The Cupra, from the Seat stable, comes over small but shows a whole lot of heart

Charles Mogale

Charles Mogale

In recent months I have hardly noticed any Ibiza Seats, though I could swear there are quite a few on our roads.

And when I took delivery of a test model Cupra last week, I resigned myself to a ho-hum experience - just another jalopy like the rest of them.

I could not have been more wrong. What a revelation this little car has been. No doubt Ibiza is focusing on the motor enthusiast with this one.

The design is not that mind-blowing, though it has been revamped from previous models to emphasise the car's dynamic sportiness. To achieve this look, some tweaking has taken place on the seats, bumpers, fog lights and grille.

But only once the little monster had earned my respect, could I fully appreciate how the low-profile wheels, the contours on the steering wheel, and a bigger gear knob made for better handling and a whole lot of fun.

By this time I had established that the three-door model is powered by a turbo-charged 1,8litre motor capable of 132kW of power, and I was not at all surprised.

It does 0-100kmh in 7,3 seconds and reaches a top speed of - wait for it - 230kmh.

Of course I could not put that claim to the test, but there is no reason to disbelieve it.

You do not have to notch up criminal speed levels to feel the car is nippy and responsive. Darting from point to point finds a great outlet for the adrenalin.

Ibiza has used the agile chassis concept, which incorporates a suspension with softer coils and short, stiff shock absorbers.

This improves the handling and the general feel of the car.

The Cupra is packed with lots of safety enhancing devices.

They include twin front airbags, side airbags, anti-locking brake system, traction control, emergency braking aid system, a collapsible steering column, three-point anchoring seat belts - all with head restraints - and a highly rigid body.

If you had to find a reason to dislike the car, it would probably be because it is small and compact - though it has never pretended to be otherwise to anyone. For R189500, some people will demand more interior space, or an out and out sports car.

But once the trip starts, you realise it is small car with a very big heart.

And, more importantly, it is a great ride.