Competent Seat Arona stands tall in battle of the compact SUVs
The Seat Arona is just one of many compact SUVs in what is becoming a very crowded marketplace. Jack Evans checks it out.
What is it?
The Seat Arona joins a veritable tidal wave of compact crossovers that has flooded the market in recent years. Using the platform from the current-generation Ibiza, the Arona offers that all-important high seating position but in a more compact package, ideal for those who don't fancy larger SUVs like the Volkswagen Tiguan or Seat's own Ateca.
A wide range of engines is available, along with a sizeable choice of trim levels - all giving plenty of customisation options.
It's a mixture of the familiar and not-so familiar with the Arona. The exterior looks much like that of the larger Ateca, while the interior will be instantly recognisable to anyone who has driven a current-generation Seat product.
That's not to say it's bad - all the main switches operate with a good amount of solidity and, save for a few scratchier plastics, it's a nice place to be.
Engine choices start with a 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol in three different power outputs, rising to a 1.6-litre diesel - again, with a trio of power choices. There's also the option of a five-speed, six-speed or dual-clutch automatic gearbox.
What's under the bonnet?
With a variety of engines to choose from, there should be a powertrain for everyone with the Arona. That range starts with a 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol with either 94bhp or 114bhp, sending power to the front wheels via a five-speed, six-speed or dual-clutch automatic - though the auto box is only available with the more powerful engine.
There's also a more powerful 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol with 148bhp, as well as one 1.6-litre diesel pushing out either 94 or 114bhp.
The smaller petrols are more than up to the challenge of powering the little Arona along, though of course, if you're planning on undertaking more motorway miles then we'd opt for the diesel. It's worth mentioning, however, that the 1.5-litre engine is only available in FR-spec cars.
What's it like to drive?
Seat had a lot of success instilling a level of sporty handling into the Ateca, and it would appear that it has cracked it once again with the Arona.
The steering has a surprising amount of weight to it, and when combined with the car's low weight and eagerness to grip, is quite a lot of fun to drive, particularly on twisty roads like those on our Spanish test route.
There's not all that much body roll, and yet it manages to remain soft and supple over inconsistencies in the road surface.
On the motorway, it feels composed and stable - far more so than you'd expect in a car of this size. Wind and tyre noise are kept impressively low, and it all gives the impression of a far larger car than it truly is.
We tested all three engines in various outputs. The most popular is likely to be the 1.0-litre, as it provides the best combination of power and economy. Acceleration is hardly what you'd call brisk, with the sprint to 60mph taking around 11.4 seconds - but there's more than enough grunt for nipping in and out of traffic.
Seat also claims that the 1.0-litre will return 57.6mpg on a combined cycle and emit just 111g/km CO2 - ideal for those looking to keep fuel costs down.
How does it look?
In our eyes at least, the Arona is a very handsome car. There's a considerable amount of design influence from the larger Ateca, but it translates to the smaller car well. FR trim cars benefit from a sportier look, while Xcellence models feature a glitzy chrome grille - a good way of differentiating the trim level from the rest of the range.
Inside, it's quite spec-dependent. Lower models still get an impressive five-inch colour touchscreen.
There is a huge number of customisation options available with the Arona, with nine exterior body colours alongside three roof colour choices to pick from. We'd opt for one of the brighter colours - 'Eclipse Orange' is a particular highlight, and really helps the car stand out.
What's it like inside?
Given the compact chassis upon which it is based, it's quite remarkable how much space is on offer in the Arona. Those sat in the front are well catered for in terms of head and shoulder room, while those in the rear are equally looked after. Even with our seat set in place for a 5"11 driver, there was more than enough room for a similarly sized passenger to sit behind.
There's also 400 litres of boot space to play with, and this can be increased to 823 litres by lowering the rear seats. The space itself is square and, although there is quite a high load lip, is easy to access.
A variety of different storage options are dotted through the cabin, which will no doubt please family buyers looking to keep their cabins clutter-free.
What's the spec like?
Buyers have plenty of options in terms of spec choices - there are six to pick from. The range starts with SE, and this brings with it 17-inch alloy wheels, a five-inch colour touchscreen and air conditioning - SE Tech adds to this with a full media package, including satellite navigation and rear parking sensors.
From there, FR trim contributes a sporty look and feel to the Arona, with large 17-inch alloy wheels and a sports bodykit giving added presence on the road. FR Sport then brings 18-inch alloy wheels and chassis control. Lastly, Xcellence and Xcellence Lux get the bumper crop of options, with additions including a chrome front grill, rear view parking and machined alloy wheels.
Prices start at £17,145 for an SE model car with a 1.0-litre engine - an impressively low price given the amount of equipment on offer as standard.
There's no doubt the compact SUV market is booming - however, Seat has provided a serious offering with the Arona.
It's well styled, good to drive and competitively priced. In short, it's well worth considering and can more than handle any competition it has coming its way from the likes of Volkswagen and Hyundai.