Seat-ing on a higher level
Actually, Seat prefers to speak of a "crossover" rather than an SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle). And here's why: simply put, an SUV is a luxurious off-roader. A crossover is a mix of a passenger car and an SUV: it does feature the tough looks and abundant space, but not the expensive technology.
And right away the Arona distinguishes itself from half of the competition, which is built for both the open road and off the road. The Seat Arona is simply meant to be a practical and tough looking alternative for an everyday car. It's also why the Arona sits on the same platform as Seat's cash cow: the Ibiza. By sharing parts, the Arona can be offered at competitive prices.
The style of the Ibiza can clearly be recognised in the Arona, the difference being that the Arona is built for height. Depending on the chosen version, the Arona is either an inconspicuous compact car or a vehicle with a strong presence. For this test the modest version was used. Yet, the black roof and aluminium accent on the C-pillar with a big letter "X" (for "crossover") on it turns even this basic model into a special car. However, next to recent compact SUVs and crossovers from Korean and French carmakers, the Arona never stands out with its looks and can even be labelled as "boring".
A decorative strip that extends from the far left to right over the dashboard is always executed in the colour of the car. Many accents also match the body colour, making the Arona different from other Seats. When opting for the FR version, the panel on the dashboard is upholstered with leather. Also, the FR comes with sporting seats which really make the FR convince as being the top spec model.
Part of Seat's recipe for success is combining form with function. This is also known as "packaging" and means that all the technology is neatly wrapped under the bodywork, which means maximum space remains for the occupants.
The way Seat succeeded in this approach, is evident from the ample cabin space. Besides the fact that one walks in rather than descends into the car and sits up high (+52 mm taller and +37 mm more headroom than the Ibiza), the space in the front is excellent. With the front seats slid all the way back, even tall drivers can't reach the pedals any more! The room in the rear is above average as well; four adults fit quite well in this compact Seat (+33 mm more legroom than the Ibiza). The boot measures 400 litres and that's a lot of space for a car in this segment.
Seat promises good quality at a good price. That's why Seat had to make some compromises as to luxury and safety. For example, the Arona can automatically brake for danger, but won't steer by itself. The Arona can see (and warn about) objects in the dead spot of the wing mirrors, but can't read traffic signs.
Noteworthy is the dual zone climate control which, thanks to "Air Care", will guarantee fresh air in the cabin. The audio system, which has been developed in cooperation with "Beats", also deserves a special mention. The sound is crisp, realistic and pleasant. Together with support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto the Arona archives a perfect score when it comes to entertainment and connectivity (also known as "infotainment").
Seat offers a wide range of engines, from small three-cylinder engines via engines running on CNG (compressed natural gas) to a powerful sports version. At the moment of writing only two of those were available: the 1.0 TSI (115 PS) and the 1.5 TSI (150 PS).
The 1.0 TSI petrol engine is the smart choice. It performs well, while still being frugal. Despite the small displacement, the engine is very torque strong. When demanding more power, the 1.0 TSI is alert and downright eager to perform. The noise from the (three-cylinder) engine, the wind and the tyres are modest.
The 1.5 TSI makes the Arona feel like a more mature car. It performs with more ease and when pressing the pedal to the metal, it results in a strong and decisive acceleration. At the same time the bigger engine is even quieter, making the gear shift indicator a necessity rather than a luxury. When using little power, two of the four cylinders are disabled. This is why the test drive cost a mere 5.1 litres per 100 km.
No matter the chosen engine, the Arona always "sails" easily. Releasing the throttle hardly results in any loss of speed, making the Arona feel light and agile. The difference with a lower car, like the Ibiza, is always obvious. The Ibiza gives the driver more confidence and communicates more clearly with the driver. Despite this, handling of the Arona is decent for a tall car. Even when the Arona is trashed into the corners, it will follow the set course as if on rails.
When driving calmly, the Arona isn't any more interesting to drive than, for example, a Seat Ibiza. It's only when explicitly provoking, that the Arona comes alive and finally offers some fun to drive. And that's what characterises this Seat: the extravagant looking competitors are always special to drive because of their looks. The Seat is above such behaviour.
Seat introduces the Arona, a crossover and not an SUV. The Seat Arona is meant to be a functional yet tough looking alternative to the average hatchback. By emphasising on form and function, the price is modest.
Following Seat's current recipe for success, Seat combines looks with functionality, price with modern technology and dynamics with comfort. That's why the Arona isn't just a good looking alternative to a standard car, it's also a rational choice.