll be on first name terms with the local tyre shop.

If you don’t want the dirty diesel, the 1.8 20V turbo is a belter too, and it still has an outstanding amount of punch. Both do. And with that tight, firm chassis, the well-balanced brakes and the lightness of the thing, you’ll be able to enjoy both deep into the rev-range.

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For your money, you’re going to have to be patient. But it’s worth it, because the Cupra does regularly dip into our budget. Just make sure that when you buy one, you do your homework and make sure it has some history and hasn’t been wrapped around a bus stop. And if you do buy one that’s been modified, and there’s no reason not to, just make sure the owner can spell his own name and recognise basic shapes. If he can’t/doesn’t and he’s telling you with beaming pride that he did all the mods, walk away.

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