It only seems like yesterday I was writing a farewell piece for the Kia Stonic, but here I am, three months later, waving goodbye to the SEAT Arona. Itís been a fleeting visit ñ I inherited the car from Sue Baker ñ but thatís not to say I havenít discovered all of its strengths, not to mention a few of its weaknesses. It has been somewhat refreshing to experience a press car in a relatively low trim level, with the SE Technology just one notch up from the entry-level SE. At £19,685 when powered by the 1.6-litre diesel engine, the SE Technology is £990 more expensive than the equivalent SE. Iíd say itís worth the upgrade, not least for the larger eight-inch touchscreen, 3D navigation, smartphone connectivity, wireless phone charger, second USB port and rear parking sensors. It doesnít feel lavish, but there are just enough toys to stop you from feeling short changed.
Like so many of these compact crossovers, the Arona is based on a supermini, in this case the fun-loving Ibiza, which gives it a little more zip and verve than you might expect. It drives as well as any car I have experienced in this segment, feeling more supermini than crossover. The steering is precise, the gear change is satisfying, and the handling is surprisingly nimble. But itís the ride quality that impresses the most. But the dynamics donít come at the expense of the kind of qualities buyers would expect from a crossover. The Arona is 99mm taller than the Ibiza, which translates to a large and airy cabin, while the front seats are 52mm higher, providing a commanding driving position and terrific ease of access. Other small, but significant, touches include suspension raised by 15mm and a windscreen thatís slightly more vertical than in the Ibiza. It looks like a crossover and certainly feels like one to live with, but it behaves like a nicely-sprung supermini on the road. I canít praise it enough in this regard.
The good news continues in the back, where the seats are 62mm higher than in the Ibiza, with headroom up 33mm on the supermini. Even with a pair of tall people in the front, thereís plenty of foot-, head- and leg-room in the back, although the middle seat is best reserved for occasional use ñ or for people you donít like. This is all shaping up to be a terrific end-of-term report ñ the Aronaís parents will be pleased.
There are, however, one or two issues to blot the copybook. Not enough to warrant a detention or a ësee me after schoolí note, but enough to question whether Iíd buy a SEAT Arona with my own cash. To this day, the infotainment system has been a problem child, sticking on screens, failing to power up, failing to power down, and shutting down mid-drive. It might be solved by a simple system reboot, but it doesnít inspire confidence. The air conditioning is also too dimwitted ñ slow to heat up when itís cold, and lethargic when it comes to cooling you down. During the height of the hottest summer in decades, the fan had to be used on its maximum setting to be effective. It was a bit of a conversation killer, but at least it did an adequate job of cooling the cabin. Then thereís the handbrake, which needed to be pulled up to the last notch when parked on hills. Anything less and the car crept forward.
These niggles aside, I rather like the SEAT Arona. Itís one of the sharpest looking cars in the segment, offers a spacious interior, and is surprisingly good fun to drive. I reckon an FR Sport or Xcellence Lux would be the perfect compact crossover. Maybe Iíve been brainwashed by press office-specification cars after allÖ
Arrived 24th January 2018
It has the feel of a grown-up crossover, with the playfulness of a supermini. I’m a big fan of this.
The infotainment system’s tendency to die has been a constant frustration. Which is a shame, as the display is great.