The SEAT Arona is a compact SUV with sporty looks and a practical cabin but it feels a little cheaper inside than some alternatives
The SEAT Arona is a small but sporty SUV with funky looks and a range of high-tech features that you won’t find in a Renault Captur or Nissan Juke.
Sadly, if you like its left-field exterior styling you might be disappointed by the SEAT Arona’s rather drab interior. It’s all a bit dull and there are plenty of cheap-feeling plastics on the dashboard and doors (even in top-spec Xcellence Lux models). You can pay extra for some colourful plastic trims to brighten things up a bit, however.
Avoid SE models and you’ll get a slick eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system instead of the standard 6.5-inch unit. Mid-range cars get satellite navigation built-in too, but all Aronas from SE Technology trim upwards get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring as standard so you can beam your phone’s navigation apps onto the big screen instead.
To help you switch between all these features you get some handy shortcut buttons beside the central display. There’s plenty of adjustment in the seats to make sure you can reach them easily and the SEAT Arona’s raised ride height gives you a good view out over the road ahead, too.
It’s not just passengers in the front who can stretch out – there’s more leg room in the back than you get in a Nissan Juke and easily enough shoulder space for three kids to sit side by side. There’s even enough headroom for two six-foot-tall friends to get comfy.
Sadly, the SEAT Arona’s not quite so practical when it comes to bootspace. You get more room than in a Hyundai Kona but a Citroen C3 Aircross is much more spacious with the back seats in place.
The SEAT Arona's sportier to drive than most small SUVs but it's still comfy – like a pair of snug-fitting running shoes
If you don’t plan on filling the Arona’s loadbay to the brim, pick a 95hp 1.0-litre petrol engine. It’s impressively frugal, quiet around town and just about nippy enough to cope with the odd motorway journey. If you do lots of long trips, however, a 1.6-litre diesel with 95hp or 115hp will be cheaper to run.
Whichever engine you pick, you’ll find the SEAT Arona doesn’t lean as much as the Citroen in tight corners and deals with bumps with fewer jarring thuds than a Kia Stonic. You can even get clever adaptive suspension on FR and Xcellence models that’ll soften the blow of monster potholes. Even without it, the SEAT Arona is more fun-to-drive than most small SUVs on sale.
That said, the rather expensive DSG automatic gearbox adds nothing to the driving experience and can be a little jerky at slow speeds and anyway the standard-fit manual is slick and smooth enough to make light work of city traffic.
If you do spend a lot of time in town, you’ll be reassured to hear automatic emergency braking is standard across the range – it helps prevent avoidable collisions by braking for you if the car detects an obstacle ahead.
It helps make the SEAT Arona one of the safest small SUVs on sale and well worth considering if you want something slightly sporty that’s more practical than a conventional family car but still fairly cheap to run.