Seat Arona 1.5 TSI FR
In a growing marketplace for small SUVs, the Seat Arona fits in well. Whilst it may not offer the same level of equipment as the likes of the Kia Stonic, it does have one of the best engines in class with the 1.5-litre TSI petrol engine. Coupled to the sporty FR trim, the Arona has athleticism in both its styling and drive. The interior finish leaves a little to be desired, but at £21,465 it offers enough equipment and performance to be tempting.
Being an FR model, our Seat Arona had a decidedly sporty image on the whole. The car looks athletic from all angles, with bold lines and angular creases to show off its body work. It has some familiar Seat features, from the front grille to the LED daytime running lights. It is somewhere in between the Seat Leon and the Seat Ateca: both cars we liked.
At the front you will find a sporty honeycomb grille and full-LED headlights including signature daytime running lights.
The side profile highlights the height of the Seat Arona. The point where the Desire Red paint meets the contrasting black roof on the C pillar is marked with an ‘X’ motif (representing ‘Crossover’).
The FR model gets 17-inch alloys, but they are bland and underwhelming, especially given this is supposed to be the sporty model. A two-tone black/silver design would have been more suitable.
At the back there are more angular lights, broad bumpers and twin exhaust pipes. Not that it matters a great deal, but I will admit that a glance underneath the Arona will confirm that the twin exhaust pipes are only for show.
The dashboard and centre console of the Seat Arona will be familiar to drivers of any VW-Audi Group car. That’s no bad thing: the driver’s instruments and the switches are laid out in a sensible manner.
However, anyone familiar with a VAG car will spot the underlying issue: quality. In our FR model, the dash face is covered in a stitched soft plastic pad to give the illusion of leather. That is actually pretty nice. However once you look beyond this, other dashboard trim and door cards feature hard, scratchy plastics.
The flat-bottomed steering wheel in our Seat Arona is clad in the same soft-plastic used on the dashboard. This is held together with a a single line stitch. It just looks like it’s come out of an A&E department on a drunken Saturday night.
The seats in our Arona FR also suffered from an appearance that didn’t portray quality. The front seats have a decent amount of bolstering, and are the perfect style for the FR. But the material felt cheap, like the material you would expect in a £12k supermini, not a £21k Small SUV.
The rear seats look largely similar, with no real pattern to them. It’s just bland, grey material. And with the scratchy plastics knocking about on the door cards, the rear feels a rather cheap place to be.
It’s not all bad though. The door handles are as striking and angular as the headlights. The multimedia system nestles nicely as a focal point in the centre of the dashboard. And the red mood lighting and stitching does at least break up the black trim nicely.
The engine in our Seat Arona test car was a 1.5 litre TSI turbocharged petrol engine. It replaces the old 1.4-litre unit found in various models, and offers the same blend of character and compactness.
Power from this relatively small engine is 150PS and 250Nm of torque. That puts the Seat Arona FR up there as one of the quicker small SUV’s on the market. It will go from 0-62mph in just 8.3 seconds. The FR feels nippy around town, and comfortable at motorway speeds.
At pretty much any revs, the car responded with vigour, which is exactly what the FR badge should mean for a Seat. The Arona had plenty of power for overtaking on country roads, and was a great companion on a spirited drive.
With the 1.5-litre engine there is no choice of gearbox: it’s only available with a 6-speed manual. On the one hand that’s fine, because it’s lively and encourages you to explore the rev range. But knowing how good the VW-Audi Group DSG gearboxes are, it would be nice to have one as an option. Incidentally the 1.0-litre TSI 115PS is available with a 7-speed DSG.
The Seat Arona FR is equipped with selectable drive modes. These include Eco, Normal Sport and Individual. Within these modes various characteristics change.
One rather nifty feature is adaptive damping. With a choice of two settings – comfort and sport – it is a useful string to the Arona’s bow. The ride in comfort mode is smooth, dealing with changes in the surface and those problematic potholes with ease. In sport setting the damping firms up to provide more cornering stability.
The steering also changes weight depending on the mode. I enjoyed the heavier sport setting, with its direct, weighty feel. But in other modes it was too light, feeling vague and somewhat unresponsive. That being said, it’s probably useful when manoeuvring or driving through a cramped town centre.
No matter which mode you select, that tall frame synonymous with a compact SUV rears its ugly head. Body roll is an issue, and is a little unsettling when cornering at speed. That being said, the adaptive dampers do help, and give the Seat Arona a competitive edge.
Although it has the selectable drive modes, the Seat Arona is only available with front-wheel drive only. There are no clever grip systems, so you best hope the going never gets too tough.
The 1.5 litre engine featured in our test car claims 55.1 mpg on the combined cycle, which is really rather good. For those who do a lot of miles, there is a 1.6-litre diesel engine with a superior 68.9mpg combined.
One of the reasons the the 1.5 TSI is so economical is the raft of efficiency technologies on board. The engine has 4 cylinders, but can shut one down to save fuel. It also features start/stop technology and has an in-built Eco drive mode.
CO2 emissions for the 1.5-litre FR model are 115g/km. First year VED is £165 and subsequent years are £140.
As with any car, the economy largely depends on how you drive it. The Seat Arona is no exception. Stick it in sport mode and you will struggle to see the 55.1mpg claimed. But drive more sensibly, like we do (sometimes) and we were surprised at how well the Arona performed in the real world.
The overall cabin space in the Seat Arona FR is largely comparable to most standard small SUV’s in the market today. That means it has the same width and leg room as a family hatchback, but with more headroom. Think Seat Ibiza’s taller brother.
That means that rear leg room is a little on the stingy side. Taller adults may not be comfortable travelling on longer journeys, but for the kids it’s no problem at all. While on test we used the Arona for several family outings with no complaints, so it’s thumbs up from us.
Throughout the cabin you’ll find plenty of practical storage pockets and cup-holders. However these are all made with that hard, scratchy plastic and therefore items tend to rattle on the motorway.
One major omission from the cabin was a front centre armrest. Not only would this have added yet more useful storage, but it would also have added driver comfort. Rear storage is refined to just side bins and rear seat pockets.
The boot space on the Seat Arona is a generous 400 litres. When compared to rivals, the Arona is on par with the Citroen C3 Aircross and easily beats the Kia Stonic’s 352-litre capacity.
Getting items in and out of the boot was easy thank to a false floor, providing a flat load floor and a wide opening. The rear seats fold flat to increase boot capacity to 823 litres for those larger items. However, there is no feature to move the rear seats forward or back to adjust boot to rear legroom ratios.
The compact crossover is a modern body style for the modern family, and therefore the Seat Arona receives lots of useful equipment. The FR comes with a touch screen infotainment system, Bluetooth connectivity, electric windows front and rear, electric folding mirrors, rear parking sensors, dual-zone air conditioning and full-LED headlights.
Every version in the Arona range except for the base model SE gets a standard infotainment unit, including satellite navigation, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The menu structure is similar to other models, ensuring it is user-friendly. It’s responsive to touch and includes a proximity sensor so that certain menus disappear when not in use, creating a more ergonomic design.
The Arona FR also features a wireless charging pad situated just in front of the gear knob. We are starting to see more and more cars feature this technology, often as an optional extra. Seat is not only one of first within its class to offer such technology, but also does so as standard.
All grades have autonomous emergency braking (called ‘Front Assist’) and driver tiredness recognition. The Seat Arona FR scored 5 stars in the Euro NCAP ratings, giving you peace of mind that your family is in safe hands.
Personally, I would have liked to have seen more features on this side of £20k. I mean when you consider the equipment in the Kia Stonic we tested recently, it reads better than the Arona’s offering.
Value For Money
From the outset, the Seat Arona manages to grab your attention in an increasingly-crowded marketplace for small SUV’s. Offering a bit more room than a standard family hatchback, they cost a lot less than fully-grown SUV models.
The Arona range starts at a mere £16,750. For a 1.5 TSI FR like the one we drove, it’s £21,465. Our test car had no optional extras on it. By including more equipment as standard within model brackets, Seat has simplified the buying process for the customer. The transparency is also much better than endless option lists that bump up the price.
It should be said that the pricing puts the Seat Arona straight in the firing line of the Kia Stonic. Offering more technology for your money, and an unrivalled 7-year warranty, it’s hard to ignore.
That being said, if you like a little bit of sportiness in your life then the Seat Arona might just be what you need. With a lively 1.5-litre engine it packs a great punch and offers enough kit to be taken seriously. For a family car with a bit of spirit, the Arona has merit. I would certainly recommend that it be given consideration.
Facts and Figures
|150PS at 6,000rpm
|250Nm at 1,500rpm
|6-speed manual gearbox, front-wheel drive
|Fuel tank size
|55.1mpg, combined cycle
|1,600kg braked / 650kg unbraked
|Price as tested