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SEAT Arona Test Drive Review

SEAT Arona Test Drive Review

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Considering the SEAT Arona as your next family car? Find out what Motoring expert John Swift thought when he took this new SUV for a test drive.

John Swift Portrait PhotoConsidering the SEAT Arona as your next car?

Find out what Motoring Journalist, John Swift, thought when he took one for a spin.

SEAT is motoring along in top gear at the moment with astounding new models such as the Ibiza hatchback and mid-sized Ateca SUV boosting its sales which finished last year 18 per cent up from 2016.


Now it is has just added this Arona, a smaller SUV to slot underneath the Ateca, providing the second in what will eventually be a three model range in this sector with a seven seater due within the next 12 months.

As you can see from their sales improvement figures, SEAT is on a roll and last year it sold more than 1,000 cars a week in the UK.


You don’t have to spend long in its brand new Arona to see why. This SUV is absolutely bang on target and has so many advantages a lot of its rivals simply cannot match.

For one thing it is based on what the VW group calls its MQB AO platform which, for non-car anoraks, means the basic chassis and suspension hardware and layout and in my opinion it is currently the best of any.

The SEAT Ibiza has it too and after I’d tested that for a week last autumn I ranked it as the best in class.

For another, and this is perhaps of greater relevance to those of you actually buying one, the Arona is forecast by industry analysts to have substantially lower running costs than others in the sector, perhaps by as much as £50 a month once depreciation, fuel and servicing costs are factored in.

So, it is off to a good start but what about the details.


SEAT Arona SUV test drive review front


Styling

Clearly defined edges and details such as the front and rear light clusters give the Arona a chiselled look typical of modern SEATs and it follows the trend among the latest small SUV’s in offering dual tone paint with the roof a different colour from the main body.

It adds more character and gives buyers the chance to personalise their car from the dozens of colour combinations in the palette.


Interior

I thought the plastics could have been a bit more `soft feel’ but there is no doubting that the fit and finished is better than you’ll find in other class contenders.

It has an excellent driving environment with clearly legible and easily used controls and there is lots of adjustment in the height and fore/aft movement so you can get comfy behind the wheel.

It’s roomy too. Even with an adult in the front there is still space enough for another behind. I was glad to notice too that the Arona avoids that sloping roofline adopted by others (Toyota C-HR for example) which they say makes the car look sportier but just eats into the rear headroom.


Driving

I said earlier that the new Ibiza is, in my opinion, now the best riding supermini, ahead even of the latest generation Ford Fiesta, and the Arona can lay claim to the same crown in the small SUV sector.

Let’s face it, getting a car to deliver a nice soft ride on our corrugated roads is the sort of problem that gives chassis and suspension engineers nightmares but the Arona pulls it off brilliantly.

Apart from on the very worst surfaces it absorbs bumps, ridges and ruts nicely and I think its ride quality is one of the car’s strongest points.

It handles acceptably well although in my test car, with the Xcellence spec, ride comfort has been put slightly ahead of crisp cornering. If you prefer something a little sportier, try the FR version.

My test car had SEAT’s 1.0 litre petrol engine with a seven speed DSG `semi-automatic’ gearbox and it was a sweet combination. Having that extra gear means there is not such a drop, or rise, in revs if you change up or down and it makes progress so much smoother. Lovely.

SEAT Arona SUV test drive review dashboard steering wheel

This engine comes with two power outputs, 95 or 115 PS, and I would recommend paying just a little bit more for the 115 version.

Today’s small capacity three cylinder engines like this one are things of marvel but you must realise that they don’t have the torque of a bigger one. That’s the pulling power and you feel it going up a hill and especially if you have the weight of passengers.

I deliberately sought out a steep, long hill and the 115 PS was quite enough to let me easily accelerate up it so there should be no problems with it.

On a flat surface it only needs 2,500 in top gear to keep to the legal maximum in this country which bodes well for good fuel economy on a long run.

One final thing on the driving aspect I noted with approval is that the Arona has relatively slim A pillars framing the windscreen and that makes it easier to place on roundabouts or tight bends. Safer too, because you can spot potential hazards like a cyclist without them being obscured by the metal beam between the bonnet and roof.

SEAT Arona SUV test drive review


Specification

Unusually SEAT has decided to not offer the usual long list of optional extras and I think this is good. It makes it easier to choose and you don’t rack up a lot more cost.

Essentially the Arona comes in three main specs, the SE entry level, the sportier FR and the range topping Xcellence.

You can see the sense in SEAT’s options policy because if you look at what even the SE has there doesn’t seem to be much more to add.

Just the highlights include automatic headlights, air conditioning, all-round electric windows, cruise control, SEAT’s Media System Colour with a five-inch touchscreen, six-speaker audio with FM/AM/DAB radio, Bluetooth and aux-in/USB connections.


Verdict

Any manufacturer serious about achieving good volume needs to be in the SUV market and as a result, the competition is cut-throat. There are no bad cars in this sector and some outstanding ones and the SEAT Arona takes its place among the best of them.

I thought the cabin plastics could have been a touch nicer but that apart, this car leads the field in the critical areas – cost, comfort and practicality.


Stand out points:

Whole life costs forecast to be up to £50 per month lower than rivals. Excellent ride. The engine/gearbox combination in 115 PS form. Spacious interior.

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SEAT Arona range test drive review

Test Drive Info:

From: £16,555 on the road Car tested: Xcellence 115 PS DSG. £22,040. 0 to 60: 10 seconds Top speed: 113 mph Average mpg: 57 CO2: 113 g/km Main service intervals: 20,000 miles/24 months Warranty: 60,000 miles/36 months Insurance: group 12E

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