Review

Seat Arona SUV (2017 - ) review

The Arona is a small SUV that plays on choice, with plenty of colour, trim and engine options to choose from. It offers an alternative to cars like the Kia Stonic, Renault Captur and Peugeot 2008.

Words by: First published: 26th October 2017
The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 3.7
The Arona is Seat’s first move into the small SUV market, and it’s an attractive one. With several versions to choose from, all well-equipped with standard features and uncomplicated by optional extras, it’s worth considering alongside its best rivals. Those looking for a fizzy driving experience should stick to the FR versions.

Pros

  • FR models are fun to drive
  • Wide range of colour combinations
  • Plenty of equipment as standard

Cons

  • Non-FR models lack driving fun
  • Lack of options restrict personalisation
  • Average reliability record

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How good does it look? 4/5

The Arona takes its looks from both the Seat Ibiza hatchback and the larger Ateca SUV, giving it an SUV look, without being noticeably huge. It’s shorter than the Leon hatchback. 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.

The Xcellence range focuses on comfort. 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? 4/5

The interior of the Arona isn’t particularly exciting to look at, but it can be brightened up with various colour combinations, and all the features and buttons are logically laid out. The plastics are of a decent quality and everything feels solid, and 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 in the middle of the dash for the infotainment system, and FR versions get some sportier, more supportive seats than other models, designed to keep you better in place during more enthusiastic cornering.

How practical is it? 4/5

Space in the Arona is very reasonable for a car this size, with plenty of room for four adults and good head-room in the back. A third adult in the middle of the second row might start to feel cramped pretty quickly, but that’s standard across all cars of this type. Boot size is also impressive, and 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? 3/5

The handling depends on which version you go for, as FR models of the Arona have a stiffened, sportier suspension set-up. If you’re someone that enjoys their driving, these are the versions to go for, as it makes the whole car seem much keener through the bends without impacting too much on ride comfort. The other models lack the same poise and composure, especially if you try to push the pace on. However, if your priority is comfort, it’s unlikely to bother you too much. The steering weight on all cars is on the light side, which helps with low-speed manoeuvring.

How powerful is it? 3/5

There are five engine choices in the Arona, of which we’ve tried two. Those wanting some extra zip will find it in the 1.5-litre petrol model, which has 150PS of power 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 being a proper hot hatch.

For most other people, the 1.0-litre petrol engine with 115PS should be more than adequate for everyday needs, 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 which has 95PS.

If you’re doing longer journeys, you may want to look at the two 1.6-litre diesel options – one with 95PS and one with 115PS – for their improved fuel economy. Most models come with a perfectly serviceable manual gearbox, but the 1.0 petrol and 95PS 1.6 diesel can be specified with an automatic instead, which works well. It should be noted that not all engines are available in all trim levels.

How much will it cost me? 4/5

The Arona isn’t the cheapest small SUV to buy, but strong resale values and good fuel economy help considerably when looking at overall running costs. We compared the 95PS 1.0 TSI 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 the more powerful and swankier 115PS 1.0 TSI FR and equivalent rivals. Good resale value, affordable servicing and repair all contribute to this. We don’t yet have any data for diesel models.

How reliable is it? 3/5

As it’s a brand-new model, we don’t yet have any reliability data for the Arona, but Seat as a brand has 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, and in a slightly higher – but still mid-table – position in JD Power’s 2017 UK Vehicle Dependability Study. 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? 4/5

At the time of writing, the Arona hasn’t yet been crash tested by safety organisation Euro NCAP. However, the Ibiza hatchback, which shares much of the mechanical bits of the Arona, scored a maximum five stars when it was tested, and we’d expect the Arona to do the same. All models come with a full complement of airbags and 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 stop more hits.

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? 4/5

The Arona is unusual, because in all versions, the full list of features are included as standard, meaning there are no options boxes to tick 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 slower cars in front of you on the motorway. The top-end Xcellence Lux has posh Alcantara (faux-suede) upholstery.

Why buy? 4/5

You’re in the market for a small SUV and want one that offers plenty of choice without complicating matters with pages and pages of options. The Arona is a solidly built little car with good attention to detail and plenty of equipment as standard. FR models offer a bit of excitement to the experience, although they stop well short of being a hot hatch. Running costs are attractive and it comes with a good amount of safety kit too. We can see it making a lot of sense to a lot of potential customers.

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