Think SEAT and think sporty – well, that's what the manufacturer's executives want you to think anyway. And it's no different for the forthcoming Cordoba. 'The new Cordoba is further proof that SEAT has developed into a design-led company, creating cars infused with sporting character', the company's execs will tell you.
The carmaker, which is part of the Volkswagen Group alongside the likes of Audi and Skoda, has been making the Cordoba since 1994 and the latest model, launched in the UK next May, is basically an Ibiza with a boot.
Personally, I don't think it's the best looking car in the SEAT range – the boot looks a bit squashed but the car still has lots of nice muscular touches and curves. Despite the boot's look, it does offer a massive amount of room.
One potential problem though is the fact you can't see the end of it when reversing, so parking is not easy.
At launch, the cars will come with three engine options: the 1.4-litre petrol that produces 75 bhp (we're not getting the more powerful 100bhp model), and two 1.9 TDI engines, offering 75bhp and 130bhp.
Pricing and specification is to be announced later but expect to pay between £10,000 for the entry-level model and about £14,000 for the top-of-the-range Cordoba. SEAT expects sales next year to reach about 1,000 units in the UK but it hasn't yet made any predictions for fleet or full-year sales.
As booted superminis account for a small percentage of the small car sector, SEAT's sales target for the new Cordoba in the UK are relatively small.
It is aimed at those looking for a fun car that offers adequate room and unless you really need the security of a fixed boot I can't see why you would choose one over an Ibiza hatchback.
Although trim levels have yet to be announced, the list of options includes alloy wheels, electric sunroof, rain-sensing wipers, Climatronic air conditioning, traction control (standard on the 130bhp TDI), satellite navigation, leather upholstery, cruise control and much more. Standard equipment across the range, however, will include twin front airbags and ABS brakes.
In a video presentation, SEAT's executive committee president Dr Andreas Schleef said the launch of the new Cordoba represented 'another pillar of the bridge between its current range of products and the future generation of SEAT cars, which will be out in two to three years' time.'
Schleef said the new range of cars 'will fully express SEAT's new values of sportiness and design-orientation, together with Audi and Lamborghini, within the framework of the Audi brand group.
However, SEAT UK said there were no plans to include an upper-medium car as part of its new range, despite the strong reception to Skoda's Superb upper-medium model.
You can be assured that any new cars coming out of the SEAT camp will be marketed as sporty, or at least as having sporty characteristics. It's a common theme running though the promotional material for its new Cordoba.
Alicante in Spain provided the perfect backdrop for the launch of the Cordoba and the smooth but anticipated stiff ride suited the area's uncongested roads well. The route chosen by SEAT wasn't the most exciting but it demonstrated the car's handling fairly well. The compact car has a roomy feel about it in the front but not so much in the rear.
Enter the car for the first time and you can't fail to notice a huge amount of room to the left of the pedals in the driver's footwell. A clown wearing his size 12s could easily get both feet side by side in the gap. Fortunately though this unexplained expanse of space is not to the detriment of the pedals' positioning.
The car has a very handsome and funky interior fascia – one of the best I've seen in a car of its class. That same facia also houses a brilliant stereo system for such a small car, which produces a great sound. I didn't find the seats particularly comfortable but that didn't spoil the generally favourable ride quality. I drove both petrol and diesel versions of the car and the petrol engine proved itself to be sprightly and performed well. The diesel was quiet and provided a refined and stiff, but not-too-stiff, ride. The car experienced some body roll when cornering hard but not so much that warrants too much mention. The 100bhp diesel provides plenty of performance but the star of the range is the TDI 130 model, which offers fantastic acceleration both from standstill and in the mid-range, while also recording more than 50mpg.
The SEAT Cordoba is definitely not a sports car in any sense of the description but it wears its sporty characteristics proudly on its sleeve.
I probably wouldn't chose a Cordoba if I was a travelling salesman covering hundreds of miles every week, but for a good fun town car it would be a serious contender. The only question that remains is who would really choose a Cordoba over its far more attractive sister, the Ibiza.
|Model||1.4||1.9 TDI 100||1.9 TDI 130|
|Max power (bhp/rpm):||75/5,000||100/4,000||130/4,000|
|Max torque (lb-ft/rpm):||93/3,800||177/1,800||228/1,900|
|Max speed (mph):||109||119||130|
|Comb fuel consumption (mpg):||44.1||57.6||55.4|
|CO2 emissions (g/km):||154||132||138|
|On sale:||May 2003|
|Prices (est):||£10,000 - £14,000|