SEAT

Gallery Feature | Fifty Shades of (automotive) Grey

Over 17% of new car buyers picked grey last year, and it’s now the third most popular tone in the UK. But how many different types of grey can there really be? Quite a lot, actually.

50 Shades of Grey

For reference ESM’s Editor has never actually seen Fifty Shades of Grey, or read any of the books. However, he surmises that the plot revolves around a man who treats his interior designer quite badly, whilst she struggles to pick the right grey tones for his house. Plus, the lead character insists on one room painted red, in a tribute to Changing Rooms from the 1990s. Beyond that, who knows what happens, other than inspiring us to seek out fifty shades of grey paint offered on new cars.

We’ve taken these directly from the configurator websites for the respective manufacturer. As a result, the quality of some images is not the best. In the case of Skoda, it’s truly dreadful; like 8-bit Nintendo retro. We’ve tried to accommodate as many different brands as possible, but other greys are available. We’re also not sure how some of these can even be classed as grey in the first place.

Shades 1 to 10

Tasting Notes: (more…)

Twin Test Review | VW Polo GTI vs SEAT Ibiza Cupra Black

On paper these two VAG family cousins share many similarities but, peel back the surface, and you’ll discover that things aren’t quite so homogenous. Which Spanish-built supermini wins out though?

SEAT Ibiza Cupra vs VW Polo GTI

If you’ve read our review of the SEAT Ibiza Cupra you’ll know there is a lot to like about this condensed hot hatch. However, sharing a powertrain and platform with the Polo GTI, through Volkswagen’s tried and tested badge-engineering, opens up obvious comparisons. We’ve broken our review down into several key areas, and found that things aren’t quite as predictable as you might imagine. Let’s get down to it:

Styling

This is evidently a subjective area, and neither Cupra nor GTI could be considered unattractive designs. Whether you prefer the basic Polo or Ibiza shape is personal taste, so we concentrated on the actual effort made to transform regular supermini into a hot hatch.SEAT Ibiza Cupra vs VW Polo GTISo what sets the GTI apart is the fact it looks more bespoke compared to the rest of the Polo range. From the red trim running across the grille into the headlights, to the honeycomb mesh and the GTI branding, it feels more special. Yes, it might be a scaled-down pastiche of the Golf GTI, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

On the other hand, the Ibiza Cupra struggles to separate itself from the hundreds of FR-badged imitators. Where it does differ is often through fussy styling, like the trapezoidal centre-exit exhaust or fake vents in the rear bumper. It’s still a good-looking car, but doesn’t quite do enough to make things feel distinctive. (more…)

2016 SEAT Ibiza Cupra 1.8 TSI | Review

With the current SEAT Ibiza nearing the end of a lengthy lifecycle, the Cupra has been hotted-up for one final fling. Is this Ibiza still up for all-night rave, or is it now more last tango in Benidorm?2016 SEAT Ibiza Cupra BlackYou remember 2008, right? A time when George W. Bush was still President of the United States, ‘Rockstar’ by Nickelback was inescapable, and the world was facing a humongous financial catastrophe. Ring any bells? At the same time as all that, SEAT was unleashing the fourth-generation Ibiza on the public. Cutting to the chase, this Ibiza has been around the block a few times.

After eight years, the fourth-gen Ibiza looks remarkably similar to the original Luc Donckerwolke design, despite having had two facelifts. It’s still an attractive car and, with the evolution of hot hatch styling in that time, manages to actually be relatively subtle compared to its rivals. Aside from the extra cut outs below the front grille, and the bespoke rear bumper and diffuser, you’d be hard-pressed to tell it apart from a cooking FR model.2016-seat-ibiza-cupra-black-review-004This particular test car was ‘Cupra Black’ spec, which means it gains black alloy wheels along with red brake calipers. There’s also additional interior equipment differences, but we’ll cover that later. Unless you have a serious dislike of gloss black alloy wheels, it’s most probably £800 well spent to upgrade.

The biggest alteration to this latest Ibiza Cupra is beneath the bonnet. Gone is the weird twincharged 1.4-litre petrol engine – which suffered a reputation for guzzling engine oil – that could only be had with a DSG dual-clutch gearbox. In comes a 1.8-litre turbocharged petrol engine from the EA888 VAG family. It has already seen service in the current Polo GTI and, as ESM’s Editor can attest, isn’t shy when it comes to twist.2016 SEAT Ibiza Cupra BlackWith 189hp and 236lb-ft of torque, the Cupra gains 12hp and 52lb-ft over the old 1.4 unit. As a result of the extra power, 0-62mph drops by 0.2 of a second to 6.7 seconds, whilst the top speed increases to 146mph. In case you’re wondering, both performance figures are identical to the Polo GTI, and are also ahead of the ubiquitous Ford Fiesta ST. So rest assured – you’ll have the bragging rights in a Halfords car park. (more…)

SMMT Test Day 2016 – Part One

Returning to the SMMT Test Day after the extravagant ‘twelve cars in one day‘ affair of last year, ESM promised to try to be more selective over driving choices this year. The result was certainly a varied motoring experience, to say the least.

SMMT Test Day 2016It’s the potentially the biggest day of the year for anyone who writes about cars, bringing manufacturers and media together in one place. The problem comes from being faced with well over 100 cars from almost 40 different manufacturers – there’s almost too much choice of what to drive. But there’s also the challenge of getting to drive the most popular stuff. The Ford Focus RS, Ford Mustang, Audi R8 and BMW M2 were big attractions, so ESM decided to take a slightly more left field approach this year.

Despite the promise to avoid the ‘drive everything that moves’ scenario, we still finished the day having tried a dozen of cars. Perhaps that is just our default setting at SMMT? Either way, here’s the lowdown on what we got behind the wheel of. Due to the sheer number of cars driven, we’ve split our day into two parts.

1. SEAT Ibiza Cupra2016 SEAT Ibiza CupraWhen is a VW Polo GTI not a Polo GTI? When it’s draped in the Spanish body of a SEAT Ibiza, that’s when. Having just literally climbed out of our Polo GTI, getting back in to the Ibiza Cupra felt instantly familiar. Everything fell into place rather quickly, which meant no delay in getting up to speed in testing it out. Interestingly, the doors rattle the same as the GTI where the body meets the seal. 2016 SEAT Ibiza CupraThere are some differences, however. The exhaust note warbles a bit more than the Polo, the gearshift throw is minutely shorter, and the suspension didn’t feel quite so rock-hard in sport mode. Quite possibly we’d need to spend more than just a few short minutes with the Ibiza Cupra to draw out the individual nuances. But it’s good, and if you pick this over a Polo GTI you’re not making a bad decision. Also, tip of the hat to SEAT’s press office for emailing details of the car being driven immediately. That’s impressive service.

ESM Rating: 8.5/10
Stats: £18,900, 1.8-litre I4 turbo, 189hp/236lb-ft, 0-62mph 6.7 seconds, 146mph top speed

2. Audi RS Q3 Performance2016 Audi RS Q3 PerformanceA quattro all-wheel-drive system connected to a five-cylinder turbocharged engine sounds like a recipe for a retro rally car, rather than a fast crossover. But that’s exactly what the RS Q3 packs underneath, and it makes for a fairly entertaining creation which lets you live out your Group B rally fantasies with the whole family. (more…)

Opinion – Seven fast estates we want to see built

The number of performance estates seems to have expanded massively in recent years but, here at ESM, that’s not enough for us. No, we’re greedy, and we want to see even more quick wagons on the market. To help we’ve come up with a septet that we think should happen.

Fast VW Estates

These aren’t just ‘pie in the sky’ ideas – we’ve picked out ones that, due to the wonders of modular platforms, could probably happen without too much engineering work. We’ve also rated them for desirability and feasibility, just to help point those manufacturers in the right direction…

1. BMW M3 Touring
BMW M3 TouringBMW has flirted with M Touring versions of the larger M5 twice in the past, and even went so far as building a concept E46 M3 Touring which never saw the light of day. Is now the time for a compact BMW performance estate?

The concept of a 431hp twin-turbocharged 3 Series Touring is rather appealing and, we imagine, adding M3 modifications to the estate bodyshell would make for quite an attractive proposition. Plus, BMW appears committed to covering every possible market niche these days, so this would just be one more addition. Think of it as karma for the 2 Series Active Tourer.

Sadly, market demand apparently means that this one falls quite far down the list of possibilities. BMW models are required to have global appeal and an M3 Touring is something that would seemingly only sell in Europe. Audi with the RS4, and Mercedes-Benz with the C 63 AMG, have somehow transgressed this problem, but the men in Munich aren’t convinced. Alpina is already doing a rather good job of building rapid 3 Series wagons, which doesn’t help our case.

Verdict
Desirability – 8/10
Feasibility – 6/10
Likelihood – 0/10 Probably more chance of an 2 Series Active Tourer M

2. Ford Focus RS EstateFocus RS EstateAlthough the hatchback might have only finally emerged, what better time to add a rapid load-lugger to the lineup as well.

The Focus RS hatch is a fairly awesome piece of kit, so making it more practical can only be a good thing, surely? Plus there’s already a Focus ST estate on sale, proving demand exists for quick wagons wearing the Blue Oval badge. With the Volkswagen Golf R notching up sales, there’s certainly buyers out there for estates based on extremely rapid hatchbacks. Plus, the thought of engaging Drift mode whilst on the way to the recycling centre has huge appeal.

Ford is already struggling to meet demand for the Focus RS hatch, so adding an estate variant might just be too much to handle. Although, as the RS is built on a regular production line with extra bits added later, surely there would be scope to squeeze a limited edition in there? There’s no precedent for RS estates, and we imagine that’s the excuse Ford would use to bat this away, but everything has to start somewhere. Also, this rendering by X-Tomi Design shows how good it could look.

Verdict
Desirability – 9/10
Feasibility – 8/10
Likelihood – 6.5/10 We’re still hoping on some ultra-limited edition opportunities.

3. Volkswagen Golf GTI Estate
04 VWYeah, this one pretty much only came to mind to help our OCD with VW’s current estate model range. As part of the performance estate lineup there’s a GTD, and an R, Variant but there’s no GTI version! That’s something which happens to unnerve us, ever so slightly, so we’d be a lot happier if Volkswagen just filled that gap. (more…)

EngageSportMode Awards 2015 – Part One

You know the drill. At the end of each year EngageSportMode likes to dish out hypothetical trophies made from macaroni and glitter. This year is no exception, other than 2015 featured a lot more new metal to be driven. 

2015 Awards p1

Does it matter that we’re already into 2016? No, of course not. Sticking with our tried and tested formula, part one picks out which cars were most deserving of an ESM award over the last twelve months.

Best overall car driven in 2015 – SEAT Leon Cupra ST
2015 SEAT Leon ST Cupra 280 001

This was tough. Seriously mind-bendingly tough. Having sampled so many great cars during 2015, trying to narrow it down to one was incredibly difficult. So why does the Leon Cupra ST win? For the simple reason that out of everything driven in the past year, it was the one which could fill the “all the car you’ll ever need” cliché with ease. That was our verdict after experiencing it at the SMMT Test Day earlier in the year.

For starters, it’s an estate with a huge boot capable of holding some 587 litres with the seats up, swelling to 1,470 litres with them down. That’s a lot of room for all the lifestyle paraphernalia you might need to carry around with you. But, in the same breath, it’ll also hit 62 mph from a standing start in 6.1 seconds and power all the way to a 155 mph top speed. That’s kind of a big deal.

There are a host of options to fiddle around with through the Driver Profile settings – include a sport mode, of course – and the 276 bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged engine makes a great noise when fully wound up. When you add 258 lb-ft of torque available from low down the rev range, sharp brakes, and accurate steering into the mix the Cupra ST becomes a convincing all-round package. Not to mention the fact it’s the fastest production estate car around the Nurburgring-Nordschleife, and can come in an ESM-pleasing black/orange colour combination.

That you get all the above for under £30k just cements the Cupra ST as the best thing we drove all year. Well done SEAT for proving that 2015 wasn’t all doom and gloom for the Volkswagen Group.

Honourable mentions – Subaru Impreza WRX STI, Megané Renaultsport 275 Trophy

Best concept – Bugatti Vision Gran Turismo
2015 Bugatti Vision Gran Turismo

Concept cars are meant to be crazy. They’re meant to give glimpses of the future, whilst also letting the minds of designers run wild. It’s safe to say Bugatti easily fulfilled that brief with this creation at the Frankfurt Motor Show. With influences from a variety of the French marque’s greatest hits, and a substantial amount of carbon fibre and wings, the Vision Gran Turismo looked rather amazing. (more…)

Friday Photo – Frankfurt 2015 Gallery

This year’s Frankfurt Motor Show proved to be fairly impressive, with a host of big names revealing new products and concepts. Incredibly, this even included cars that hadn’t been previewed in a press release weeks beforehand! Who knew that was still possible? We’ve picked out some of the notable cars making an appearance in Germany. 

2015 Frankfurt

ESM actually spent the first Frankfurt press day helping out the good people at Motoring Research with their live blog. We heartily recommend you go and read it, especially for the Periscope video action from Andrew and Gav. Trust us, you’ll find yourself longing for a special edition Suzuki Jimny or at least learning where not to leave you bag on a motor show stand.

Possibly the biggest talking point of the whole Frankfurt show was the Bentley Bentayga SUV. Promising to be more luxurious than a Range Rover, but with epic performance from a W12 engine, it’s a pretty big deal. To some it’s a step too far for the Bentley brand, and the styling is also equally divisive. However, ESM is pretty sold on it – especially in orange. The Bugatti Vision Gran Turismo is just as mental in real life as in the initial photos – a definite showstopper. Oh, and yes that is a tent on the back of the Citroen Cactus M.

We’d already seen PR photos of the Ferrari 488 Spider, but it’s seemingly even more impressive in the metal. Some even going so far as to say it’s better looking than the GTB coupé. The Hyundai stand was one of contrasts, with the Korean company pushing its new “N” performance sub-brand with the rather mental 2025 Gran Turismo concept, alongside the Santa Fe and i20 Active. Jaguar’s F-Pace stole the pre-show excitement with a Guinness World Record-breaking launch event, whilst the MotoGP-engined Honda 2&4 concept proved to be a winner.

(more…)

SMMT Test Day 2015 – One day, Twelve cars [Part 3/3]

We’ve made it to the final part of our epic journey through the dozen cars we experienced at the SMMT Test Day. Don’t forget to read part one and part two first! SMMT-2015-header 003Eight cars down, we were now into the home stretch of the 2015 SMMT Test Day. Two of the final quartet were rather familiar, and another two were new ones ticked off the list. But which was best?

Volkswagen Polo GTI 1.8 TSISMMT 2015 VW Polo GTI 001If you’ve been following us on social media or checked out our post over on Motoring Research, you’ll know that ESM recently acquired a new VW Polo GTI. So why did we drive a car that we’d already driven several hundred miles the day before just to get to Millbrook? For comparison, of course! Also, we weren’t allowed to take the ESM Polo on the test-track. Plus the VW Press car was white, compared to red one which lives on the ESM driveway, and it had manual air-conditioning instead of full climate control. It also rattled less from the door cards, but the less said about that the better, for now. For the record, sport mode was engaged all the times!

Having driven the Corsa VXR and MINI Cooper JCW earlier in the day, the Polo GTI was an interesting contrast. Although it lacked the outright aggressiveness of the Corsa, the Polo bettered it on refinement and interior quality. It also trumped the MINI for not having a frustrating automatic gearbox, but just a simple six-speed manual instead. Oh, and tartan seats win every time.

ESM Rating: Well, we took it home didn’t we? Take that as an endorsement!
Stats: £18,900, 1.8-litre I4 turbo, 189bhp/236lb-ft torque, 0-62mph 6.7 secs, 146mph top speed. (more…)

Lessons in conservatism – New BMW 3 Series and New SEAT Ibiza

Today’s title may be a pun on yesterday’s general election, but we don’t want to labour the point too much. Sorry. Yesterday also saw the unveiling of two ‘new’ cars, although you’d be hard pressed to realise it.

Being a car-designer must be a fairly easy job these days, especially when it comes to mid-lifecycle ‘refresh’ time – what the rest of us refer to as a ‘facelift’ usually. The idea is to give the car a minor makeover to keep interest from buyers up, but without the need to change so much for factory production lines to need updating. Alterations to lights, bumpers and grilles are usually your lot for a facelift model, but even these two seem to have done that as mildly as possible. First up, in the blue corner, is the revised 3 Series:

BMW 3 Series

2015 BMW 3-Series 002
As a car that counts for almost one in every four BMWs sold, Munich has of course played it very safe with its key model. You’ll have to be a keen BMW fan to know what’s different, with the revised headlights and taillights now being full LED units. Beyond that, there are minor tweaks to the bumpers, and new exhaust tailpipes dependent on the engine selected. Oh, and you can have 20″ wheels if you really want them, too.

2015 BMW 3-Series 003
The interior is also largely unchanged, with minor tweaks to the materials used such as gloss black trim on the main control panel, and extra chrome bits dotted around. Put simply, when you’re classing sliding covers for cupholders as a new feature, you know nothing much has altered. (more…)

Friday Photo – Geneva 2015 | Orange is the new … blue?

Earlier in the week, the doors opened at the PalExpo centre for the 2015 Geneva Motor Show. EngageSportMode spent a hugely enjoyable day helping the guys at Motoring Research with their live blog on Tuesday. If you haven’t seen the live blog already, go grab a Toblerone and experience it now. Then come back and see why we spotted a new emerging trend on Tuesday: that everything was orange. 

2015 Geneva Porsche 911 GT3 RSObviously, EngageSportMode wouldn’t want to take credit for manufacturers deciding that orange is the colour to be seen in this season. It’s clearly just a coincidence. No, we’ll just be smug about it and present you with a gallery of the cars on display at Geneva that were carrot-coloured. Art-geek point: on the colour wheel, orange is opposite blue – which was, of course, the colour of everything at Geneva last year. Anyway, here are the pics:

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There you go. Unequivocal proof that orange is the colour for this season. Just note that EngageSportMode takes no liability for horrendous depreciation if you order anything in a satsuma-esque shade. It’s your call!

We’ve had an amazing week with Geneva, and we’ll be bringing more in-depth details of the big show stars soon.