The start point for the best source of fleet information
It probably hasn't gone unnoticed that Seat is on a bit of a roll at the minute. Currently the fastest-growing car brand in Europe, it's bucking the trend of manufacturers that are struggling in a pretty bleak UK car market.
Earlier on this year we took to the road in Seat's new Ibiza, and before that the brand's Ateca SUV, two cars that have proved extremely popular in their target market. Next on the agenda for the Spanish manufacturer is its second SUV (not to mention its first compact crossover), which is set to become one of the four key pillars of the brand's offering alongside the Ibiza, Leon and Ateca.
The model is 100% designed and engineered in Seat's home city of Barcelona, so where better to take in order to test its city abilities?
What's clear at first glance is that the Arona has its own distinctive style, despite continuing the design language seen in its bigger brother the Ateca.
The exterior is designed with the trademark Seat contoured lines but with this model colour customisation is very much the name of the game. There are nine options available in the UK, depending on trim level, plus three alternative roof colour choices - grey, black and orange.
An agile performer
Impressive driving ability is the name of the game here and there are three different petrol engines to choose from, the same as in the Ibiza range: 95hp 1.0TSi; 115hp 1.0 TSi (available in manual and DSG), and the 150hp 1.5 TSI Evo, which is exclusive to the FR trim.
As for diesel options, which account for 40% of the range, the 1.6 TDi is available in a 95hp option, which can be paired with a five-speed manual or seven-speed DSG, and 115hp with a six-speed manual gearbox. Seat will also be adding 95hp and 1.5 Evo options to the diesel range later this month.
We went with the 115hp mated with the six-speed manual gearbox, and on first impressions the engine felt good - until we drove the 1.5-litre 150hp petrol powertrain, which was noticeably more refined around corners than its diesel counterpart. Engine noise isn't as insulated as you'd hope resulting in some vibration, while wind noise is also noticeably louder than in the Ibiza.
Arona's manual gearbox, however, feels great and slides into gears smoothly, making climbing and descending the hills around Barcelona a simple task. Unfortunately, the SUV has no 4x4 abilities, unlike its Renault Captur rival.
The CO2 and mpg stats for the diesel engines have not been released yet and Seat says they are still not known; however, the petrol engines range from 11-114g/km of CO2 and a combined mpg around the 57 mark.
The range starts at £16,340 P11D for the 1.0 TSI in SE trim, while the diesel FR trim we tested is £21,840. That's not the most expensive in the range, however; that honour goes to the XCELLENCE Lux trim at £24,640 for the 1.6-litre TDI DSG-Auto, which we think is a pretty good deal.
A step ahead
Seat was pleased to announce that the connectivity features in the Arona range are similar to those you would get in a segment far higher than B - and it's right. After all, stuff like this is important if it wants to stand out from its Peugeot 2008 and Renault Captur rivals.
The range comes with plenty of standard tech including front assist, hill hold control, tiredness recognition, cruise control, tyre pressure monitoring and a 5in colour touchscreen. Upgrade one trim up to SE Technology and you get Seat's Connectivity Plus Pack with an 8in touchscreen and Full Link, allowing the car to use Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Rear cross traffic alert and blindspot detection are not found in any other vehicle in this segment and come as part of the higher-priced XCELLENCE trim. Offering these technologies in a B-segment car is a new move for SEAT and will be significant in making it stand out for the competition.
Connected features will be further enhanced in the near future when the brand launches Amazon Alexa voice assistance system in its vehicles, the first manufacturer in Europe to do so.
While many manufacturers are opting for more trim levels to satisfy every buyer need, Seat has decided to go the other way and completely simplify the product line-up for Arona.
Rather than the traditional range of options on a small number of trims, the new Arona line-up will consist of six fixed trims with specifications already added,. The Arona will also have two new trims sitting above these in the shape of the XCELLENCE Lux and FR Sport. Seat says this range simplification is to help make buying easier for its customers as well as presumably to help with the WLTP and increase residual values.
Mid-range but sporty, the FR trim we tested adds exclusive rear bumpers and grill, a black detailed interior, sports seats and four different driving modes.
The Arona is just 18mm longer than the Ibiza but is a very spacious car and boasts best-in-class capacity at 400 litres - that's 36 litres more than the Nissan Juke and 23 more than the Renault Captur. This will be short-lived though, with the Volkswagen T-Roc's 445-litre boot on the horizon. Head and legroom is decent for passengers, while drivers benefit from a raised and commanding driving position, which offers a great view of the road.
While we're yet to find out the nitty gritty of the engine details for this model, what's obvious is that Arona is a strong contender in a fiercely competitive market packed with great rivals. We think it will undoubtedly stand its ground in the segment and become a key pillar for Seat going forward.
Seat Arona 1.6 TDI 115hp FR
P11D Price: £21,840 On sale: 17th October 2018 Boot space: 400 litres Engine size/power: 999cc/115hp
Premium technology, good driving position, spacious boot