Saturday 16 December 2017

Getting in the way of our ritual

In the end, it's the little things that can let down a car, writes Campbell Spray, even the placing of the cup-holder

FUN AND GOOD-LOOKING: But the Seat Ibiza FR has still more to do
FUN AND GOOD-LOOKING: But the Seat Ibiza FR has still more to do
Campbell Spray

Campbell Spray

Sunday is our only joint day off, so my partner is very keen that we spend a fair bit of time together. I also need to give the car I am reviewing a really decent run.

So we have come to a good compromise, which now has its own rituals. We will go for a long drive in the car but it must be interspersed with a good walk in the mountains or by the sea with our dog and then a bit of shopping for food at somewhere like Avoca Handweavers on the way back.

But the most important ritual is stopping for a take-away coffee at Insomnia on the way out. My partner's large latte must have just one shot of coffee and then be topped up with extra hot unsweetened soya milk. Anything else and I'm sent scuttling back to the counter.

Last Sunday was full of promise, so we decided to head north to the mouth of the Boyne at Mornington, near Drogheda.

We pulled into Insomnia in Phibsborough for supplies and then the lovely little black Seat Ibiza FR with red alloys, red side mirrors and even red seatbelts made its first mistake. You couldn't safely use the cup-holders behind the gearstick and under the fascia for a full large latte. Oh yes, my little espresso was fine to take in and out, but not the latte.

You may think that to whine about such a thing is pretty mean but it is the small things that start irritating people and make for unhappiness and bad driving, especially if hot coffee is spilt.

And remember the Ibiza FR is not cheap. While the small Spanish car starts at €13,595, the very well-specced FR version is €20,471.

There is a lot to like about the car. It looked very cool, even reminding my partner of a favourite Mini Cooper, and the 1.2 90bhp petrol engine has plenty of poke and is both fun and engaging to drive. And whether on the M1 or on the back-roads in Louth, it felt well-grounded.

Unfortunately, it was a bit tight in the front and the head and leg room in the back would not suit large adults. There were other niggles too.

The side and rear mirrors were just that bit small to give really full coverage and the arm-rest in the middle interfered with use of both the gear-shift and hand-brake.

More annoying was the road noise that came through, especially on the motorway. It was very wearing but was probably more pronounced because of the 17ins alloys.

Last week, Seat announced that the company had posted a profit for the first time since 2008. It could use some of that to fix the Ibiza. It has come a long way. The last one I drove didn't have air-conditioning and felt like a basement without the bargain attached. This was a lot better but there is still some way to go. If the little things are wrong, who knows about the bigger ones?

Sunday Independent

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