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SEAT Arona review

Find out about the newest version of SEAT's small SUV, the Arona.

The SEAT Arona is right at home in city settings or on the open road.

The SEAT Arona is right at home in city settings or on the open road.

SEAT’s small SUV, the Arona, has been facelifted. It is effectively a more off-road-themed version of the popular Ibiza, but it’s been raised slightly.

If you are familiar with the pre-facelifted Arona, you’ll struggle to notice the difference by looking at it, as hardly anything has changed on the outside. Instead, it's all about the inside.

But that is a good thing, as there isn’t much wrong with the exterior. The interior, however, was uninteresting and dark before. So getting into it didn't do much to lift the spirits on a gloomy, wet winter's morning. Thankfully, it’s much better now.

There are some new LED and day running lights outside, but overall, it’s changed very little. It still looks much like a SEAT Ibiza that's got a slightly higher ride height and some rugged, rural bodywork styling added.

The front-end spoiler on our test car is silver, which extends to surround the air intakes, making its sporty proportions stand out more. Around the sides, the bodywork bulges out slightly along a crease, and, at the back, a large rear bumper makes it look off-road ready.

Once you’ve settled on an Arona, there’s plenty of choice in terms of trims, with six on offer.

SE includes 17-inch rims, LED headlights, electric door mirrors, an 8.2-inch infotainment screen with wireless Android Auto/Apple CarPlay and a DAB radio. What’s more, the grade boasts a leather steering wheel, electric windows, and mirrors, plus cruise control, too. You’ll also get a 9.2-inch screen with SE Technology trim, which gets SatNav and a wireless phone charger.

Next up are the two performance-focused trims. FR grade adds in sports seats, a sports button, and a customisable driving mode along with tinted windows. Meanwhile, FR Sport gives you more exhaust pipes, SEAT’s digital cockpit and 18-inch alloys.

Alternatively, there are two luxury-focused trims. There’s no digital cockpit with Xperience trim, but you get keyless entry/go and adaptive cruise control. Then there’s the Xperience Lux trim that re-adds the digital cockpit, along with park assist.

The three engines are all petrols. A 1.0-litre three-cylinder unit is available with 95PS (52mpg, 121g/km CO2) or 110PS (53mpg, 124g/km CO2). If you pick FR or FR Sport, you’ll be able to have a 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine with 150PS (45mpg, 140-142g/km CO2).

While the bigger powerplant is nice to have, you don’t really need 150PS in an Arona. The mid-range 110PS engine will likely suffice for most people, plus it’s barely any less economical than the 95PS variant. The smaller unit is okay, but you feel like you need to thrash it to get any performance out of it.

The 110PS engine is a decent middle-of-the-road option. It doesn’t provide excessive power in stop-start rush-hour traffic, but it’s also perfectly capable of higher speeds without feeling like it’s out of its comfort zone.

The Arona has got decent acceleration and feels untroubled. Furthermore, the seven-speed DSG automatic transmission is smooth and handy if you’re likely to be driving around town and needing to change gear a lot.

The handling is excellent, too, and will impress those who want a bit of sportiness. It is no hot hatch, but the suspension is set up with performance in mind, so it's good to drive with light but engaging steering. It is very stable, with body roll well controlled in the corners, which encourages and reassures you that it’ll be fine to take a bend at a pace.

The ride is quite firm, though. Other rivals are more relaxing to drive – and it’s more noticeable in the sports-focused FR and FR Sport trims.

On the inside, you’ll find the Arona’s air vents have coloured circles surrounding them. There is far more silver, too, including on the steering wheel, which really helps cheer things up, while new ambient lighting also adds a nice touch post-sunset.

The touchscreen is raised now and sits on the top of the dashboard like a tablet. It is a good system, and many are far worse, although it isn’t the most responsive. Quite a lot has been concealed within the infotainment system, but there are still dials to operate the climate control.

Despite the Arona’s smaller proportions, SEAT has done an excellent job in terms of maximising head and legroom in both the front and the back. But filling all three rear seats with adults will still have them rubbing shoulders with one another.

Also, there are many storage areas in the Arona's cabin, including a well-sized glovebox and generously large door bins in the front. As for the boot, this will offer 400-litres of space, extending to 1,280-litres with the rear seats down.

In terms of safety, the Arona earned a five-star rating from Euro NCAP back in 2017, scoring 95% for adult occupants and 80% for children. Unfortunately, it only scored 60% for safety assists, but nowadays, all trims get driver tiredness monitoring and automatic emergency braking. The two Xcellence grades get rear-cross traffic and blind-spot monitoring, too.

Overall, the Arona is a very good car indeed. It maximises space despite its small size, and even the entry-level model is well-equipped. What's more, it handles well and is entertaining to drive, although this comes at the cost of ride comfort.

The automatic gearbox is excellent, and the engines are dependable. However, the lower-powered one is unsuited to higher speeds. At the same time, the most potent 1.5-litre is undoubtedly excessive unless you’re going to be spending a lot of time on dual-carriageways and motorways.

Nevertheless, the Arona is a solid contender and well worth considering for those who want the best of both worlds – a small hatchback but made to feel like a larger SUV.

SEAT Arona
Max speed 130 mph
Acceleration 0-62 mph in 8.2 seconds
Combined mpg 45 mpg
Engine layout 1498cc 4-cylinder petrol
Max power 150 PS
C02 emissions 121-124 g/km
Price £25,865

About the Author

Tim Barnes-Clay

Tim Barnes-Clay is a motoring journalist. He test-drives the latest cars and attends new vehicle press launches worldwide.