Seat’s Ibiza SportCoupe is further confirmation that car makers can no longer do anything as simple as producing three- and five-door versions of the same car. The five-door has to be family focused; the three-door – as with the Ibiza SportCoupe – is now aimed at a more youthful market altogether and carrying a new name.
Don’t underestimate the importance of the SC for Seat. The three-door version of the previous model significantly outsold its larger sister, something attributed largely to the Spanish firm’s younger-than- market-average customer base.
Ignoring the name, how different is the Seat Ibiza SportCoupe to the five-door?
It sits on the same ‘Agile’ platform as the five-door and has the same wheelbase. But Seat’s marketing boffins discovered that the age of three-door supermini buyers was significantly lower than five-door owners. So the styling of the SportCoupe reflects that.
It takes its cues from Seat’s Bocanegra concept car with a roof that drops away towards the back. And although a mere 18mm shorter than the five-door, it has an altogether sportier, more assertive stance on the road.
So is this Ibiza SportCoupe a party-goer or party-pooper?
A bit of both. The SC is available with two chassis settings: Sport and Comfort. It’s simply a tweak of the springs and dampers, and the only difference between the two is that there’s slightly more body roll with the ‘Comfort’ variant.
Both versions are very compliant over bumps, with the cabin well insulated from rough road surfaces. The electro-hydraulic steering on both is nicely weighted but doesn’t have the sort of alertness you’d expect from a car designed to delight keen drivers.
Click 'Next' below to read more of our Seat Ibiza SportCoupe first drive review
Does the Ibiza SportCoupe make up for that with some spunky engines then?
At UK launch from October 2008, there will be three petrol versions on offer: a 70bhp 1.2-litre, an 85bhp 1.4 and the top model features an all-new 1.6-litre. This was the model we tested and it was frankly a bit of a disappointment. It’s got 105bhp, which seems a little light on power compared to many 1.6 engines. And the gearing is so tall that you need to work hard at the five-speed manual ‘box to get the best out of the engine.
Seat will also become the first car maker to sell a supermini with a double-clutch DSG ’box. The SportCoupe is the first in the VW Group to get this new seven-speed unit – and the extra two ratios make a big difference, particularly around town where in the manual, second is frequently too low while third is too high.
We’ll also get a new 1.6-litre common-rail diesel model later in the year and there will be FR and Cupra models topping the range. You won't be short of choice, that's for sure.
Is Seat’s much touted quality hike on show inside?
Indeed it is. Like the five-door model's, the interior is well put together and smart, if a tad bland. The plastics on the important surfaces are nice and rubbery to the touch while the steering wheel is smart and chunky. Again like the driving experience, it’s not overtly sporty.
The front seats are supportive if a little narrow in the shoulder area for broader drivers and the driving position is flexible with height adjustment on the seats and a steering wheel that moves for rake and reach. In the back there’s just enough leg and foot room for one six-footer to sit behind another, although that sloping roof will press firmly against their head.
Click 'Next' below to read our review verdict on the Seat Ibiza SportCoupe
Doesn’t sound very family friendly...
For a young family it could be. Although a tiny bit narrower and shorter than the three-door it replaces, the SC still manages to have a boot that’s nine litres bigger than the outgoing car's – even if it is eight litres smaller than the five door's.
The car is decently equipped, too. All models get electric windows, remote central locking and steering wheel controls for the MP3-compatible sound system. There’s also the option of an auxiliary slot for MP3 players and the dash-mounted portable TomTom sat nav system.
Our overall impression the Ibiza SportCoupe is of a good-looking car that’s more than competent in every way. If you’re expecting something overtly sporty, you’ll be disappointed however.
It seems more suited to school run mums who want a nippy town runabout rather than keen drivers after a cheap hot hatch (you'll have to wait for the forthcoming Cupra versions for that).
But if you’re in the market for this kind of car, and you’re happy to trade a bit of practicality for something that looks undeniably chic, this could be well worth a look.