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Ibiza is rocking again as the FR spices up party

YOU gotta hand it to SEAT for their rebranding -- and boy is it in your face? Not just happy to grab your attention .... it was more like grabbing you by the scruff of the neck. The 'Secret's out' campaign kicked off with the runt of the litter -- the Mii which offered mid-range spec at bargain basement prices.



Next up was the Toledo -- resurrected from the dead and again cleverly marketed as the saloon that thinks it's a hatchback.

Now, given that they were brand new offerings, it'd be hard not to conjure up a bit of curiosity and both have since been a massive success.

The Ibiza, even a facelifted one, is an entirely different matter.

Now don't get me wrong, the Ibiza was a competent little runaround which sold reasonably well and there are thousands of satisfied customers, but it just left me cold.

Devoid of any personality, this shape-less blob faded into the background while inside it was smothered in cheap plastics -- a constant reminder that this car was truly bought on a budget.

Everything from the manual wind down (rear) windows to the absence of Bluetooth became more than an irritation -- especially when other marques threw them in and didn't even bother to brag about it.



Sleeker



Mercifully somebody at the VW-owned Spanish outfit read the reviews and decided to inject a bit of life blood into the little hatchback by giving it a sporty edge in the guise of the FR which delighted us in the Leon.

First, a major body resculpt starting with a new face. A smaller, tidier grille borrowed from the Alhambra is the perfect setting for the sleeker headlight cluster (xenon an option) which join the swooping body crease all the way to the back and stunning rear LEDs.

The 16 inch alloys, snazzy foglights with cornering and double chrome tail pipes complete the sporty look.

Inside it gets even better.

Gone is the wall of grey plastic, replaced by a well designed, simple dash with aluminium inlays, sporty clocks and even a flat bottomed steering wheel with the FR logo emblazoned on the bottom spoke.

There's even a state-of-the art touch screen infotainment gadget which operates the Bluetooth, Sat/nav and on-board computer giving you vehicle stats like fuel consumption (standard on the FR).

Drive-wise, while not white knuckle scary, was really good fun and the 1.6 litre, 105bhp diesel had enough grunt to put a smile on your face as you strive to get the best out of her.

What it lacked in raw power it made up for in handling. Sitting 15mm lower than its predecessor and with stiffer suspension, it corners like a dream although the ride is a bit choppier which is not made any easier by the spongy seats. All round, the Ibiza FR is a fun little car that won't cost the earth to buy or run and unlike its older brother you'll actually look forward to getting into.

The Ibiza FR costs from €20,317.