28 Aug 18

Fleet Challenger Test - SEAT Arona: Riding high, but down to earth

Lately, SEAT has been in great shape, in large part thanks to its seductive and convincing SUV range. Fleet Europe spent a week in the Ateca's little brother, the Arona in its FR sporty trim, and found it rather convincing.

In short, the SEAT Arona is the SUV variant of the Ibiza and as such it is somewhat larger: 4.14m in length (9cm longer than the Ibiza), 1.78m in width (identical to the Ibiza) and 1.55m high (11cm taller than the Ibiza). It is also 9cm shorter than its VW cousin T-Roc.

There is no mistaking the Arona for anything but a Seat, with its signature headlights and grille. Two-tone colour options give it a playful, dynamic look, as does the thick C-pillar. The interior is Teutonic in its plainness but we're not sure that's necessarily a bad thing.

Seat Arona FR interior.

Look & feel, practicality (14/20)

Some plastics in the car look and feel cheap, but not more so than what is acceptable in a B-segment car. The car offers plenty of storage space and a large boot (400l) with a flat floor. The car has keyless entry and start but the key fob still has a physical key anyway. And even with keyless start, you need to store the key somewhere in the car. We're no fan, but it's the modern thing to do.

The Arona offers generous room for all occupants. Passengers in the back won't need to cut their legs off to be comfortable and having a head won't be held against them, either. As is common in smaller cars, lowering the driver's seat to its lowest position forces your legs in a rather contorted wedge-shape, though.

Infotainment & HMI (15/20)

A car infotainment system should be intuitive and not require a PhD in engineering just to change the radio station. SEAT's system is of course Volkswagen's and it is excellent. Nevertheless, you may want to tick the Full Link option box (€185) which enables Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The touch screen is clear and bright but it attracts dust and fingerprint smudges at an astonishing rate. Fortunately, it can also be controlled through steering wheel buttons and voice activation. In times when you can get a €70-smartphone with a crisp colour screen, there is no excuse for the meagre monochrome display in the instrument cluster.

SEAT likes speedometers with three different scales. We don't.

Safety & ADAS (15/20)

In case things go wrong, the Arona isn't a bad car to be in, having achieved a 95% adult occupant protection Euro NCAP score, higher than the Mazda CX-3 and equalling the Ibiza. It is also good at avoiding low-speed accidents, as AEB City (automatic braking) with pedestrian recognition comes standard. 

Adaptive cruise control can be had as an optional extra, and so can Cross-traffic alert and blind-spot monitoring. For a B-segment car, that's exemplary. The picture would have been perfect if Lane keep assist were available, too. 

Driving fun & street cred (15/20)

Our test car had a 1-litre three-cylinder engine and a 6-speed manual gearbox, which doesn't sound promising until you realise it produces 115hp (85kW). For a small car like the Arona, that's plenty. It goes from 0-100km/h in 9.8 seconds, and in everyday sluggish traffic, you don't need much more to feel like you're sitting behind the wheel of a GTI.

Compared to the Ibiza, the Arona allows its wheels a few cm more vertical travel. Normally, that means that bumps are digested with more ease, but the Arona has relatively stiff dampers. Good for controlling body roll, not so good if you prefer comfort. Regarding the latter: we would have liked to hear less road noise in the cabin, too. The VW T-Roc performs a lot better in this respect.

The Seat Arona's signature C pillar.

TCO & fleet cred (16/20)

At 113g/km CO2 emissions and an average fuel consumption of 4.3l/100km, the Arona registers decent figures. Our own consumption hovered around 7l, but that says more about the man behind the wheel than about the car. The Arona starts at around €14,000 excluding VAT for the Reference models, but those are only available with the base engine. A better choice is the Style trim level, which can be had with the 1.0 TSI 115hp petrol engine (€17,000).

Good news for those who prefer a decent automatic gearbox: the Arona can be had with VW's acclaimed DSG. Options are priced reasonably, too. The service interals are pretty standard. Like all VW brands, SEAT sticks to the standard European warranty of 2 years without mileage restriction. That does not seem to harm the car's RV outlook, which is pretty strong.

The bottom line (74/100)

After a week's test drive, the only reason why we were happy to return the car to Belgian Seat HQ was the driver's seat - a feeling we're sure shorter drivers won't share.

We're equally sure the Arona will be another hit for the engineers from Martorell. It is a car that performs well to very well in all categories, combined with Volkswagen quality at below-Volkswagen prices.

  • Driving fun, good looks
  • Intuitive interface
  • Affordability, TCO
  • Safety
  • Cheap materials in places
  • Low maximum volume for sound system
  • Sound deadening could be better
  • Driver's seat for tall drivers


Direct competitors: Citroën C3 Aircross, Peugeot 2008, Renault Captur, Opel Crossland X

What does the rating mean? 12/20 = average/satisfactory; <12/20 = below average/disappointing; >12/20 = better than average/exceptional. All ratings take into account the category/size of the tested car.

Authored by Dieter Quartier & Benjamin Uyttebroeck