20.1.2018Seat Arona First Drive
Seat's latest model - the Arona - is one of vital importance to the company, since it fights in a highly competitive sector. With compact crossovers big business, the Arona can ill afford to be behind its rivals since it seems as though every manufacturer and their dog has entered the market recently. We test Seat's crossover to see how it competes.
Review by Chris Lilly
The Arona is powered by a small but effective range of petrol and diesel engines. Although in larger models the diesels win over customers, with the compact nature of the Arona, Seat's petrol units are expected to sell well. As such, with less weight to shift and a focus on greater driving dynamics, the Arona's line-up of engines is weighted in favour of petrol. On offer are two petrols in three states of tune, and one diesel with two different power outputs. The 1.0 litre TSI petrol does much of the hard work in the range, offered with either 95hp or 115hp on tap. Those wanting more power can opt for the VW Group's 1.5 TSI Evo engine, an excellent unit that provides 150hp on the Arona's specification list. Diesel options are both based on the 1.6 litre TDI engine, with either 95hp or 115hp. The greater torque on offer from the diesels, and at lower revs, means these would be the pick of the bunch for those racking up motorway miles, but otherwise the petrol options will suit most buyers. The 95hp 1.0 TSI does the task required but can feel a little lacklustre when you need to press on. By contrast, the 1.5 TSI Evo engine will have plenty of power available, more than enough to shift the Arona at pace and heavily laded I would hazard, but it would be the luxury option. The Goldilocks pick is likely to be the 115hp 1.0 TSI petrol. With a good balance between performance and efficiency, the engine works well with what are likely to be the Arona's usual situations. Town driving is tackled capably, particularly if specified with the excellent seven-speed DSG automatic. Go for the six-speed manual and traffic work might be more arduous, but the driving experience is more engaging. The shift is slick and pretty quick, with power on all models going to the front wheels - no four-wheel drive, serious off-road model available here. On more open roads, the 115hp unit deals well with keeping up with traffic, and will tackle most tasks well.
Very much a road-biased crossover, the Arona is staking much of its reputation on its road manners. Fortunately Seat's engineers have come up with the goods, and the Arona offers a dynamic driving experience when required. It can't quite disguise its height, but otherwise the Arona handles like a hatchback most of the time. It will lean a little when cornering hard, but on the whole body roll is kept in check. The steering is light but precise, and there is enough feedback to let you know what's going on beneath the wheels, but not so much as to bombard you with information. The compact Seat drives well then, and is tailored towards the type of driving it will deal with most. With wheels pushed into the corners, the Arona is manoeuvrable in tight spots, and will deal with car parks and the like easily. The increased height also means it softens the blow of pot holes and speed bumps, tackling uneven surfaces well at town speeds. Because of a lack of outright length, the Arona can't compete with larger cars in terms of stability on the motorway, but even then it doesn't feel skittish.
The Arona is a highly designed model, with Seat incorporating a number of tricks to reduce the impact of its broad sides. There are creases, cuts, and features throughout the Arona's surfaces, and although it looks a little busy in photos, the compact Seat works well aesthetically in the metal. There is a clear focus on design, with the Arona both managing to stand out in a crowded market, and also look more youthful than its larger stablemate - the Ateca. Despite this style-focus though, the Arona is a practical car all-round. Not only do the aforementioned wheels-in-corners give the Arona a sportier stance, they also free up passenger space inside. The first SUV from the VW Group to be based on the new MQB A0 platform, the Arona benefits from the same stiff but lightweight architecture that underpins superminis like the Seat Ibiza and VW Polo. Despite its compact proportions though, the Arona is a practical proposition, with plenty of space inside for four adults and luggage. As a prospective family car, the Arona will deal with life as a workhorse surprisingly well if initial impressions are anything to go by, with a large boot, spacious rear seats, and cubby holes aplenty throughout.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
The Arona's cabin is exactly what buyers should expect from a Seat product. It's a little more flamboyant than fellow VW stable-mate Skoda's offerings, and not quite as premium as a Volkswagen's. As such, buyers will get a well built interior, with some nice styling elements, and a some splashes of colour to liven proceedings up. To be fair, it's a assessment that could be copied and pasted into any Seat review, but that doesn't stop it from ringing true for the Arona. As such the compact crossover is pitched very nicely in the market, which aims towards younger buyers to start with. Switchgear falls nicely to hand and feels robust enough for life with a young family on board. The large infotainment system, when fitted, has a premium feel to it too, with high quality graphics and lots of connectivity options. All in all, it's standard Seat fare, but that's no bad thing at all.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
The range of engines available for the Arona are all practical options, with none going to be costly to run. The best of the range in terms of fuel economy and emissions is the 70.6 MPG and 105 g/km CO2 from the 95 hp 1.6 TDI engine. Top of the charts for petrols is the 95 hp TSI with 57.6 MPG and 111 g/km CO2, while even the least economical option in the range - the 150 hp 1.5 TSI EVO unit - will still return an official 55.4 MPG and 115 g/km CO2. Tax costs will all come under the standard rate of Â£140 per year after the first year, since all models cost less than the Â£40,000 premium rate threshold. First year VED costs will vary between Â£140 and Â£160 depending on model bought.
The use of the new MQB A0 platform is a key element in the Arona's green credentials, since the lightweight but stiff architecture keeps mass down and improves efficiency. Other elements include the compact engines, with the TDI and TSI diesel and petrol engines respectively offering good power levels while at the same time offering frugal performance, despite the 1.0 TSI having only three cylinders. The 1.5 TSI Evo features automatic cylinder deactivation to shut down half of the cylinders when not under load. Engine stop/start is available on all models, and those fitted with Seat Drive Profile have an Eco option with driving scores and coaching, and reduced throttle response and gear changes on DSG models. According to our calculations, the Seat Arona range has a Next Green Car Rating from 36.
All specifications in the Arona range come well equipped, since Seat has skipped the normal S entry level trim found on the similarly-sized Ibiza, and jumped straight to SE. Features include a bi-colour roof, front fog lights, LED rear lights, leather trimmed wheel, gearstick, and handbrake, air conditioning, electric windows all round, cruise control, automatic headlights, DAB radio with 5-inch colour touchscreen infotainment system, steering wheel mounted controls, and 17-inch alloys. It's got all the 'basics' then, but a move up to SE Technology adds the larger and high quality 8-inch touchscreen Media System Plus, with 3D navigation, two USB ports, voice control, and rear parking sensors It's probably the sweet spot in the range for most. FR trim adds full LED headlights, privacy glass, FR styling and steering wheel, sports seats and suspension, dual-zone climae control, rain sensing wipers, 17-inch alloys, and Seat Drive Profile. If money stretches to the FR trim, you get a lot of Seat for your money. Xcellence and moves up in parrallel to FR trim, with fewer sporty features, but a bit more tech, such as keyless entry and start. Both FR and Xcellence have a higher trim level again in the shape of FR Sport and Xcellence Lux respectively. FR Sport adds dynamic chassis control and 18-inch alloys amongst other features, while Xcellence Lux includes rear-view camera, park assist and sensors, Seat Drive Profile, and 18-inch alloys.
The Arona might be Seat's first model in the burgeoning compact crossover market, but the little SUV is a good one. Performing well across the board, the Arona doesn't excel in any particular area, but scores highly in each attribute. It's instantly become one of the top models in its class.
Model tested: Seat Arona
Engine / CO2: 1.0 & 1.5 litre TSI petrol; 1.6 TDI diesel / from 105 g/km
Trim grades: SE, SE Technology, SE Technology Lux, FR, FR Sport, Xcellence, Xcellence Lux
On-road price: From £16,750
Warranty: Three years / 60,000 mileage
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.0 Stars