New SEAT Arona 2021 review

Updated styling, a smart new interior and the latest on-board tech mean the facelifted SEAT Arona is able to keep up with the small SUV class leaders

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

Verdict

Some smart new styling, a new interior and big tech upgrades make the latest Arona more appealing than ever. It’s as good to drive as ever, but that comes at the expense of that firm ride. While the styling of the FR model gives it undeniable appeal, it’s certainly a case of try before you buy.

Alongside the recently-revised Ibiza, SEAT has also rung the changes for its baby SUV, the Arona, promising more tech, an improved interior and prices that are broadly unchanged.

While the Ibiza’s styling tweaks were subtle, the changes are far more pronounced here, mostly in pursuit of enhancing its off-road aesthetic. At the front, the Arona gains a pair of fog lamps mounted high and further in-board, which are more than a little reminiscent of the original Skoda Yeti, plus a new grille and daytime running lights. At the rear there’s a new spoiler, diffuser and an Arona badge displayed in a hand-written font.

Elsewhere, there’s LED lighting across the range, three new body colours, including Sapphire Blue, Asphalt Blue and Dark Camouflage, plus three roof colours: black, white and grey.

The execution is successful, and means the Arona is able to keep pace with the latest clutch of stylish, small SUVs, including the Ford Puma and Renault Captur.

It’s inside where the bigger changes have happened, with a focus on a higher perceived quality with greater use of more tactile materials, and a new design that’s altogether more upmarket. The car’s touchscreen, which measures 9.2-inches on all but the most basic model, has been relocated higher up in the dash, and takes on a more upright, tablet-like position in the interests of improved ergonomics, making it easier to use on the move.

The system is a huge leap over the pre-facelift Arona, with crisp, clear graphics and a user-friendly interface. Some may find the lack of illumination for the hot keys frustrating, but all those commands are replicated using smartphone app-style buttons along the bottom of the screen. The exception is the volume control, which features among a slightly crowded cluster of buttons on the steering wheel - which is now trimmed in tactile Nappa leather.

What’s beyond criticism is the fitment of Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay across the range. 

Other tech improvements include a digital cockpit on FR Sport and XPERICENCE Lux models, although lesser trims make do with analogue dials and a rather more traditional trip computer. It’s a shame, because elsewhere the interior is very smart, with a new, soft-touch dash top and new air vents circled by LED lighting: red for FR and FR Sport, burgundy for XPERIENCE and XPERIENCE Lux models. A rear parking camera and park assist is only available on the flagship XPERIENCE line.

Elsewhere, the Arona is pretty much as it was before, which means it’s an entertaining and agile SUV that is still one of the few of its type to offer some genuine fun from behind the wheel, even if it is a full step behind our current favourite sporty SUV, the Ford Puma. The FR, tested here, and the FR Sport feature firmer suspension, which adds a harder edge to what is already a fairly stiff-feeling small SUV. But while it’s probably not the model we’d recommend, about a third of buyers will choose it or the pricier FR Sport.

The engine range will be familiar to current Arona owners: a 1.0-litre TSI unti producing either 94bhp or 108bhp, and a 148bhp 1.5-litre TSI are available; the two 1.0 units come with a manual gearbox, although the higher power car is also offered with a DSG automatic. The 1.5-litre TSI only comes with a seven-speed DSG.

We tested the 108bhp unit mated to a six-speed manual, the configuration that’s likely to prove the most popular. It’s surprisingly punchy, smooth and refined on the move, and is more keen to rev out than you might expect. The gearbox is a slick operator, too.

Prices for the facelifted car are broadly the same as before, and SEAT is promising some keen monthly costs. While it’s yet to announce finance offers for the entire range, the £19,600 entry-level car costs £180 per month.

Model:SEAT Arona 1.0 TSI FR 110 manual
Price:£22,910
Engine:1.0 3cyl turbo petrol
Power/torque:108bhp/100Nm
Transmission:Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
0-62mph:10.6 seconds
Top speed:118mph
Economy:53.3mpg
CO2:121g/km
On sale:Now

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