December 2005

Seat Ibiza 1.8 20V T Cupra

Deep front bumper gives the Cupra a strong sport presence

December 2005

picture of car from the frontpicture of car from the rearpicture of car interiorpicture of car in detail

Overall rating

3.5 out of 5 stars


  • Sporty details add to attractive Ibiza shape
  • Powerful turbocharged engine delivers strong performance
  • Interior is quite dark but stylish and nice place to spend time in
  • Strong grip and good handling make for an entertaining drive


  • Stiff suspension and low profile tyres give a hard ride
  • Expensive when compared to certain rivals
  • Diesel version offers similar performance but better fuel economy
  • Alloy wheel design makes them easy to curb

Designed to be the sporty and passionate brand in the VW Group, Seat's Cupra badge denotes the most powerful car in each range. The Ibiza supermini offers low purchase and running costs combined with attractive design, so the range-topping Cupra version offers high performance in a compact package.

In an increasingly popular market segment, the Ibiza Cupra has many of the essential requirements to succeed as a junior hot hatchback. From the outside it is recognisably an Ibiza, already an attractive supermini, but the addition of alloy wheels, deeper front and rear bumpers and a mesh grille give it a purposeful appearance. Other smart details include a single oval tailpipe and red brake callipers, which all highlight its sporting credentials.

Inside there are more sporty touches, like the chunky sports seats, red dials and a three-spoke steering wheel with red stitching. The strong mix of colours is a success, giving the cabin an unusual feel, although some buyers might find it too extreme. Standard equipment levels are also increased on the Cupra model, with climate control and side airbags fitted as standard

Underneath the smart bodywork the Ibiza Cupra uses a 1.8-litre turbocharged petrol engine, as used in other VW Group products. In this guise it produces 180bhp and 181lb/ft of torque, which is a powerful unit for a car of this size. Mated to a five-speed gearbox driving through the front wheels it delivers excellent performance, with ample power for overtaking.

Further mechanical changes to the Cupra model include sports suspension, which is made up of softer springs and stiffer shock absorbers, designed to give increased grip. A wider anti-roll bar and lower suspension settings also help, combining to deliver high levels of roadholding and impressive handling. The downside to this focused approach is a deterioration in ride quality over the standard model.

Our verdict on the Seat Ibiza 1.8 20V T Cupra

For true enthusiasts the Ibiza Cupra has a lot to offer, with impressive performance, sharp looks and good handling. For buyers seeking a baby hot hatch with more rounded abilities however, the Cupra is less successful. Compared with its rivals, the Cupra is a single-minded, yet impressive performance supermini.


The Ibiza Cupra has a relatively high purchase price, and the 1.8-litre turbocharged engine will be thirsty if the performance is exploited. A relatively high insurance group will also push up running costs, although servicing is unlikely to be any worse than a standard Ibiza.

Space and practicality

For a car of its size the Ibiza provides a decent amount of space. Front seat passengers are well accommodated, and although the rear is less generous, it should cope with the majority of adults. The boot is also reasonably sized for a small car. There are few additional storage areas however, and the door pockets are relatively small.

Controls and display

The layout inside the Ibiza Cupra is simple and uncluttered, with smart red displays which are easy to read and attractive. All the major controls are well-defined and operate smoothly, although some buttons on the audio system are fiddly to use, and the switch for the ESP stability system is hidden away by the handbrake lever.


Well-bolstered sports seats provide good support and high comfort levels, although again this is diminished by the firm ride. Buyers looking for comfort as a priority should consider a lesser version of the Ibiza, as the Cupra's performance focus means a firm ride.

Car security

The Cupra comes with central locking as standard, which is designed to open the driver's door only on the first press of the button to reduce the risk of unwanted intruders. The doors also lock automatically when the vehicle reaches 8mph for security. The Cupra also gets an alarm and the alloy wheels are fitted with locking bolts.

Car safety

A number of safety features are included on the Ibiza as standard, and the range-topping Cupra benefits from all the available systems. Twin front and side airbags are standard, as is ABS and ESP. The Ibiza also gets a collapsible steering column and pedal box, reducing the chances of injury to the driver in the event of a collision.

Driver appeal

Keen drivers will enjoy the Ibiza's attributes, as its performance, grip and handling make it fun to drive over challenging roads. The engine provides good torque once in the middle of the rev range for rapid acceleration, with strong brakes and a slick gearshift. The suspension is very stiff however, and while this means excellent grip and little roll on smooth roads, bumps create discomfort for the driver and passengers. This also continues at more sensible speeds in town driving, which may make the Cupra too firm for some buyers.

Family car appeal

A small family would find the Ibiza a perfectly adequate car to use regularly, with enough space and practicality to cope with most eventualities. The firm ride may cause some discomfort, but otherwise the Cupra could perform just as well as a less performance-oriented hatchback.

First car appeal

In terms of size and initial purchase price the Ibiza Cupra would make a suitable car for some first time buyers, but insurance costs and the performance available may be too much for many inexperienced drivers.

Quality and image

Thanks to its shared parentage with VW, the Ibiza offers a great deal of quality. Inside and out the car feels well constructed from good materials, and feels substantial and hardwearing. Its image also builds on this quality feel, but also adds the appeal from its performance and sharp looks, conveying an image of a performance car that is good value.


Available in three-door form only, Cupra models benefit from the Access-Plus system as standard, which tilts and slides the front seat forward to make gaining access to the rear seats easier. For front seat passengers the long doors provide a wide opening for straightforward access. The boot is deep and although it has a relatively high load lip, the wide bootlid gives a large opening.

Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)

A radio/CD player is fitted as standard to the Cupra model. The display is easy to read with simple controls, although the Cupra does without the useful steering wheel mounted controls on lesser models as it has a sporty three-spoke wheel.

Colours and trim

Standard trim on the Cupra models is a mixture of red and black. The majority of the dashboard and trim materials are black, with the occasional highlight such as stitching or lettering picked out in red. This does make the interior quite dark, possibly too dark for some tastes, but the materials are of good quality, and the use of red gives the interior a sporty feel.


The steeply raked rear window in the Ibiza makes it easy to judge the rear of the car when reversing, although the chunky rear pillars do restrict vision over the shoulder. Otherwise the Ibiza is easy to park, though the Cupra's alloy wheels have very thin tyres, making it too easy to damage the wheels on the curb.

Spare wheel

Full size spare fitted as standard underneath the boot floor.

Range information

Engine range comprises of four petrol and four diesel options - 1.2-litre (63bhp), 1.4-litre (74bhp) and 1.8-litre turbocharged (148bhp and 178bhp) petrols, plus a 1.4-litre (74bhp) and 1.9-litre diesel (99bhp, 128bhp and 158bhp). All are fitted with five-speed manual gearboxes except the two most powerful diesel engines, while the 1.4-litre petrol is available with a four-speed automatic. Trim levels are Reference, S, SX, Award, Sport, FR and Cupra, with the most powerful engines only available in either FR or Cupra versions.

Alternative cars

Ford Fiesta ST model boasts sharp styling and entertaining but lags behind on performance

Skoda Fabia  VW Group's sister vRS variant is cheaper and more practical but slower and less stylish

Mini Cooper S Great drive but has a small boot, lacks rear legroom and is expensive

Peugeot 206 In GTi 180 guise the ageing supermini drives well, but has awkward driving position

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