Cupra goes it alone with a proven hot hatch recipe

The Ibiza nameplate has been around since 1984, when Spanish automaker SEAT introduced it as a replacement for the outgoing Fura. Framed as an affordable and fun B-segment supermini, the Ibiza has seen five generations over the years, the most recent of which dropped in 2017 at the Geneva International Motor Show. A variety of body styles have been used as well, including a five-door hatchback, a sedan, a coupe, and a wagon, but the most interesting of the lot is the hot-to-trot Cupra model. These high-performance iterations (“Cupra” is an amalgamation of “cup” and “racing”) are aimed squarely at the enthusiast market, bringing more power, aggressive styling, stiff suspension, big brakes, and an interior-spec upgrade to match. These days, Cupra fancies itself a standalone brand, much in the same way Polestar detached itself from Volvo. And while the first effort for the sub-brand-turned-automaker is the 300-horsepower Ateca SUV, you can bet a freshly Cupra-tized Ibiza is on the way too. That much was revealed in a slew of images posted to social media prior to an expected debut at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show. In response to the leak, Cupra dropped a selection of official pics, given us a clearer view of the pumped-up five-door.

While Cupra is saying the Ibiza isn’t considered an official part of the range just yet (this latest model is designated as no more than a design exercise), we think it’s highly likely the hot hatch is production-ready. The brand will show the new Ateca in Geneva, which is all well and good, but in all honesty, the Ibiza is the the one we really want. Read on to find out why.

Continue reading to learn more about the 2018 Cupra Ibiza.

Cupra Ibiza Exterior

  • Copper-colored details
  • New badge
  • Geometric patters
  • Carbon fiber aero bits
  • 18-inch wheels
  • Triangular headlight and taillight graphics
2018 Cupra Ibiza Exterior
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The Ibiza stands out thanks to its sporty body kit, which is replete with sharp angles and copious bulging muscle lines. The copper-colored details also look great.

From the off, you’re likely to notice the Ibiza’s new Cupra badge, which, in our opinion looks a bit like the Decepticon logo from the Transformers franchise. That’s meant as a complement, by the way. The badge is finished in a rich bronze color, which is the same hue first seen on the Leon Cupra R, and it’s continued elsewhere on the car to help individualize the Cupra brand.

Also helping the Ibiza stand out is its sporty body kit, which is replete with sharp angles and copious bulging muscle lines. In front, we find an updated front bumper, which is framed by triangular headlights and C-shaped fog light housings. Further triangular shapes are seen in the intakes, with both the upper and lower sections getting their own unique geometric inserts, plus a bronze surround on certain models, as seen in the leaked images. The hood gets a number of extra sinews as well. There are also the requisite carbon fiber aero elements, including a composite front lip spoiler that juts out far from the body in defiance of all those speed bumps and steeply angled driveways out in the wild.

Moving around to the side of the car, the Cupra Ibiza gets a forward-leaning profile, enhanced thanks to a raked window line that pushes the proportions rearwards. The window line is heavily slanted, and is complemented by lower character lines that enhance the hatchback’s natural wedge-like shape. Dark finishes are used for the surrounds and the side-view mirrors, while the leaked images show that some of the models will get the mirror caps in bronze. Further bronze touches are found in the corners, where the 2018 Cupra Ibiza receives large alloy wheels measured at 18 inches in diameter and come complete with copper accents on the spokes. Carbon fiber embellishments were added to the side skirts as well.

Further composites are used with the carbon fiber spoiler, which we find perched out back on the roof’s trailing edge. There’s also a carbon fiber diffuser below that houses a pair of polished exhaust pipes tucked off to one side. Finally, there are angular taillights with triangular graphics that match the daytime running lights seen in front.

Cupra Ibiza Interior

  • Loads of carbon fiber tirm
  • Alcantara upholstery for the steering wheel
  • Digital instrumentation measures at 10 inches
  • Cupra logo embroidered into the sport seats
2018 Cupra Ibiza Interior
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The first thing you'll notice about the interior of the 2018 Cupra Ibiza is that it gets a lot of carbon fiber trim. The material is usually a go-to in the world of enthusiast-focused models, and its inclusion isn't all that surprising here.

The first thing you’ll notice about the interior of the 2018 Cupra Ibiza is that it gets a lot of carbon fiber trim. The material is usually a go-to in the world of enthusiast-focused models, and its inclusion isn’t all that surprising here. The material is used everywhere, covering the dash, the center section of the steering wheel, and even the side bolsters in the seats.

We see lots of that copper coloring from the exterior inside the cabin as well, including in the stitching for the upholstery, the shifter surround, the door panels, and more. Alcantara covers the rim of the steering wheel and the hand brake lever to finish.

The steering wheel gets a flat-bottom design and multi-function controls at thumb’s length for the infotainment system and various convenience features. The front seats get a buckety, sporty kinda feel, as well as stitching along the lower section that shows off that new Cupra logo. A quartet of square air vents are seen along the dash. Further angular designs are added along the doors for the grab handle and door lever, once again matching the theme started on the exterior. Polished pedals are in the foot wells.

The center console uses the middle section for HVAC purposes, above which sits a big infotainment touchscreen with a familiar smartphone-esque tile-style layout. Behind the wheel is a digital instrument cluster measuring in at an impressive 10 inches. No word on exact infotainment features yet, but we’re guessing the usual smartphone support, Bluetooth, voice control, and the like.

Cupra Ibiza Drivetrain

  • Powertrain from the VW Polo GTI
  • 197 horsepower, 236 pound-feet of torque
  • DSG six-speed automatic
  • Six-speed manual also quite likely
  • 0 to 62 mph in 6.7 seconds
  • Top speed of 147 mph
  • Michelin performance tires
  • Drilled brake rotors in front
2018 Cupra Ibiza
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Properly motivated, this set-up will propel the Cupra Ibiza to 62 mph in approximately 6.7 seconds, with a top speed of 147 mph – both of which are figures that match the VW Polo GTI.

While we have yet to get the full rundown on what’s happening under the hood of the 2018 Cupra Ibiza, it’s more than likely the hatchback will use the same oily bits as its Volkswagen Auto Group sibling, the Polo GTI. That means we’re expecting the same turbo 2.0-liter four-cylinder, which produces upwards of 197 horsepower at 4,400 rpm and 236 pound-feet at 1,500 rpm.

Sending all that muscle to the front axle will be DSG six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, as confirmed by the shifter seen in the interior shots featured above. While the automatic is an obvious choice, it’s also possible the Cupra Ibiza will offer a manual version, most likely some time after the initial model makes its debut.

Properly motivated, this set-up will propel the Cupra Ibiza to 62 mph in approximately 6.7 seconds, with a top speed of 147 mph – both of which are figures that match the VW Polo GTI.

To compliment the stout engine package, the Ibiza will also come with a solid performance suspension setup that’s tuned for cornering rather than comfort. And that’s a very good thing. Given the fact the Ibiza shares the same platform as the Volkswagen Polo GTI, we can look to that model for expectations here – for example, it’ll get a lowered ride height and a rather firm ride. In the corners, it also looks like there are Michelin performance tires wrapping the alloy wheels, plus drilled performance brakes complete with “Cupra” branded calipers in front.

Cupra Ibiza Prices

2018 Cupra Ibiza
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Exact pricing for the 2018 Cupra Ibiza is still on the way, but we expect it to slot in at roughly the same spot as the current model. And while we won’t get it here in the U.S., buyers in the U.K. should expect to pony up around £18,500 to get into one of these. Optional equipment (for example, a performance package) will add a few grand to the bottom line.

Cupra Ibiza Competition

Ford Fiesta ST

2018 Ford Fiesta ST High Resolution Exterior
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Ford’s answer to the fun little hatchback formula is the Fiesta, which is offered in a wide variety of configurations and trim levels to suit the buyer’s needs, but the one you wanna get is the go-faster ST model. Carrying a price tag under the £20,000 mark, this Blue Oval challenges the Ibiza thanks to a turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine making a Cupra-matching 197 horsepower. It’ll also do the 0-to-62 mph shimmy in 6.7 seconds, which is exactly what we’re predicting for the Ibiza. A new Liquid Blue paint option and 18-inch alloy wheels help it look sporty, while an 8.0-inch touchscreen and flat-bottom steering wheel round out the interior spec.

Read our full review on the 2018 Ford Fiesta ST.

Volkswagen Polo GTI

2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI High Resolution Exterior
- image 731370

If you prefer your hot hatch with an extra dash of German refinement, the Polo GTI is right there in the running. It’s essentially the same car as the Cupra Ibiza, albeit with new badges and interior equipment. The engine and platform and transmission, however, are all likely to match the Spanish five-door. Making the difference is the sleek, more involved styling seen outside, while the interior gets different trim bits. Pricing is the same as well, starting at just under the £20,000 mark. Going for this one over the Ibiza is more or less an aesthetics choice, although we wouldn’t be surprised if the suspension tuning was a little different between the two.

Read our full review on the 2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI.


2018 Cupra Ibiza Exterior
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There’s a lot to like about the Cupra Ibiza. It’s sporty, it’s fun, and with five doors and a big hatch, it’s surprisingly practical for such a small vehicle. We’re also digging the unique touches Cupra added to help it standout as a non-SEAT vehicle, especially the copper-colored bits.

Of course, we have to ask – is it too similar to the VW Polo GTI? While we’re still waiting on confirmation of details for the Ibiza’s engine and drivetrain, it certainly looks quite similar, and accusations of badge engineering on Volkswagen’s part aren’t totally unfounded.

Stay tuned, as we’ll post details when they drop in Geneva.

  • Leave it
    • Basically a VW Polo GTI under the skin
    • Suspension likely quite rough
    • Plenty of alternatives out there already


2017 Seat Ibiza
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Read our full review on the 2017 Seat Ibiza.

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Read more Seat news.

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Read more Geneva Motor Show news.

Press release

For this exclusive event, the new brand has carried out design exercises on the CUPRA Ibiza and CUPRA Arona to exhibit the power of the new CUPRA world. Even though these cars are not yet confirmed as part of the CUPRA range, they are powerful design exercises to show the potential of the new brand in terms of design and technology, and also the possibility of extending the CUPRA elements to different segments.

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Press release
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