New Seat Ibiza ST FR 1.4-litre TSi with DSG auto.

Price: £17,255 (on the road).

Top speed: 132mph.

0-62mph: 8 seconds.

Fuel: 47.9mpg.

CO2 emissions (g/km): 139.

Verdict: Impressive performance and handling, spacious, stylish, well built, compact, firm ride but fun to drive.

ONE of the features of the Seat Ibiza’s facelift is the inclusion in the line up of the touring version in sporting FR guise.

This specification, developed as a result of Seat’s touring car racing, gives the supermini estate plenty of pace and space, especially with the punchy 1.4-litre TSi petrol unit under the bonnet.

This flexible four-cylinder, mated to a seven-speed DSG auto transmission, is turbocharged to produce a healthy 150PS at 5,800rpm with bags of torque or pulling power for fast acceleration.

Being a top-specification car, the roomy Sports Tourer (ST) is also the most expensive at £17,255 (on the road).

However, with the Ibiza largely aimed at young drivers, prices start £12,260 for the 1.2TSi estate with all the petrol and diesel versions having generous equipment for the money.

The 1.4-litre is an impressive performer off the mark with a 0-62mph sprint time of just eight seconds while there is ample power on tap for speedy and safe mid-range overtaking and fast cruising on the motorway.

The car is great fun to drive and although the well-tuned sports suspension gives a firm ride, which might be too taut for some, it remains comfortable with the car managing to soak up most road imperfections. The trade off for the firmness is good handling, especially for an estate version, and the road-holding qualities are helped by improved steering which is sharp and accurate.

On the outside the new Ibiza has a more stylish and modern look with fashionable crease lines in the bonnet and front wings. New style lights and a wider and more striking grille also help to improve the looks.

The car’s sporty profile is matched by family practically with the well-shaped cargo space providing 430 litres of room which can be increased to 1,164 litres with the rear seats folded.

The cargo area has the advantage of a low loading sill and under the boot floor is a large and useful storage area while there are numerous handy cubby holes elsewhere.

The cabin is roomy, though longlegged rear seat passengers will be short of space unless the front seats are positioned well forward.

The interior is stylish but the emphasis is on quality fit and finish and a clear layout helped by the fascia housing new graphics.

As one might expect from Seat, safety and security are paramount with the car having received a top five-star rating in Euro NCAP crash tests. There are airbags galore, a volumetric alarm and electronic stability control for extra safety.

The standard kit list on the Sports Tourer is as long as your arm and includes 16in alloy wheels (17in wheels are a £150 option), exclusive FR sports seats, badging, steering wheel and interior embellishments, twin exhaust pipes, chrome roof rails, air-conditioning with pollen filter, radio/MP3 compatible CD player, AUX-IN port, coming-home headlight, LED rear lights and cruise control.

The list goes on and there are also plenty of options.