In-depth reviews

SEAT Arona review - Engines, performance and drive

The SEAT Arona is hardly rewarding to drive, but it is comfortable, composed and refined

There aren't many small SUVs that offer a particularly thrilling experience behind the wheel (the Ford Puma being a possible exception), but the SEAT Arona manages to sit near the top of the class anyway - not because it really involves you when you’re driving down a twisty country road (it doesn’t), but because it does the rest of the basics pretty well.

The 108bhp version of the 1.0 three-cylinder has a nice spread of power and torque – enough for you to maintain something approaching brisk progress when needed. It’s easy to keep it in its happiest band of revs – between 2,000rpm and 4,000rpm, we’d say – because the six-speed manual gearbox is slick and easy to shift quickly.

Once you are up to a decent speed, you’ll hear a distant thrum that’s reasonably smooth, but also audible enough to remind you that your car has a three-cylinder engine, not a four-pot. The biggest noise at a motorway cruise is likely to be wind rush from around the usual SEAT sharp-angled side mirrors. There is a bit of three-cylinder vibration through your feet, though, especially via the clutch pedal.

The Arona’s steering is nicely weighted and precise, and combined with the tauter chassis this is easily the sportiest and most fun car in the class to drive. As the ride is on the firm side, body control is tight and the chassis is well tied down. The car is nicely damped, too, and although there’s more aggressive vertical movement over substandard roads, the Arona still smothers bad surfaces adeptly.

There are a few chassis variations in the range. Everything, aside from FR and FR Sport, sits on ‘comfort’ suspension, and in the most part, this feels like it can cope with all but the worst roads, even when equipped with the 17-inch wheels that come with most trim levels. However, there's no denying that the car always has a firm feel to its step.

FR and FR Sport take things on a bit further, though, with stiffer suspension and (on FR Red Edition and FR Sport) larger 18-inch wheels. It certainly leads to less body roll in corners, but also gives a harsher ride, with ridges across the road and even motorway joins felt obviously in the cabin.

We’d urge you to try both suspension set-ups before deciding if it’s worth going for the sporty option, because it’s not as if it really adds an extra facet to the Arona’s abilities on twistier roads anyway.

We’ve also tried the 1.0 TSI with the DSG dual-clutch seven-speed automatic transmission. It’s a doddle to use around town - not totally foolproof, but it shifts quickly enough to get you steadily through most situations.

Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed 

The entry-level 1.0-litre version, with 94bhp and 175Nm of torque, requires 11.5 seconds to reach 62mph from a standstill and is possibly a little too sedate for most tastes. Moving up to the 108bhp variant sees this time improve to just over ten seconds, with only a couple of tenths between the six-speed manual and DSG auto. The 1.5 TSI engine produces 148bhp with a decent 250Nm of torque, resulting in a 0-62mph time of 8.2 seconds and a 130mph maximum.

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