Volkswagen-owned Spanish brand Seat has stepped into the small crossover segment with phase two of a three-pronged SUV assault
On the road
On the road
The latest entrant to an increasingly crowded baby crossover segment is the Seat Arona, a smart-looking little car that does very little to hide its visual similarities with its Ateca bigger brother.
The Arona becomes a fourth volume ‘pillar’ for Seat, along with the Ibiza supermini, lower-medium Leon and the Ateca crossover, giving the brand a chance to move into another area it isn’t currently represented in, and thereby significantly increasing its chances of earning fleet favour by having a wider offering to choose from.
Seat’s new small crossover is a well-designed little car that’s at the classier and understated end of things rather than too overtly characterful. The little kick up at the rear where the chrome splits the body and roof colours works well by both separating the two and drawing attention to the difference in hues. The all-round Seat family design translates nicely, unlike one or two others in the sector where the crossover looks a bit like a brand’s supermini model, but just raised up. The LED lights from FR trim upwards are a nice look, although they don’t instantly identify the new car as a Seat when it approaches; that’s something that other brands have managed with their LEDs.
Engine choice varies depending on trim, with no more than three of the five different engine options available on any one specification. The most popular unit is likely to be the 115hp petrol driven here, the central of the three petrols, above the 95hp version of the same 1.0-litre TSI, and below the 150hp 1.5 that is only a couple of grammes per kilometre less clean than its lower-powered siblings. However, this engine is only available in FR and FR Sport trims.
A pair of diesels are also available, even though petrol engines tend to dominate in this size of car. For those covering higher mileages there are 95hp and 115hp 1.6 TDIs, although they’re in a higher BIK band because there’s only a small efficiency benefit over the petrols that make the more logical company cars.
Seat has gone down the route of giving the car a good standard spec and offering very few options – even metallic paint is standard on all models. That said, there is a wider choice on higher trim levels. The firm has set up the trim levels so people chose according to what equipment they want, and the only options are a space-saver spare wheel for £100, a £160 alarm where it’s not standard on the SE trims, towbar (£625) and pre-install wiring (£120) and the no-cost option of having the roof the same colour as the body rather than the grey, black or orange contrast that is the standard treatment.
Providing so much standard kit is certainly a commendable approach, but does leave some anomalies if drivers don’t want a top trim level but are after certain creature comforts such as a rear parking camera, heated seats or privacy glass; you’re forced to pick a trim level where they’re fitted, and can’t add them to others.
The trims themselves run from entry SE to SE Tech, FR, FR Sport and deliberately misspelled Xcellence, with SE Tech and Xcellence also getting additional Lux trims.
The SE gets 17-inch alloys, black roof rails, automatic lights and the front assist safety system that brakes the car if it senses an imminent impact, while SE Tech adds the 7.0-inch touchscreen satellite-navigation system with two USB ports and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as rear parking sensors. FR and FR Sport get firmer suspension, a selectable Drive Profile system and privacy glass, while it’s from this trim that LED headlights, chrome roof rails and auto wipers are added. FR Sport’s only advantages over FR are the really very comfortable Alcantara seats and upgraded alloys, while the Xcellence is the only one to get a front armrest, storage under the front passenger seat, boot-load mountings, keyless entry, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert and adaptive cruise control.
The Lux packs for the SE Tech and Xcellence trims add extra kit. The SE Tech Lux comes only with the 115hp diesel engine, which is a touch odd, and adds heated seats – again odd because it’s the only trim that lets you spec heated seats. It also has a Beats audio upgrade, keyless entry and adaptive cruise. The Xcellence Lux is the very top of the range, and for £1,055 over the Xcellence adds front parking sensors, a rear parking camera, Park Assist system, 18-inch alloys and the Seat Drive Profile system.
The FR Sport trim is the only one that gets a lovely Alcantara-seated interior – the primary reason for paying £770 over the regular FR trim – but apart from the classy 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system – including 18 radio presets – the cabin is pleasant but clearly designed not to tread on the toes of premium brands thanks to some harder plastics in quite obvious places. Only the top Xcellence spec gets a central armrest and a useful stowage drawer under the front passenger seat, and the central cupholders don’t offer enough support to keep a bottle of water upright. There is a useful decent-sized space in front of the gearlever that houses the wireless phone charging pad on all bar the SE entry trim, and the door bins are reasonable. Rear occupant and in particular boot space are both decent, and should allow
the Arona to function capably as the primary car in a household.
The 115hp petrol engine is the one of choice, although it’s available as a manual or DSG auto on FR and Xcellence trims, but only as an auto on SE and SE Tech trims. Bizarre. Still, it carries the Arona unflappably, although the feel of the manual gearchange is a touch less precise than some rivals’. The Seat Drive Profile system fitted to the FR models firms up the steering from its regular lighter setting, should the driver feel like getting into a sportier frame of mind, tweaks throttle response and, on the DSG autos, quickens gearshifts. It also offers Eco and Individual settings as well as the Normal and Sport.
The Arona rides well, despite being on sports suspension in the FR models, although there’s a little jiggle at higher speeds. Still, very little road or wind noise gets into the cabin.
Overall it’s a well-sorted little crossover that, while obviously not a sports car thanks to the high centre of gravity, avoids any wallow or extensive body roll and is an enjoyable steer on all varieties of road.
Our CCT100 Small Crossover of the Year, the Citroen C3 Aircross, doesn’t have a suitable comparison for this FR Sport trim, so we’ve gone with the Mazda CX-3, Peugeot 2008 and Renault Captur as the main rivals, with £440 covering the price tags for all four. The Arona sits well in this company, with its emissions beaten only by the 2008, and well ahead of the others, and a residual value that the CX-3 matches to the nearest tenth of a percent; it’s well ahead of the French pair. It also has a low insurance group that’s at least two below any of the rivals, which is how the Arona ends up with a significant whole-life-cost victory.
Combine that with its reasonable specification, practicality, good driving experience and classy looks, and the latest entrant into the small crossover sector will be giving the more established players plenty of food for thought.
The Arona is the second crossover/SUV model to be launched by Seat, a process that kicked off with the Ateca in 2016. As is typical with the Spanish brand’s naming, the new car takes its name from an area of Spain, in this case a municipality in the southern area of Tenerife.
The Ateca was a successful first step, and is the reigning CCT100 Crossover of the Year thanks to great residuals, low insurance cost, a competitive list price and practicality.
Those characteristics are now being applied to a smaller crossover. The Arona is the latest new car in a sector pioneered by the Nissan Juke, but also hosts new arrivals such as Citroen’s C3 Aircross – our CCT100 Small Crossover of the Year – Kia Stonic and Vauxhall Crossland X, as well as the more established Mazda CX-3, Peugeot 2008 and Renault Captur.
Next up for Seat is a larger seven-seat SUV (right) to reflect what fellow VW Group-owned brand Skoda has launched with the Kodiaq.
The name Tarraco – the previous name for the city of Tarragona – was decided using a public vote, where it polled 35.5% of the 146,000 votes, beating the names Avila and Aranda into second and third. It will be launched at the end of this year.
What they said
What They Said
“We believe the compact SUV segment will grow based on strong driver demand and the increasing breadth of competitors available. The Arona launch has been a success, and we have been pleased with its adoption by major corporate fleets."
"The key reasons for this success are great product credentials, striking design and excellent whole-life costs. Arona is the first Seat product available with its Easy Offer which ensures a simple, logical range specified according to what customers want; there is no need for optional extras and even metallic paint is included.”
Peter McDonald, Head of Fleet & Business Sales, Seat UK
Need to know
Three things we like...
The contrast roof/body colour is smart - especially in black and red
The infotainment screen is typically VW Group smart
The FR Sport’s Alcantara seats are comfortable, supportive and look good
...And one we don't
Not sure about the need to enlarge different numbers to normal on the clock
The steering is light and the gearchange isn’t as precise as some rivals’. Nevertheless, the Arona feels good to drive.
The 110hp petrol’s 114g/km is a good result compared to some others, although the Peugeot 2008 gets down to 104g/km.
Decent boot space, good rear headroom and not too bad for legroom in the back; the Arona is functional family transport.
Few options means you have to go up and down trim levels for certain kit. Metallic paint as standard is great, but you can get heated seats, for example, on only one trim, and it isn’t even the top one.
The Arona has a compact mini-me style closely linking it to its Ateca crossover sibling, but looks smart.
Comfort and refinement 8/10
The car rides well in normal mode, although there is some jiggle at higher speeds. However, there’s little wind or road noise.
There has been some money saved inside, with the dash top and top of door panels being quite hard to the touch. The lack of armrest or central cubby to stash anything out of sight are noticeable.
Responsive and easy to use, the system also looks smart, and also features a direct button into Apple CarPlay, which not everyone does.
Whole life costs 9/10
Priced in the middle of the pack, has decent efficiency and enjoys good residuals.
CCT opinion 8/10
Another good small crossover increases the quality of choice.
The Arona is well worth considering, mainly because it has great whole-life costs, it’s competitively specced, reasonably practical, and drives pretty well.