SEAT of learning as SUVs shine as compact Arona builds on Ateca's success
PUBLISHED: 09:54 15 October 2018 | UPDATED: 09:54 15 October 2018
SEAT has had a significant impact in a short time on the SUV market, following the Ateca with the compact Arona that's big on space and talent, says motoring editor Andy Russell.
SEAT arrived late at the SUV party but didn’t waste time getting into the swing of this growing sector.
Only two years ago it launched its first ever SUV, the Ateca. The compact Arona, tested here, followed at the start of this year with the large seven-seat Tarraco SUV completing the family in December.
It helps that SEAT drew on Volkswagen Group know-how with Audi, Skoda and Volkswagen already key SUV players.
Looks and image
To create its own identity, SEAT carved out a more angular, chiselled look and its Spanish flair is clear on the Arona which has a more youthful image.
The shared styling cues are there but the Arona stands out with up to 30 different colour combinations, matching or contrasting roof finishes and an ‘X’ symbol on the upswept rear pillar trim panel if you need reminding this is a crossover.
Under the bonnet
The 95 and 115PS, 1.0-litre, turbo petrol triples suit low-mileage drivers and there are 1.6-litre turbo diesels, with the same outputs. While frugal, the diesels are not much fun so, with sales plummeting, I’d go for the 150PS 1.5-litre turbo petrol if doing regular longer trips.
It’s more refined and poky, has strong low-down flexibility and revs freely with an eco trick up its sleeve – cutting from four to two cylinders on a light throttle and switching to eco mode even when cruising at 60mph – which resulted in a real-world 50mpg.
The downside is it’s only six-speed manual only and dynamic FR and FR Sport trims.
How it drives
The Arona shares its platform with the Ibiza, an entertaining supermini. Despite its extra height, the Arona is surprisingly good drive.
FR gets sports-tuned suspension for sharper handling but the trade-off is a firmer, but not jarring, ride thanks to still being on 17in wheels – it’s more tyre noise than physically fidgety. SEAT Drive Profile has normal, sport, eco and individual settings for performance and handling. It’s taut and agile through corners, with not lot of body lean, and the steering feel weights up nicely.
FR Sport gains 18in wheels and dynamic chassis control adaptive dampers.
Space and comfort
This compact crossover is far from small inside with enough head and legroom for four six-footers. Three in the back is fine for short hops but cramped on longer trips and the middle position has a shorter cushion and raised transmission tunnel.
It’s not cabin space at the expense of cargo with a generous 400-litre boot. It’s made more practical by a standard handy double boot floor – a panel flush with the sill and 60/40 split rear seat backs when folded flat, protects loads, provides underfloor storage or can be removed to make the boot deeper.
What lets the Arona down are all the hard plastics – including door caps and dashboard - but they’re durable and easy to clean so ‘childproof’. Higher-spec models get a padded panel, with twin stitching, across the fascia which raises perceived quality.
At the wheel
It’s easy to get comfortable with a wide range of driver’s seat and steering wheel adjustment while simple white on black dials are easy to take in and the high-level touchscreen – eight inch on all but entry SE - is intuitive and quick to respond although you have to take our eyes off the road to use it. Push buttons and rotary controls are retained for heating and ventilation.
Even SE standard spec is good, including metallic paint, bi-colour roof with rails, air-con, DAB, Bluetooth, height-adjustable front seats, cruise control and a wealth of safety kit and driver aids.
FR has sportier styling and features including LED headlights, heated folding door mirrors, sport front seats, flat-bottom steering wheel, rear disc brakes, dual-zone climate control and satellite-navigation
SEAT set the bar high with the Ateca but the Arona proves it was no fluke. It’s a worthy contender in the compact crossover market – smartly styled, attractively priced and well appointed.
SPEC AND TECH
Price: SEAT Arona FR 1.5 TSI Evo 150PS, £21,535 (range £16,685 to £24,860)
Engine: 1,498cc, 150PS, four-cylinder turbo petrol, with cylinder deactivation, mated to six-speed manual gearbox
Performance: 0-62mph 8.3 seconds; top speed 127mph
MPG: Urban 44.8; extra urban 64.2; combined 55.4
CO2 emissions: 115g/km
Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 24pc
Insurance group: 17 (out of 50)
Warranty: Three years or 60,000 miles
Will it fit in the garage? L 4,138mm; W (excluding door mirrors) 1,780mm; H 1,552mm