SEAT Ibiza Bocanegra Cupra - SEATCupra.net Road Test
The Bocanegra is SEAT's latest most stylish Ibiza to date and SEATCupra.net took the opportunity to take it on a road test.
18 months ago SEAT unveiled at Geneva Motorshow their Ibiza Bocanegra SportCoupe prototype and SEAT enthusiasts have keenly awaited its arrival with expectation and anticipation in equal measure ever since.
Well now the wait is over and the SEAT Ibiza Bocanegra/Cupra has finally made its UK showroom debut. SEAT dealers around the country are taking delivery of demonstrators right now and SEATCupra.net couldn't resist the opportunity to try out SEAT's new striking hot Ibiza. I dropped into my dealer Ted Johnson SEAT based in Barnsley, South Yorkshire and was given the keys to their newly acquired Bocanegra demonstrator.
I probably won't need to tell SEATCupra.net readers, but for the benefit of those who might not know, the Bocanegra is named after a SEAT last sold in the 70's known as the 1200 Sport Bocanegra. Bocanegra means 'black mouth' in spanish, which instantly explains the contrasting black trim which adorns the front of the new Ibiza.
The hot Ibiza is based on the 3 door SportCoupe Ibiza that has been around now for a year or so. The Ibiza SC is a dynamic looking car, certainly in my eyes one of the best looking superminis on the current market, which has now been expanded with the arrival of the latest sporty FR, hot Cupra and stylish Bocanegra.
All three of the new arrivals use the same 1.4-litre TSI twin-charged power plant which is both supercharged and turbocharged. The FR delivers 150PS and SEAT have tweaked the Cupra and Bocanegra to increase output to 180PS. The most interesting aspect of these new Ibiza's is the standard 7 speed DSG automatic flappy paddle gearbox they all share, there is no manual 6 speed gearbox option available.
The Bocanegra that I tested is in essence the same 180PS Ibiza Cupra with an added special edition styling pack that will set you back an extra £700 over the retail price of the Cupra.
The Bocanegra certainly sports an aggressive profile, a menacing black snout with contrasting Candy White body colour on the car I tested (also available in Dakota Red). Monotone styling continues with glossy black door mirrors, striking titanium grey coloured 17" inch alloy wheels which are a UK exclusive (so I've been informed) and finally a black Bocanegra badge stretched across its boot identifies its styling status.
However in my opinion, the overall differences in styling are not hugely differentiated from the Cupra and maybe SEAT could have been a little more adventurous with this headline model. The dealer had added both side skirts and a rear spoiler from the Ibiza SC styling kit which would be optional extras on top of the RRP of the Bocanegra, and they served to spice up the car further. These factors aside, it's a handsome looking little car in whichever style you choose.
I was apprehensive about how much room would be available in the Ibiza. Being a large bloke (no laughing at the back) some small cars can be beyond my comfort level. My own car is a Mk2 Leon Cupra which is of course a much larger car and has ample space for me to squeeze my frame into. Though I really needn't have worried as there is ample space in the Ibiza. The quilted-effect seats were easy to adust and I found a comfortable lateral position and height which put me within easy reach of the leather and glossy black steering wheel adorned with a red B logo.
My only gripe was the support offered by the otherwise lovely sports seats which are also stitched with red B logos. As I am used to the fantastic supportive bucket seats in a Leon Cupra I found the Bocanegra's seats were not as supportive. The bolstered leg and side support on the Leon's seats is much firmer and taller holding the driver in place. I later found this affected my comfort during driving as I was sliding across the top of the seat a little awkwardly.
Once settled, I turned the key and the quiet engine purred into action, the earlier exterior contrasts continue inside as the bright white LED display on the dashboard assured me I had plenty of fuel for a good run out.
Selecting drive I pulled away from the dealership and headed off into the pre-lunchtime Saturday shopping traffic of Barnsley town centre. The engine is both quiet and refined and while I crawled along at a leisurely pace the DSG kept the rpms down to a minimum level yet delivering enough low down torque to gently pull it along. The suspension could be described as quite hard yet does feel poised and secure on the road, much like the Leon I am used to.
I found the gearbox would hesitate a little when pulling away from junctions, when set to D(drive), but was a little more eager to get going when set to S(sport) or using manual paddles. Though sporty in appearance with their aluminium coverings the traditionally large auto brake pedal I personally found to be a little too close to the accelerator. I discovered my size 12 foot under braking could also press the throttle a little if I didn't think about it. Locating the brake an inch or so more to the left would have prevented this, though if you heel and toe you might appreciate the closer distance.
One trait I discovered with the gearbox which I found a little disconcerting was while using the Sport mode. The engine automatically blips the throttle as it downshifts, and in traffic you could potentially find yourself approaching the back of another car even with your foot hard on the brake as the engine continues to pull. I realised that the D setting was probably the more appropriate option for driving in slower town traffic.
Having made slow progress out of the town centre I made directly for the M1 and headed northbound in the direction of Wakefield. Flicking the DSG into S, I gave it a good kick down the M1 and found the engine to be a delight in both performance and sound. The exhaust delivers a satisfying roarty note. The little 1.4-litre TSI punches far above its weight, while revs climb confidently the Ibiza feels both secure and strong under hard acceleration and it had no difficulty in overtaking. It performs like a much bigger engine, a genuine yet subtle supercharger whine can be heard which limits lag, soon developing into that familiar turbo whistle those with turbocharged SEATs will recognise.
I found myself looking at the gearbox dash display and pondering when it would actually change up as the rev counter climbed towards the red line. 3rd gear held on strong for what seemed like an age. It was certainly not being shy, before finally 4th slotted in seamlessly and almost undetectably as the acceleration continued unabated with ease.
I backed off the power to stay legal (honest m'lud) and the DSG chose 5th gear and settled into a cruising pace, still in the selected S setup it appeared to be more readily poised to spring into action again should I give it more loud pedal. Moving the setup back into D, I noted that the engine revs dropped still further as the gearbox selected 7th and the engine again became smoother and quiet. I found using kick down in the D setting was a little more delayed and much less aggressive than S.
Turning off the motorway I headed towards Huddersfield and onwards into the twisty and steep South Yorkshire Pennine area and the A/B roads of the countryside which is exactly what a hot-hatch is made for. Here I was able to really test out the Bocanegra's handling. Being predominately a manual gearbox driver most of the time I preferred using the manual paddles at this stage of the road test, the Bocanegra happily pulls and revs its way around the countryside with ease. It was great fun both blipping up and down the gearbox with the paddles.
Still experimenting with the DSG settings I selected the S setup and found the gearbox to be interfering too much, trying to swap cogs halfway through a bend and see-sawing at the power. It would probably work very well on a track where you can keep it nailed most of the time, but I preferred being able to select a gear and keep it in that gear, whether I then went up or down the box the changes were still seamless and much more satisfying as a driver.
The handling was very competent and delivered an exciting experience coupled with firm yet poised steering, an improvement over the Ibiza it replaces. Although if I was to nitpick, I found if I attacked a corner hard, the suspension didn't have a great deal of flexibility. This could on occasion make the car scrub off traction on its front tyres and understeer, even with the assistance of SEAT's latest traction innovation the electronic self-blocking XDS differential which I have to admit didn't go unnoticed as it reigned in wheel-spin on several occasions.
The conditions were near perfect for my drive, being both sunny and dry so at no point did the understeer aspect concern me and I had every confidence in pressing on. If however it had been a damp or wet road I would have been cautious of that understeer pushing the nose wide. A slightly softer spring setup or a more compliant (non Pirelli) tyre may lessen some of these traits, but out of the box the Bocanegra is a great deal of fun and I thoroughly enjoyed the drive.
The brakes while being quite small still work competently enough scrubbing off the speed quickly, though I didn't find it had the firmest pedal feel. It may benefit from the inclusion of larger front discs and callipers.
I spent more than an hour in the car as I was enjoying the drive so much it wasn't my intention to be out in it for as long as I was, but I was simply enjoying myself and just kept pressing on.
I explored a good 30 miles or so of South Yorkshire, with varying degrees of urban, touring, cruising and hard driving and the Bocanegra delivered a good 34mpg during the road test. This would indicate with an economic driving style the claimed 40mpg plus is certainly possible.
Arriving back at a no doubt relieved Ted Johnson's (thanks Nigel) I took a closer look around the car, the boot space is ample for a car of its size and would easily swallow a couple of large suitcases, or a large family shop. The dashboard, steering wheel, centre console and interior fabrics all look first rate and the build quality appears to be very good. However some parts of the interior trim did appear to be a little stark such as the door cards, which just looked a little plain in comparison to the rest of the interior.
Moving around front I had to take a peek at this amazing little 1.4 engine, its certainly tightly packed under there with a neat layout. The usual aspects on show with a SEAT branded engine cover and the all important silver CUPRA logo alongside, just in case you weren't sure.
Summing up, I would say the Ibiza Bocanegra looks set to continue sales records for the Spanish brand and there is little doubt in my mind that the Ibiza is beginning to stamp out a name for itself as a serious supermini champion. The design is visually striking and SEAT have packed the car with new technology.
It impressed me with its performance. Out on the road it genuinely performs with a grown-up demeanour, sturdy, sure-footed and comfortable yet much much more powerful and quicker than an engine with such small cubic capacity would normally express.
The DSG is very clever and at times its probably a bit too clever for its own good. If your a person looking for a drivers car, you might be put off by the interfering aspects of the gearbox modes. Although I discovered the manual mode to be very good and it let me get on with selecting the gear I wanted and I began to enjoy the driving much more.
I would recommend anyone to head down to their local dealer and book a test drive, it's a fun hot hatch with a lot of style. It might not tempt me out of my Leon Cupra just yet but if the economics of scale mean that downsizing is inevitable then the Ibiza is not a bad place to be.
Many thanks to Nigel and his team at Ted Johnson's SEAT for the test drive.
Ibiza Bocanegra Cupra
* RRP: £16,695
* Engine: 1.4-litre 4cyl, 178bhp (180PS)
* 0-60mph: 6.8 seconds
* Claimed economy combined: 44.1mpg
* Annual road tax: £125