We drove Seat Ibiza FR 1.0 TGI: The power of nature…

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We were keen to lay our hands on Did you know that Compressed Natural Gas has a higher energy density than petrol? That it emits almost no small particles? That it brings CO2 emissions down by a good 30 pct? That there are no NOx emissions to speak of? Indeed, nature has some very good things in store…

So it is only logical that the VW group has taken a long hard look at CNG and puts it in their cars. The fifth generation Seat Ibiza therefore also has a “dual fuel” car in its range, which runs happily on both CNG and petrol. Just to give combustion engine followers a “green” alternative.

an Ibiza in the sporting FR version, with under the hood a 90 HP “CNG/petrol” version of its well proven 3 cylinder 999 cc engine, and put it through its paces for you. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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Stepping into this aptly styled Ibiza, one hardly notices any difference when pushing the starting knob. The smooth 1 litre unit eagerly springs to life, emitting its typical pleasant efficient sound when revving up. One is running on CNG, so the instruments tell you, as a green CNG symbol lights up and the content of the CNG fuel tanks are displayed. Actually, this display doubles in the rev counter cluster also as an engine coolant temperature indicator. On the right hand, in the speedometer cluster, the gauge of the petrol tank is placed.  

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That’s it really. One doesn’t notice anything further in particular when driving. The engine is utterly smooth, docile and willing. It revs beautifully through the gears, displaying more than decent pulling power and punch once the revs are above 2000 rpm. The consumption indicator tells you how much CNG is flowing through the injectors, and it displays it in… kilograms instead of liters.

One should know that 1 kg of CNG is the equivalent of 1,5 litre of petrol. This puts everything in perspective when you are seeing a consumption of 2,9 kg/100 km for example when driving smoothly with low revs in a high gear, adjusting to a slower urban traffic flow.

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Indeed, this engine has wonderful smoothness and elasticity, and will not protest when you select a higher gear at 1500 rpm , and then cruise along at 1300 rpm or thereabouts, when just driving along with the traffic flow is what you want to do. This will lead to astonishingly low consumption figures, and even when driving in petrol “mode”, the (instant) consumption then drops to around 4 litres/100 km. So remember, small throttle openings and low revs will get you very far indeed.

But substantial pulling power is only to be had above 2000 rpm, as we said before. When you decide to rev it up and really put your foot down, the 1 litre unit shows its mettle, and will let this Ibiza sprint from 0 to 100 km/h in 12,1 seconds under a sporting staccato. The six speed manual is a delight to use with slick and fast changes, so there is some good driving pleasure to be had. This Ibiza also stands very well its own on the Autobahnen, as it has a top speed of 181 km/h and high speed cruising is an effortless affair.

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Turning back to consumption, Seat quotes a combined CNG consumption in the region of 3,3 kg/100 km, with combined petrol consumption boiling down to around 5 liter/100 km. Our consumption was some 20 % higher than this.  

The stability and excellent qualities of the platform, shared with the Polo and the A1 Audi come into play here. One is indeed spoilt by the precision of the steering, the very predictable road holding and the ideal compromise between agility, stability and comfort.

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Seamless CNG/Petrol transition…

This CNG powered Ibiza doesn’t take any further attention from your part in daily use. Not only is CNG refuelling a breeze, with the openings of both CNG and petrol tanks sitting neatly next to each other under the tank lid, but also when the CNG tank runs empty, the system will automatically switch to petrol and you don’t notice anything at all. Only the gauges and tell tale lamp will tell you that you are now running on petrol.

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Price differences between CNG and petrol vary of course depending on the EU countries, but it will typically take something between 40 to 50,000 kilometres to recoup the price difference between the normal petrol or diesel and the CNG version of the Ibiza. Note that Seat Belgium offers the CNG version in March at the same price as the petrol version(!).

We also discovered that Belgium has now 135 CNG stations and found one about 1,5 km from our home. Let it also be said that with the CNG Ibiza, you can drive in all underground parkings and have of course accession to all urban Low Emission Zones.  

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Practical

The fifth generation of the Ibiza has a stylish and roomy body, with a slightly reduced boot space when compared with the other versions, to make room for the extra CNG tanks. It varies between 355 liters and a quite reasonable 1072 liters when seats are folded. The car we tested had the luxury pack with velvet textile “FR” seats and dashboard panels covered in artificial leather.

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The car also had 18 inch alloys which certainly added to the car’s appearance. With the premium pack came also the big touch screen with excellent infotainment. Last but not least we enjoyed the keyless function as well as the adaptive cruise control.

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Conclusion

Environmental responsibility abounds, and using natural gas as energy, something which millions of European households and citizens are doing in their homes, is a very clever solution. The style, solid VW Group workmanship , the excellent road qualities and superb willing engine are further solid arguments to convince you to take this CNG Ibiza for a spin. You might decide to make it into a drive which lasts a very long time…

Hans Knol ten Bensel            

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