First as they say on Wikipedia, some disambiguation. Arona is the name of a small town in Spain (on Tenerife, in fact). Arona is also the name of a small Seat car from Spain (Martorell, in fact). It is the latest instalment in the great Seat revival story, and it is a strong contender in the now crowded segment dominated by the Nissan Juke, Peugeot 2008 and VW Tiguan.
The Arona is closely related to the new Seat Ibiza , and, naturally, as a VW group product has plenty of familiar tech, and especially some excellent engines.
OK, they’ve done some dodgy stuff in the past but all I can say is that the diesel engine fitted to our launch models was smooth, torquey and, indeed, clean. It’s a unit well suited to the sort of hilly country you might expect to find this car in, though, despite the looks and high ground clearance there is no four-wheel drive option on this one.
I preferred the 1.5 litre petrol option though, just for the refinement, and because I’d be wary about official intentions towards the taxation of diesel-powered cars and the fuel they run on.
The most popular option will be the turbo and supercharged 1 litre petrol model, a thrummy three-cylinder job that gives excellent economy and adequate performance (there’s two power options to choose from). You can also have your Arona as an automatic.
So this is a smart, well-made entry into a very popular part of the market, and is well up to date with all the modern marvels buyers are coming to expect – adaptive cruise control to control the brakes for you, full connectivity with all your mobile devices and even wireless recharging for your phone. The only downside here is that the sat navs fitted to our early test models at the launch were a bit too slow-witted to be useful. So check that the sat nav is adequate for your needs when you take your own test drive.
You also need to know that there’s no full-sized spare wheel, just a small emergency one, sacrificed to make way for a sub-woofer, whatever that is.
Price £19,895 (range starts at £16,555)
Engine 1 litre petrol
Power 115 PS
Co2 g/km 113
It doesn’t smash any conventions, this car, except in its marketing. For a change, Seat have dispensed with the conventional options lists, instead specifying six different trim levels, dousing variously on performance or comfort.
Your choices are then limited to colour of bodywork and roof, Seat fabrics and wheel size. I’d say go for the bronze version with a black roof in the stylish and sportier FR spec. For the more avant-garde Seat have come up with a hitherto undiscovered shade of taupe they call “mystic magenta”.
Maybe it’ll tell your fortune for you. At any rate Seat claim it will help with resell values and PCP costs, because customers won’t be able to specify options combinations that don’t hold their value so well. We’ll see.
The Arona feels at home in streets made narrow, ironically enough, by all those SUV or crossover models parked along the sides. It is tall and roomy, packaged in a box that measures 1,543mm high, 1,780mm wide and 4,138mm long. It is, then, about the same length as a Ford Granada, a big car in its day, even though the Arona is dinky by contemporary standards.
A few years ago Seat looked dead in the water. Its range was confined to a few hatches and a hand-me-down Audi design, with no SUVs or crossovers to offer the trendy buyer. Parent VW, custodian of 12 brands from Skoda and Audi to Lamborghini and Ducati, seemed unsure as to what to with its Spanish patient and was disinclined to invest in it.
At times it was supposed to be a Spanish Alfa Romeo, a double-edged ambition and not convincing for a firm that made the lumbering old Alhambra people carrier. Seat tried repeatedly to define an identity, self-consciously and a little desperately like a tortured adolescent attempting to engineer a personality. There were some odd-looking cars as a result.
Now Seat is more self-assured, and more at ease with itself, content to allow the products to define it. They may still get overlooked by buyers who tend to go for the default option of a VW or a Ford, but the Arona and the larger Ateca SUV also launched this year, show that at least nowadays you could say that they’d be unfairly overlooked. Sales are up, Seat makes money and the Arona deserves to do well. Next up: Seat’s first full-sized SUV, the most expensive Seat ever, due next year.