The SEAT Arona is a five-door compact SUV that boasts cutting edge styling, a wealth of on-board technology and all the practicality options to meet the needs of an active family. It is also economically priced.
The goodPractical, stylish, fun to drive and economically priced
The badCompeting against tough opposition
SEAT Arona – first drive (2018)
Decisions, decisions – the choices we face when buying a new car can be a daunting process with the complexity of choosing colour, engine, trim level, transmissions, optional this and additional that – and then all of a sudden that initial price-tag seems to have escalated by several hundred or, as is often the case, several thousand pounds.
In fairness some manufacturers have attempted to ease the pain by drastically reducing the number of optional extras available on a car (the Kia brand springs to mind), but the launch of the all-new SEAT Arona takes this philosophy to a whole new level. There are no optional extras – if you want additional kit, you simply step up to the next trim level.
The Arona is the Spanish marques second SUV to emerge and follows in the tracks of its larger sibling the SEAT Ateca. It’s a compact crossover so will compete in the UK’s fastest growing segment against such opposition as the Nissan Juke, Renault Captur, Peugeot 2008 and indeed the all-new Kia Stonic.
The Arona, which is designed and engineered in Barcelona, is competitively priced ranging from £16,555 to £24,435 and comes in six richly equipped trim levels called SE, SE Technology, FR, FR Sport, Xcellence and range-topping Xcellence Lux.
Buyers can choose from a range of engines to power their five-door, front-wheel-drive Arona. Petrol units are a 1.0-litre 95PS, 1.0-litre 115PS (with manual or auto gearbox) and 1.5-litre EVO 150PS. If diesel is the fuel preference then the Arona is available with a 1.6-litre 95PS engine (with both transmissions) or a 1.6-litre 115PS variant.
SEAT is aiming to simplify the buying process making it as pain-free as possible so the customer has three important decisions to make. First, they must select the trim, then the engine and finally the colour. Then they can sit back, relax and wait for the delivery date.
The Arona is a sharp dressed, striking looking car with plenty of road presence. It looks athletic with bold lines and eye-catching creases, a rising waistline, sweeping light clusters, contrast roof colours, roof rails, tinted windows, smart alloys plus model specific design cues such as sporty FR grille, bumpers and interior trim on FR models with more elegant and sophisticated detailing on Xcellence versions of the car.
Move inside and the interior is richly equipped with all the latest infotainment systems and, depending on spec level, you can expect to find either a five (SE models only) or eight-inch touchscreen. Other creature comforts include MirrorLink with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, a Beats sound system, sat nav, wireless charging, DAB digital radio, keyless entry and go, cruise control, Bluetooth, heated seats and lots more besides.
SEAT predicts that the vast majority of Arona buyers will be new to the brand and it also believes the most popular model will be powered by the tiny three-cylinder, 1.0-litre 115PS petrol engine. So we tested that powertrain mated to a six-speed manual gearbox in FR Sport spec priced at £20,665 and it has plenty of all-round appeal.
The cabin is bright and clutter-free in its layout with a modern feel to it. There is ample seat and steering wheel adjustment so it’s easy to get comfortable and the elevated driving position results in good all-round visibility. All the dials and readouts are ideally positioned for ease of use and the smart infotainment set-up is beautifully simple to operate or programme on the move.
The Arona is also deceptively spacious with enough room for couple of tall adults to travel in the back with generous levels of leg, head and shoulder space and, in addition, the boot is well-sized too with a capacity ranging from 400 litres to 823 litres with the 60:40 split-folding rear seats dropped flat. Another practical touch is the double boot floor which comes as standard across the line-up and, in its raised position, reduces the lip at the entrance of the boot which in turn simplifies the process of loading awkwardly-shaped or heavy items.
The test car could sprint from 0-62mph in 9.8 seconds and maxed out at 113mph. According to official figures, it could deliver combined fuel economy of 56.5mpg with carbon emissions of 114g/km.
There was a day when three-cylinder engines were a tad lacking in the firepower department, but not so this unit. It fizzed round town and then when faced with the open road there were generous levels of power and zip to push on through the country lanes. The ride was grounded and sure-footed with a little engine noise only becoming noticeable at higher speeds. Even on the motorway, the 1.0-litre engine delivered all the power and acceleration needed to keep pace with fast-moving traffic.
Next up was the 1.5-litre TSI Evo 150PS engine complete with active cylinder deactivation technology that is exclusive to the FR trim. This means the fourth cylinder can be shut down when not needed to improve efficiency.
Once again, the six-speed manual Arona, costing £22,040, delivered a competent all-round performance and the extra power and bite was particularly noticeable when being driven hard on faster roads. This car was also faster and could sprint to 62mph from a standing start in 8.3 seconds, redlined at 127mph and delivered combined fuel efficiency of 55.4mpg with CO2 emissions of 115g/km.
A SEAT driver profile facility is fitted to FR, FR Sport and the Excellence Lux trims which offers four different driving modes called Normal, Sport, Eco and Individual that alter the car’s handling and driving dynamics.
When it comes to safety, the SEAT Arona has been awarded the maximum five stars in the Euro NCAP tests and boasts as standard the likes of Front Assist, multi-collision braking system, stability control, hill hold control and a driver fatigue system.
All in all, the SEAT Arona is a welcome arrival into the compact SUV segment – a sector that is bursting at the seams, but still struggling to keep up with buyer demand. But, be warned, the Spanish marque is not stopping there and has already announced plans for a full-sized seven-seater SUV by the end of this year.