Can the plucky Seat Arona win in the crossover market?
Crossovers are all the rage these days. Nissan may have kicked off the trend with the Qashqai nearly 10 years ago, but now every major manufacturer has their own ‘on road’ off-roader.
The latest craze is small crossovers. These are roughly the size of your average hatchback but with beefed up, SUV looks.
Newest to market is the Seat Arona, priced from £16,555 it’s around £3,000 more than an Ibiza. It sits below its bigger brother the Ateca, which is a traditional sized crossover.
Geared towards younger buyers means its kit levels are high from the start, with all Aronas getting 17-inch alloys, metallic paint, auto lights, cruise control, hill hold and front collision assistance. Inside you’ll find a five-inch touchscreen with USB and AUX, steering wheel audio controls and air con.
That’s a healthy amount of standard kit for an entry-level car.
Seat wanted to streamline the order process with the Arona. Apparently buyers get put off by multiple options and choices, so now you just pick your trim, choose the engine, then your colour. There’s no lengthy lists of check boxes and no extra cost for metallic paint or a different coloured roof; simple.
There’s three engines to choose from, a sporty 1.5 litre turbo, an entry level 1.0 litre three cylinder (with two different power outputs) and a 1.6 diesel.
Power ranges from 148 BHP all the way down to 94 BHP for the diminutive three cylinder. I jumped into an Arona for a day of driving around Cambridgeshire.
Inside you’ll find a fair amount of hard plastic, more so than you’d expect at this price. The top of the dash looks good quality until the sunlight hits it. You’ll find more of the cheap stuff on the doors too.
Higher trim levels remedy this somewhat, with red stitched leather across the dash face on FR trim.
In terms of infotainment, all the menus are easy to navigate and hooking up your phone couldn’t be simpler thanks to the ‘Full Link’ system.
With most phones having wireless charging these days the Qi charger is an awesome addition, it means you can connect your phone, play your favourite tunes and still have a full charge when you arrive at your destination.
The only omission to be noted is an armrest. It’s not totally necessary, but you certainly miss it over longer journeys. Sadly you’ll have to plump for the £21,000 ‘Xcellence’ trim if you want one.
At the back, headroom is excellent, thanks to a low seating position there’s tons of space for taller occupants. Knee room is also good, but things become a little pinched by the time you get to your ankles.
Boot space is generous at 400 litres, 45 more than an Ibiza can manage. A flat boot floor with no lip makes stowing items a breeze. Oh, and those rear Seats fold 60/40 if you need even more room.
How does the Seat Arona drive?
I chose the SE Technology spec, one up from entry level it adds sat nav, rear parking sensors and a larger 8” infotainment system.
Seat have fitted the Arona with a nifty thing called ‘Full Link’, so it supports Apple CarPlay, Google’s Android Auto and MirrorLink; meaning you won’t have to buy a new phone as well as a new car. It also comes with a handy Qi wireless charger, 2 USB ports and 2 SD card slots. It’s fair to say this is probably enough kit for your average driver.
This car was fitted with a plucky 1.0 litre three cylinder engine making 94 BHP. That may sound lacklustre, but the Arona is very light.
Around town acceleration is swift, if met with a bit of a raucous from up front. Once out onto the open road the three cylinder hushes at higher speeds, almost becoming inaudible when cruising.
When it comes to the gearing the Arona has a nice precise throw to it, which is a good thing as you’ll be grabbing for those first three gears often under acceleration. Third picks up sweetly and even at A-road speeds it makes swift work of overtakes.
Handling wise, the Seat took Cambridgeshire’s scarred, pot-hole ridden roads in its stride, with nothing more than a dull thud being heard beneath as you hit a bad spot. Some of that vibration makes its way into the cabin, but for a car of this size you’re well insulated from the outside world.
Cornering is met with controlled lean, and while the steering makes the SEAT easy to place on the road, it’s not as sharp as its bigger brother the Ateca.
If you want a sportier Arona the FR Sport is the one to go for. This features SEAT’s trick Dynamic Chassis Control, which tightens up the handling and makes the whole car feel stiffer.
Seat Arona: the verdict
Seat may be the latest addition to the small crossover market, but the bland exterior design ultimately lets the Arona down. It looks like any other generic crossover. Granted, it does everything you ask of it adeptly, but nothing stands out.
If you’re after a bold, fresh, crossover, there are better options out there.