Seat Arona SUV (2017 - ) review
The Arona is a small SUV that offers an alternative to cars such as the Kia Stonic, Renault Captur and Peugeot 2008.
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How good does it look?
The Arona takes its looks from both the Seat Ibiza hatchback and the larger Ateca SUV, giving it an SUV look, but on a small scale. There are six versions available, starting with the entry-level SE, which has 17-inch alloy wheels, a two-tone roof, and LED daytime running lights. The SE Technology adds rear parking sensors.
The range then splits into two sections. The FR models have more of a performance slant, starting with the FR, which has a different design of 17-inch alloy wheel and a redesigned body kit, as well as chrome roof rails. The FR Sport has larger, 18-inch alloys.
Alternatively, he Xcellence range focuses on comfort rather than sportiness. The Xcellence has yet another design of 17-inch alloy wheel and some chrome bits dotted around the bodywork, while the Xcellence Lux gets 18-inch alloys, front parking sensors and a rear-view camera.
What's the interior like?
The interior of the Arona isn’t particularly exciting to look at, and the basic colour schemes are rather dour, but it can be brightened up with various colour combinations, and all the switches and buttons are logically laid out. Everything feels very solid and the plastics are of a decent quality, but the materials in many rivals feel a good bit posher. The driving position should suit most people, with plenty of adjustment on both the seat and the steering wheel. All versions except the entry-level SE get an 8.0-inch touch-screen infotainment system in the middle of the dash, and it’s pretty easy and intuitive to use. However, on versions with keyless entry, it’s a little annoying that the start button sits on the wrong side of the gear lever, meaning you have to reach past it awkwardly to start the car. FR versions get some sportier, more supportive seats than other models, designed to hold you in place better during more enthusiastic cornering.
How practical is it?
Considering its diminutive size, cabin space is pretty reasonable in the Arona. There’s plenty of room for four adults, with adequate kneeroom and generous headroom in the back, but it’s also true that a Renault Captur offers passengers more space to stretch out. And, put a third adult in the back and things will start to feel cramped pretty quickly, but that’s the case with all cars of this type. Boot size is impressive; larger than rivals like the Kia Stonic and Nissan Juke, but it doesn’t have the party piece of the Renault Captur, which lets you move the rear seats backwards or forwards for extra space. Still, the seats fold down to create a flat load space, thanks to a useful two-level boot floor. In the cabin, there’s a useful cubby hole in front of the gearstick, two cupholders and space under the centre armrest, as well as good-sized door pockets.
What's it like to drive?
The way the Arona behaves on the road depends on which version you go for, because the FR models have a stiffer suspension set-up than the other models. Even with the standard models, you feel plenty of the surface beneath you, especially at low urban speeds, so it’s not the most comfortable car of its type. That said, it’s nothing that’s going to upset you or your passengers. In the corners, meanwhile, the car’s tall body a small footprint result in a fair amount of body roll as you change direction, but again, it’s nothing that going to have you feeling unsettled. The steering might, because it’s quick, super-light and pretty devoid of feel, meaning it can occasionally feel a little twitchy. That said, the lightness comes in handy during parking manoeuvres, and so does the Arona’s impressively tight turning circle. If anything, the FR models are actually better to drive, because the extra stiffness keeps body roll in check more, making the car feel generally sharper and more agile, but importantly, this doesn’t have any negative effect on ride comfort.
How powerful is it?
There are five engine choices in the Arona, and we’ve tried most of them. Those wanting maximum zip will find it in the 1.5-litre petrol model, which has 150 horsepower and delivers plenty of punch. Combine that with the sports suspension in the FR models, and the Arona has enough pep to put a smile on your face, although it stops some way short of feeling properly hot hatch-like.
For most other people, the 115 horsepower 1.0-litre petrol engine should be more than adequate for everyday use, as it has just enough oomph for a car of this size as long as you’re not hauling lots of stuff or passengers. There’s also another version of the 1.0-litre petrol engine that has 95 horsepower, and although it feels fine when you’re pootling around town, it can start to feel a little underpowered when you break free of the city limits.
If you’re doing longer journeys, you may want to look at the two 1.6-litre diesel options – one with 95 horsepower and one with 115 horsepower – for their improved fuel economy. We’ve only tried the former so far, and in terms of power, it’s absolutely fine. It’s not very fast, but it’s responsive and eager enough to have to motoring along at a fairly decent lick. More of a problem is the sound it makes, because it grumbles and chunters away even under a light throttle, and buzzes noisily at motorway speeds.
Most models come with a manual gearbox, but the 115 horsepower petrol and 95 horsepower diesel can be specified with a twin-clutch automatic instead, which works well. It should also be noted that not all engines are available in all trim levels.
How much will it cost me?
The Arona isn’t the cheapest small SUV to buy, but strong resale values, good fuel economy and affordable servicing and repair help considerably when looking at overall running costs. For instance, compare the 1.0 TSI 95 SE Technology to the equivalent Kia Stonic, Renault Captur and Peugeot 2008, and the Seat is the cheapest to run over three years or 60,000 miles. It’s a similar story with most of the swankier, more powerful versions, meaning that the Arona generally makes a lot of financial sense.
How reliable is it?
As it’s a brand-new model, we don’t yet have any reliability data for the Arona, but Seat as a brand has enjoyed a solid - if not spectacular - reliability record in recent years. The manufacturer sits mid-table on Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index, which ranks the dependability of different carmakers. Should anything go wrong, Seat offers a two-year, unlimited mileage warranty and three years with up to 60,000 miles. However, some rivals offer more impressive warranties, most notably Kia. If you buy a Stonic, you’ll get a standard seven-year/100,000-mile warranty.
How safe is it?
The Arona has been crash tested by safety organisation Euro NCAP, and happily, it has achieved the full five-star rating. All versions come with six airbags, along with Isofix child seat mounting points in the two outer rear seats. They also include a tiredness recognition system, which will warn you if you’re getting drowsy, and a multi-collision braking system, which will apply the brakes after an accident to help prevent further impacts. Front Assist – Seat’s name for automatic emergency braking – is also standard, and will apply the anchors if the car is about to crash and you don’t respond to warnings. However, some other safety systems are restricted to the two Xcellence models, which is a shame, especially with no option to add them to other versions. These systems include blind spot warning and rear cross traffic alert.
Front Assist – Seat’s name for automatic emergency braking – is also standard, and will apply the anchors if the car is about to crash and you don’t respond. However, some other safety systems are restricted to the two Xcellence models, which is a shame, especially with no option to add them to other versions. These systems include blind spot warning and rear cross traffic alert.
How much equipment do I get?
The Arona is unusual, because the list of features you can have are all included as standard, meaning there is no scope for adding optional extras when you order. This is intended to streamline the buying process and avoid confusion, but if you’re someone that likes to tailor your car to the nth degree, you might find this frustrating. For the rest of us, it simply means choosing a colour, trim level and engine, and you’re done.
The entry-level SE comes with automatic headlights, cruise control and a 5.0-inch colour touch-screen, through which you can control your DAB radio and Bluetooth connected smartphone audio. Air-conditioning is also included, as is the useful double boot floor. The SE Technology is broadly similar, but adds an upgraded 8.0-inch touch-screen with satellite navigation and wireless charger for your phone. The FR and FR Sport’s extras are mostly cosmetic and performance related, but the Xcellence bundles keyless entry and engine start and adaptive cruise control, which will automatically match pace with the car in front of you on the motorway. The top-end Xcellence Lux has posh Alcantara (faux-suede) upholstery.
Because you fancy a super-stylish small SUV (doesn’t everyone these days?) and you want one that offers plenty of choice without complicating matters with pages and pages of optional extras. The Arona is very well equipped as standard, not least when it comes to safety, and it’s also solidly built and practical enough for a small family. We can see it making a lot of sense to a lot of potential customers.