Can the smaller Arona follow up on the smash-hit of the Ateca SUV?
Seat was very late to the SUV party but then arrived and took the party by storm. The Ateca knocked the Nissan Qashqai off the top of the leader board, which wasn’t bad for a first effort. The question is how do you follow that? And the answer appears to be – the Arona.
It’s smaller, which isn’t surprising since it’s based on the Seat Ibiza hatchback, so we know it’s not going to be a serious Land Rover competitor. But that still leaves a huge amount of market for it to run amok in. That is partly reflected in the sheer choice on offer: five engines and six trim levels, just for starters.
There will be three petrol and two diesel engines, going up to 148bhp which should be fun in a small, light SUV. We tried on the launch the 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine with 114bhp and the 1.5-litre turbocharged four-pot with 148bhp. Both could propel the Arona along without any problems at all although it’s no surprise that the larger engine was smoother and more potent in use.
Seat Arona 1.0 TSI 115 manual
Engine: 1.0-litre, three-cylinder, turbo, petrol
Torque: 148lb ft
Gearbox: Six-soeed manual
Top speed: 113mph
CO2, tax band: 113g/km, 21%
One of the great strengths of the slightly bigger Ateca is the handling, which pushes the SUV market much more into more car territory than usual. And it seems as if Seat has managed to produce that trick again. Because of its Ibiza provenance, it sits a bit lower to the ground and it’s also lighter, so it’s even more agile and even more fun that the Ateca. Which is a big relief.
Compared to competitors like the Nissan Juke or the Renault Captur, the Arona is in a different league, and is much more enjoyable as a driver’s proposition. The car we tried with FR Sport spec had switchable dampers as standard, which seemed to deal slightly better with bumps and irregularities more than the standard suspension. Handling is a strong point, but ride might be slightly firm as a consequence, but we’d need more time on British roads to really check that out.
In the FR trim or the Xcellence above it you get Seat Drive Profile – where Seat refers to the company not the thing you sit on apparently. This lets you mess about with the throttle and steering weights although we couldn’t find a setting that didn’t feel confident and controlled.
While the handling may remind you of the Ibiza, the cabin will remind you even more. There are a lot of similarities in the cabins, but then we really like the latest Ibiza interior treatment, so that’s no bad thing. There’s a lot of hard grey plastics but it’s stylishly designed and the eight-inch touchscreen, which you get on everything bar the entry-level SE, is very smart and works a treat, as well as coming fully loaded.
But as well as being a small SUV, the driving position will work better for smaller people too. But for most people the driving seat is comfy enough and raised just that bit to suit people’s desire for a loftier SUV seat. Generally space is excellent for the size, and four six-footers won’t any problems. The boot, at 400 litres, is amply big enough, has a height-adjustable floor and is on a par with the better competitors too.
The Arona isn’t exactly a give-away, with prices starting at £16,500. But if you go for the perky 1.0-litre turbo petrol engine and one of the lower trims you won’t feel shortchanged. If you go for that second tier up you’re getting the SE Technology trim and that gives you AEB, cruise control, air con, rear sensors and that eight-inch screen.
Perhaps at the top end, while you’ll be getting a very good SUV indeed, the prices might start to look a touch on the steep side, possibly banging into the Ateca and that would be a tough call. Keep it vaguely sensible and the Arona will be all you’ll want or need.