SEAT Arona SUV review
"The compact SEAT Arona offers the brand's typical stylish looks and sporty feel in a practical shape"
- Impressive petrol engines
- Generous equipment
- Sharp looks
- Unexciting drive
- Not the biggest inside
- More expensive than rivals
SEAT never made an SUV until 2017, when two came along in the same year. The first was the Volkswagen Tiguan-rivalling SEAT Ateca and the second is the Arona, a smaller car that directly rivals the Volkswagen T-Cross – the two being closely related under the surface.
These models give the VW Group (of which SEAT is part) far more presence in the compact SUV class, which is becoming increasingly crowded. The Arona has to compete against the Citroen C3 Aircross, Renault Captur, Peugeot 2008, Nissan Juke, Mazda CX-3, Ford Puma and Skoda Kamiq, as well as the Kia Stonic and Hyundai Kona.
The Arona gets off to a confident start thanks to its styling, which, although not radical in its own right, draws from the most attractive aspects of SEAT's latest 'family' design to fairly stylish effect. It's certainly the sportiest of the three VW Group crossovers to look at and isn't bulky enough to seem intimidating if you're moving across from a regular supermini.
The SEAT Arona and Ibiza both use the VW Group's MQB platform, which you'll also find underpinning the latest Volkswagen Polo. This makes the Arona very car-like to drive, with a marginally elevated driving position but none of the SUV shortcomings of bulk or instability.
The range is easily understood, with a simple trim-level hierarchy instead of endless package options. The core models are the generously equipped SE, sporty FR and luxurious Xcellence, and you can add extra kit with the SE Technology, FR Sport and Xcellence Lux respectively. The Arona became one of the first small crossovers with the option of a digital instrument cluster. Called Digital Cockpit, the 10.25-inch display allows you to alternate between a large instrument display and a map display, making using the sat nav easier.
Most buyers will be satisfied by the SE Technology, with its well rounded list of standard kit that includes an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system with sat nav, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity, as well as rear parking sensors. All models have air-conditioning, cruise control and alloy wheels.
The Arona uses petrol and diesel engines that are familiar and proven in other cars from the VW Group. SE trims can be selected with the smallest and least expensive engine, which is the three-cylinder 1.0-litre TSI petrol with 94bhp. For 2020, the most efficient engine choice remains the 1.6-litre diesel with 94bhp, which is capable of up to 58.9mpg. All trims except FR and FR Sport can be had with this engine.
However, if you want the performance to match the Arona FR's sharp looks, the 1.5-litre 148bhp petrol is the best bet, getting the car from 0-62mph in just over eight seconds. It even matches the 48.7mpg fuel economy of the 1.0-litre model.
With a five-star score from Euro NCAP in 2017, the Arona boasts impressive safety credentials, with a particularly impressive 95% score in the adult occupant protection category. It’s fitted with the very latest safety kit, such as autonomous emergency braking and driver fatigue warning, much of which it shares with the SEAT Ibiza.
Overall, the Arona stacks up very well as an ownership proposition. It's attractive to look at, well equipped and sensibly priced, and SEAT owners are mostly satisfied with the brand judging by its 14th-place overall finish in our 2020 Driver Power survey.
The Arona is a very appealing choice if you're looking for something a little more substantial than a supermini but don't want to lose out with high running costs and ponderous handling.
We reckon the sweet spot in the Arona range falls with the less expensive models. While the 1.5-litre 148bhp FR is certainly quicker, it isn't a great deal more entertaining than the 1.0-litre, and is less comfortable to live with. If you're looking for a functional vehicle, though, the Arona can't match the versatility or comfort of the Citroen C3 Aircross, which is also less expensive to buy, run and maintain.