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Seat’s seven-seat SUV (2018): how it fits into the Spanish crossover family

Published: 18 August 2017

► Three Seat SUVs by 2018  
► Big seven-seater on way
Arona baby SUV late 2017

Seat will go from nought to three SUVs in the space of three years, when it launches a new flagship in 2018. What can we expect from the design – Arona vibrancy, Ateca traditionalism, or a carbon copy of the 20V20 concept that gave the first hint at a big SUV?

CAR drove its long-term test Ateca all the way to Barcelona to find out, for an audience with Seat design chief Alejandro Mesonero-Romanos and his three SUVs. Alex Tapley took the photos.

That searing orange concept is great: I can have one next year, right?

Not exactly. While the reaction to the 20V20 helped approve the business case for a five- and seven-seat SUV, look closely and you’ll see that the side surfacing and details are actually from another Seat – the imminent baby SUV. ‘It’s basically the Arona but with the proportions of a bigger SUV,’ admits Mesonero-Romanos.

Seat 20V20 concept hints at 2018's seven-seat SUV

The 2018 4x4 – currently the subject of a public naming competition – will be built at VW’s home plant in Wolfsburg, and shares its 4.7m-long platform with the Tiguan Allspace and Skoda Kodiaq.

The production car’s roofline will be less swooping and the rear hatch less spearing than the concept’s – Seat’s SUVs get more formal as they increase in size.

The Seat is almost certain to share the doors of its sister SUVs to save costs, as do the Ateca and forthcoming Skoda Karoq.

Seat design chief Alejandro Mesonero-Romanos (left)

‘With the 2018 car, we are playing the typical design codes that people will recognise in the big SUV class,’ says the design boss. ‘More premium, a sense of superiority, expressed by the mass, the quality in the detailing. It’s different from the Arona, we are not applying the same concept and photocopying.’

Okay, so what’s the design story behind the Arona?

Seat’s supermini-SUV, based on the Ibiza platform but with a raised driving position in a body practically 100mm taller, arrives in the UK in November 2017. ‘The Arona is young, fresh, a bit of a rebel,’ explains Mesonero-Romanos. ‘The main thing is the idea of personalisation.’ Customers will be able to choose black, grey, orange or body-coloured roofs, with 68 different combinations.

The glasshouse area is the Arona’s standout design feature, with the bonnet colour extended into the A-pillar to create a distinctive two-tone look; the Ibiza’s shorter-looking hood and cutline doesn’t allow for double paint shades.

The look is enhanced by a blade of chrome that widens as it sweeps backwards. ‘We were thinking of putting ‘Seat’ in the chrome but used ‘X’ instead because it’s a crossover and a funky graphic: people don’t have a clue about the meaning, but they like it!’

Seat Arona: X marks the spot on rear pillar

It’s a motif repeated on the end of the dashboard – a little surprise and delight feature you can only see when the door’s open.

How Seat’s design codes shaped the Ateca

All the SUVs naturally use Seat’s key design element, the triangular lamps, introduced on the 2012 Leon and its sister car, the Ateca. ‘Squares are too static, circles too Volkswagen, triangles have a different perspective from different angles.’ Consistency is all part of a plan. ‘Design plays an important role at Seat, it’s a way to put us on the map.

‘The Ateca also respects the codes of the SUV segment, something pretty solid, quite robust,’ continues the design chief. The long, straight shoulder line makes the 4.3m-long crossover look longer than it is, while the squared-off wheelarches – also shared with the flagship SUV – are lifted from a Jeep, where they were designed to stop the wheels getting clogged with mud.

Concludes Mesonero-Romanos: ‘We are doing something that is straightforward to see and understand. We want to make Seats immediately recognisable.’ It’s working. The new model push – facelifted Leon, Ateca and new Ibiza, just launched in the UK – saw Seat record its best sales for 16 years in the first half of the year. And three new cars in 2018 will keep up the momentum.

Ateca meets Arona: Seat's original SUV meets baby bruv

By Phil McNamara

Editor-in-chief of CAR magazine

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