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Seat Arona: living with the Spanish compact crossover

Published: 02 November 2018

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Month 4 of our Seat Arona long-term test review: a brief tour of the bits we like

One for a golden oldie...

Seat Arona CD player and SD card slots in glovebox

The FR comes with some things I wouldn’t particularly ask for, but which are actually pretty good – smartphone integration, MirrorLink etc. All very modern. But, to be honest, I’m more pleased by there being a CD/DVD player in the glovebox, barely mentioned in the Seat brochure. I’ve got a house full of CDs, and often find I’d rather play a CD than plug in an MP3 player. 

Bulb Fiction

Seat Arona headlamps, day-running lights and turn indicators

It was only when I crossed paths with another Arona that I realised what’s going on with the front indicators: they are the daytime running lights. I’m easily offended by tricksy light foolishness, but these are great, partly because they make good use of space but mostly because they look like John Travolta’s hand gestures when he’s dancing with Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction. 

Joining the diesel deserters

Seat Arona dashboard and instruments

Oh how foolish Dieselgate looks when it turns out the VW Group is capable of making its petrol engines this clean, efficient and enjoyable. Active two-cylinder running doubtless helps, but the pleasingly high mpg figure must mostly be down to the fundamentals of fuelling, combustion, friction, gearing and aero being spot on.

A splash of chrome

Seat Arona C-pillar and chrome detailing

This pillar makes all the difference to the looks of the Arona, especially when combined with the contrasting roof (a no-cost option). It’s not a detail unique to the Arona – variations appear on the Volvo X40, Audi Q2 and the Renault Captur, to name some of the most effective – but it’s still unusual enough to make a difference.

By Colin Overland

Logbook: Seat Arona FR 1.5 TSI Evo

Price £21,270
As tested £21,270
Engine 1498cc 16v turbo 4-cyl, 148bhp @ 5000rpm, 184lb ft @ 1500rpm
Transmission 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Performance 8.3sec 0-62mph, 127mph, 115g/km CO2 
Miles this month 506
Total 7032 
Our mpg 40.2
Official mpg 55.4 
Fuel this month £75
Extra costs None

Month 2 living with a Seat Arona: the practicalities of daily life

Cruise control is often a waste of space but the Arona’s system is so simple and neat that I’ll give it a pass. And, the other day, I actually used it. Everything is controlled by two tiny switches on the indicator stalk. It doesn’t do anything clever; it just holds your speed steady. If you think you’re going to crash or get in someone’s way, you over-ride it. 

Why use it at all, after months of shunning it? Because I was driving back to the Midlands after a long, sweaty day’s work at Goodwood, and thought using cruise control might de-stress me a bit. It did, helped by the very effective climate control.

Seat Arona rear seatbelt safety recall

Meanwhile, there’s been a VW/Seat recall on Polos, Ibizas and Aronas, caused by concern that the left rear seatbelt could in certain circumstances become undone if all three rear seats were occupied (which hadn’t happened on the two occasions when I’ve had all three rear seats occupied). 

The problem is that the buckle for the centre seat is just above the buckle for the left seat, and can press down on it during cornering (see above left). The fix has involved a slight repositioning (see above right) that stops this happening.

By Colin Overland

Month 1 of our Seat Arona long-term test review: the introduction

Some of the most pleasing things about these early days with the Seat Arona are things that aren't there. Or, put more positively, there's a wonderful absence of clutter and filler.

No central armrest or oddments bin. Why not? Because there's a real handbrake – always a good thing. No keyless entry, so instead there's a conventional key, which avoids any 'where's my key?' confusion.

Colin Overland and the CAR magazine Seat Arona

No lane-departure or automatic emergency braking or cruise control. And no electronic assistance for the boot or steering column or seat adjustment. What you get is a good engine and a decent chassis in a compact but reasonably roomy and stylish package. Everything is there for a very clear reason, that reason being to let you get on with driving the car and using it to ease your way through the daily grind.

There are no options fitted to the car, because there aren't any available. Seat's current philosophy is that the spec levels are distinct and well defined, and once a potential 
customer has plumped for an engine and a colour, they'll quickly spot which spec level suits their preferences. Job done.

I'm not sure it's quite as simple as Seat says it is. There are six trim levels (and Seat did that vogueish thing of also having a special early-buyer spec level called First Edition), which come in three pairs. The most basic is SE, but there's also the slightly higher SE Technology (which brings you upgraded infotainment). At the top there's the techy Xcellence and techier Xcellence Lux. In the middle there's my car, the FR, but also the FR Sport (with 18-inch rather than 17-inch wheels, alacantara not cloth upholstery and more sophisticated suspension; that lot adds £770 to the price). FR has sporty seats, black interior detailing, four driving modes, climate control, chrome roof rails plus different grille and rear bumper designs.

My engine, the 1.5 turbocharged petrol four, is only available with the FR and FR Sport. In the UK, all Aronas are front-drive and five-door only, and come with metallic paint. There are two smaller petrols and a couple of diesels. Some models are available with seven-speed auto. I suspect I've got the best of the bunch.

Seat Arona long-term test review

The cornering does suffer from the Arona's extra height over the smaller, lighter Ibiza, but overall it's good – certainly more fun than the larger Ateca. You need to engage with it – keep the engine spinning and you'll find plenty of power without too great a thirst for fuel. It gets a bit loud when you rev it hard, but is generally refined and comfortable.

My fiddling with the modes (Eco, Comfort, Sport, Individual) may make a bit of difference to the economy, but bigger benefits come from smooth driving. You know you're being smooth because you get a message flashed up saying that two of the four cylinders have been deactivated, and you're cruising along on minimal fuel. Without the message you really wouldn't know half the engine has its feet up on the desk.

By Colin Overland

Logbook: Seat Arona FR 1.5 TSI EVO

Engine 1498cc 16v turbocharged 4-cyl, 148bhp @ 5000rpm, 184lb ft @ 1500rpm  
Transmission 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive  
Stats 8.3sec 0-62mph, 127mph, 115g/km CO2 
Price £21,270
As tested £21,270  
Miles this month 1382
Total miles 2364
Our mpg 38.2
Official mpg 55.4 
Fuel this month £199.23
Extra costs None

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By CAR's road test team

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