The cars we loved.
To most Americans the SEAT brand in Europe could be confused with a line of furniture sold by Ikea, but in Europe it represents a a spunky manufacturer with advanced engineering and award-winning designs.
SEAT is a subsidy of the giant Volkswagen conglomerate and is based in Spain. Their cars have been for the most part more exciting versions of Volkswagens. Although they receive much in the way of technical support from their German parent, SEAT is one of the few (if not the only) automotive company based in Spain capable of their own design and engineering development (which might explain the vast differences in character between some VW and SEAT cars).Typical of automakers based in the warmer more Southern regions of Europe, SEAT cars embody driving fun with a youth oriented design flair (like Pontiac once was in the US). The Ibiza Mk4 coupe is a good example of affordable fun, with award winning design and engineering. Is this sounding like a commercial?
Originally conceived in 1984 in the supermini category, the Ibiza is based on the VW Polo/Audi A1 platform. The 3 door hatchback has managed to look a world apart from its practical but staid looking German counterparts. The Ibiza, design was based on the 2008 Bocanegra concept car from the Geneva Motor Show. A five door model appeared a few months later in the summer of 2008, followed by a revised 3 door simply called the Ibiza sport coupe.
Ibiza’s have always been powered by a range of small hyper efficient 4 cylinder inline petrol and diesel engines, some of which power various VW cars through out Europe. The Ibiza was part of the popular line of eco friendly cars from The ‘Ecomotive’ range. Another high efficiency option was the ‘Multi-Range’ flex fuel range. These cars were award winning for their use of technology (both based on a variation of the VW 1.4DTI) but the Multi-Fuel cars were not as popular in Spain due to a shortage E85 fueling stations.
The most attractive of these for the performance minded was the FR/Bocanegra model of 2009. The Bocanegra name, meaning “black mouth” in Spanish, referred to the trend of large open grills that had become popular design feature with Audi, VW and some Japanese cars. The Bocanegra featured an advanced twincharger turbo/supercharger engine that used, you guessed it, supercharging and turbo charging in the same engine. The result was a line of small 1.4 litre power mills that gave the lightweight Ibiza the grunt to keep up with much more powerful cars all through the power band. The FR/Bocanegra also featured a unique direct shift 7 speed manual transmission, almost unheard of feature in a relatively
inexpensive mass market performance car.
The most powerful recent Ibiza was the 2010 Cupa/Bocanegra with a 1.6 litre 178 hp 4 cylinder. Others use engines ranging from in-house designs to VW’s 2.0 TDI diesels. The Ibiza, like other SEAT cars have a limited market beyond Europe. In North America there rumors about SEAT coming to Canada and eventually America, but they were just rumors. Meanwhile, SEAT has been selling cars in Mexico for years and doing quite well. The SEAT line could fill a void in America, where there seems to be a shortage of small inexpensive European cars.
Volkswagens have become larger, heavier and more upmarket while the original concepts of efficiency and simplicity are no longer part of VW’s image in the American market. SEAT products like the Ibiza would add some badly needed excitement to VW’s lower end offerings as Volkswagens or directly as a SEATs. Hope VW is listening.