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First drive: SEAT Arona. Image by SEAT.

First drive: SEAT Arona
The second SEAT crossover is the Arona, and itís already the best in its congested class.

 



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SEAT Arona 1.0 TSI

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5


Test Car Specifications

Model tested: SEAT Arona 1.0 TSI FR manual
Pricing: Arona from £16,555; 1.0 TSI FR manual is £19,895 (see copy)
Engine: 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol
Transmission: front-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: five-door crossover-SUV
CO2 emissions: 113g/km (VED £160 first 12 months, then £140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 56.5mpg
Top speed: 113mph
0-62mph: 10.0 seconds
Power: 115hp at 5,000- to 5,500rpm
Torque: 200Nm at 2,000- to 3,500rpm

What's this?

This is the SEAT Arona, the Spanish car maker's second crossover/SUV. Within the wider Volkswagen Group, which - like every other major carmaker in the world - has identified SUVs and crossovers as the way to make bucketloads of cash in the easiest way possible, there is an explosion of high-riding vehicles entering the showrooms of its various marques. Audi and Volkswagen have plenty of choices, while even the likes of Bentley and Porsche are stocked up on the things. Until recently, though, both SEAT and Skoda didn't have any.

Things are changing quickly, however. If potential punters of these two companies are asked 'what size of SUV would you like, S, M or XL?', Skoda has provided answers in the form of the latter two first, bringing out its grandest model, the Kodiaq, and then following that up with the controversial Karoq - although it's only causing a fuss because it has killed off the Yeti nameplate. Meanwhile, SEAT went in at the Karoq/Tiguan/Q3 level first, with the utterly brilliant Ateca, a sharp-looking, sharp-handling off-roader that coalesces everything that the Spanish company does so well into one hugely desirable, upright package.

And while it already has a larger SUV in the pipeline for 2018, SEAT has decided that the follow-up to the Ateca ought to be the small version... and here it is. The Arona is based on the MQB A0 chassis that is being used within the VW Group on its smaller cars, so under the skin it's basically the same as the Ibiza supermini, as well as the latest VW Polo. That means an assortment of small capacity, turbocharged petrol (TSI) and diesel (TDI) engines, driving the front wheels only through either five- or six-speed manual transmissions, or an optional seven-speed DSG. Choose from either 95- or 115hp 1.0 TSI three-cylinder petrols or 1.6 TDI four-cylinder diesels, or - if that's not enough output - then opt for the 1.5-litre TSI Evo with 150hp and Active Cylinder Technology, meaning it can shut down two of its four pistons under light throttle loads in order to save a bit of fuel.

We won't talk about the looks outside or in just yet, because the big news with the Arona (in the UK, at least) is the SEAT Easy Offer buying process. In a nutshell, this means there are absolutely no cost options across the entire range. The Arona buying process runs thus: pick your trim, pick your engine, then pick your colour. No further faffing about is required. Six specifications are on offer in the UK, which start with SE and SE Technology, before splitting into one Comfort branch (Xcellence and Xcellence Lux) and one Sport branch (FR and FR Sport). And that's it - even the jazzy metallic paints and the bi-colour roof choices are standard across the board.

This makes the Arona superb value, even if prices start beyond £16,500. A 'basic' 1.0 SE will give you, on top of the sparkly paint and a contrast roof, 17-inch alloys, LED daytime running and tail-lights, Front Assist, the Driver Pack (cruise control, Hill Hold Control and Tiredness Recognition), a five-inch colour touchscreen media system (the eight-inch item comes straight in at the next level up, SE Tech), air-con, auto lights, loads of airbags, a tyre-pressure monitoring system and more. Buy a 1.0-litre FR like our test car for a flat £19,895 and you get all sorts of luxuries, including rear parking sensors, FR body styling, sports seats, sports suspension, four-mode SEAT Drive Profile, Climatronic climate control and 17-inch 'Dynamic' alloy wheels. All for less than 20 grand.

How does it drive?

If Easy Offer gets extended to other SEATs, it could be a masterstroke by the company that sees it leading all classes, simply on the basis of the simplicity of the purchasing process. It also protects residuals and future-proofs eco-figures carried out under forthcoming WLTP testing, leaving the Arona as the predicted best-in-class for its retained value after three years of ownership. So by this point, you should already be standing in a SEAT showroom looking at the Arona, because it's such an alluring proposition from the very get-go.

And you won't be disappointed with what you're looking at, either. Like fine food, they say the first bite is with the eye (that clumsy analogy is especially true in this fashion-dictated crossover class) and the Arona is bang on the money. Sharply creased like all modern SEATs, and obviously a cross between a shrunken Ateca and an Ibiza, it looks fabulous from all angles, especially in its youthfully appealing bright bodywork with a black roof - that little 'X'-branded C-pillar separating graphic is a nice touch, too.

It's a shame the interior doesn't live up to the funky exterior promise, as it's another typically sedate SEAT design, although it is beautifully put together and logically laid-out. The eight-inch infotainment touchscreen provides some visual interest and some strips of trim can be in contrast to the main charcoal grey, but it's not the most daring interior.

It is, however, spacious enough for four adults, and the Arona has a large-for-the-class 400-litre boot as well, so on the practicality front it performs very well. And, for the sort of driving that 99 per cent of owners will subject it to, the SEAT also turns in a glittering performance. The little 1.0-litre engine has more than enough power at 115hp for the 1,210kg Arona (so don't bother with the 95hp variant) and plenty of accessible torque, meaning you don't need to stir the gearlever of the six-speed manual about that much. Even when you do resort to swapping cogs in the 'box, you'll find a transmission that's wonderfully light-of-throw and precise in action, coupled to a nicely modulated clutch.

The brakes are fine, without any tendencies to grab or feel mushy in the pedal department, while visibility out of the car is uniformly excellent in all directions. The steering is a little wishy-washy in terms of its weight, but there's no problem with its directness or consistency. And the ride quality/noise suppression are both magnificent, making the Arona just as happy at 70mph on the motorway as it is crawling around potholed town streets at less than 15mph. Even sportily-sprung FR models manage to ride with a compliance that's exceptional.

The facet of its character that allows it to vault straight to the top of the class, however, is its handling. So many of these B-segment crossovers can do all of what we described in the paragraph above to a similar level, and almost all of them use a charismatic triple petrol of some sort, meaning there's not much differentiation between the Arona and its rivals. But not many of them can put a smile on your face when you throw them around on a quiet, twisting back road. The SEAT, though, is a revelation.

The MQB A0 platform is clearly VW Group's eureka moment when it comes to finally putting staid, worthy chassis dynamics to bed, as both the Ibiza and Polo drive in a controlled-yet-sharp fashion, and being more than 1.5 metres tall with 190mm of ground clearance does not harm the Arona's abilities one iota. It'll resist body roll and understeer like the best five-door hatchback in the business (that's probably the Leon, funnily enough...), completely belying its high-riding stance, and while the city-focused steering is a weak point, there's still a major suite of controls here that let you get on with the job of rapidly dissecting corners in a manner that's a delight for this type of vehicle.

You don't even need the 150hp model here, because the 115hp is a willing performer and it sounds better when nearing its redline. OK, you can make the point that no one actually drives these crossovers in an earnest, road-tester like fashion, and that's very true... but it's just hugely refreshing that SEAT has made sure you're catered for. Y'know, just in case...

Verdict

The reason we love the SEAT Arona so much is very simple: it does everything you could possibly hope one of these sort of high-riding urban runarounds can do, and then it goes and charms you utterly with the best chassis in its class. Plus it has the sort of chiselled good looks that make it the perfect driveway bauble and a buying process that's not only simple, but which also leaves you with a brilliantly well-specified crossover for a modest amount of cash. Yes, there's a plethora of choice in this particular market segment and it's only going to be even more congested in coming months - so save yourself a lot of showroom hassle and make a beeline straight for the Arona, the undoubted star in this lucrative crossover class.

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Exterior Design

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Comfort

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 27 Oct 2017









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2017 SEAT Arona drive. Image by SEAT.2017 SEAT Arona drive. Image by SEAT.2017 SEAT Arona drive. Image by SEAT.2017 SEAT Arona drive. Image by SEAT.2017 SEAT Arona drive. Image by SEAT.

2017 SEAT Arona drive. Image by SEAT.2017 SEAT Arona drive. Image by SEAT.2017 SEAT Arona drive. Image by SEAT.2017 SEAT Arona drive. Image by SEAT.2017 SEAT Arona drive. Image by SEAT.








 

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