► Seat Arona small-SUV tested
► Priced from £16,555
► On sale 17 November
Seat’s Arona is a small SUV arriving so late to the party that most revellers are beyond giddy: Nissan’s Juke has been propping up the bar for six years in comparison, a bender that even Ernest Hemmingway might have found taxing.
In the main, the Arona’s party piece won’t stun the DJ into silence, as the ingredients are fairly conventional: decent cabin space within a small vehicle footprint, raised ride height to give the driver a more commanding seating position, and downsized engines for useful fuel economy.
Where the Seat differs is by being the smallest SUV from Volkswagen Group, and by using the accomplished mechanical bits from the Ibiza and VW Polo superminis. Does that give the Arona a dynamic and quality advantage? Read on to find out more.
Seat Arona: what’s the engine line-up?
The Arona enters the UK market on 17 November with three turbocharged petrol variants: a 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine with 95 or 115PS, and a 1.5-litre ‘Evo’ producing 150PS. A 1.6-litre diesel follows later, but most buyers will gravitate to the 113bhp triple CAR drove. Rightly so, it feels more nimble and less arduous to steer than the 148bhp four-cylinder, more rapier than the bigger engine’s broadsword.
Acceleration is reasonable, with the 0-62mph sprint completed in 9.8sec as you whip through a close-ratio six-speed manual ‘box, urged on by raucous three-cylinder song. The engine comes on strongly from just over 1500revs, punching through a strong mid-range. But the loud pedal is an all-too appropriate description: engine noise is pretty intrusive under high throttle load. And cruising at motorway speeds pulling 2400rpm, you’re aware of the engine’s thrummy vibrations and some obvious wind noise that doesn’t affect the Ibiza so markedly.
Rides like a butterfly, steers like a Wii?
That’s a shame because dynamically the strictly front-wheel drive Arona is good stuff. The steering feels light and it mirrors your inputs faithfully, the chassis and tyres engender heaps of grip, and the ride is very good: taut enough so the body feels in control, supple enough to deliver the necessary comfort, refined enough to insulate from bumps. That said, UK roads will provide a sterner test than Barcelona’s silken tarmac.
The body is suspended by McPherson struts up front and a torsion beam rear axle, with the Arona weighing from 1165 to 1210kg, depending on trim and whether you opt for the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox which adds a few kilos.
The 113bhp three-cylinder manual returns 57.6mpg and emits 113g/km of CO2 – very similar figures to its rival the Citroën C3 Aircross (56.5mpg and 115g/km of CO2 for the 110PS manual).
What’s life like on the inside – penthouse or Pentonville prison?
Occupants will relish the space, if not all the materials: the dashtop and fascia strip sound as hollow as a Boris Johnson oath of loyalty, and there are plastic party glasses with a more luxurious feel than the door pulls.
No complaints with the package though: people in excess of six-foot will be happy in the rear, with knees adrift of the front seat backs and an abundance of headroom. And the boot, with two-level floor, can carry 400 litres, or 823 with the 60:40-split rear bench folded.
The Arona offers a decent level of technology, all folded into seven trim levels – there isn’t a single option, as Seat attempts to make life simple for the consumer. Even metallic paint and a different colour roof (if you wish to switch from body colour to orange, black or grey) is baked into the price, which starts at £16,555. That SE model includes 17-inch rims, air-con, automated Front Assist braking, a 5-inch colour touchscreen and a ‘Driver Pack’ comprising cruise control, hill holder and a driver tiredness monitor.
We drove the next trim up, the SE Tech. Starting at £17,545 with the 94bhp engine, extra goodies include a pin-sharp 8-inch touchscreen with navigation, ‘Full Link’ to operate your Apple or Android smartphone on the move, wireless charging and a couple of USB ports and SD card slots. Above SE Tech, buyers can either choose a couple of sporty FR trims, or more comfort-biased Xcellence models.
A new wave of small SUVs is coming through – Citroën C3 Aircross, Kia Stonic and Hyundai Kona – providing customers with distinct choices and different virtues. With its handsome, mature design and family ethos, the Arona will naturally appeal beyond Seat’s typically youthful audience, and those customers will get the best B-SUV to drive.
But Citroën’s C3 Aircross has some compelling strengths too – more personality, a more flexible and marginally better quality interior, and a lower starting price. Truth be told, combine the Citroën’s charisma and cabin with the Arona’s chassis and touchscreen, and you’d have a compelling B-SUV. Which suggests we’re still waiting for the undisputed class champion…