By Bill McCarthy
SEAT’s baby SUV faces stiff competition in a market overflowing with excellent products, but is a stylish and reliable competitor that offers something a bit different.
Smart, sassy, stylish and desirable, SEAT along with sister brand CUPRA, is the sportier arm of the VW group.
Recently facelift the exterior has been tweaked, while there are more comprehensive changes to the interior and an upgrade in connectivity.
There’s a change to the trims available with SE, SE Technology, FR, FR Sport, Xperience and Xperience Lux ,which has replaced the Xcellence, together with a choice of 10 colours.
Sportier styling is part of the DNA of SEAT in the wider VW group and its sharp sculpted lines and creases remain, but there is a new grille, front bumper and new, repositioned foglamps, smart black roof rails and protective side moulding.
The lights include LED technology and other neat improvements are smart 17 or 18-inch alloys, while at the rear the sporty theme is enhanced by a spoiler and diffuser, twin exhaust pipes, while the model’s Arona name is in embossed handwritten lettering on the boot.
Despite its size, the commanding driving position gives the feeling of driving a larger vehicle. It offers plenty for the money with even the entry SE offering 17-inch alloys, bi-colour roof/body, hill hold control and air conditioning, double boot floor and automatic headlights.
In addition there are height adjustable front seats, split folding rear seats, flat-bottomed leather steering wheel, cruise control, speed limiter and lane assist, auto dimming rear-view mirror, and electric front and rear windows.
The FR Sport driven here, is, as the name implies, an evern sportier version and features microsuede, heated sports seats,18-in alloys, tinted rear windows, electric folding doorr mirrors, ‘see me home’ lighting, interior ambient lighting and rain-sensing wipers.
The centre screen is the brain of the car where infotainment and connectivity while this model features the clever digital cockpit for driver information.
The centre screen controls built-in sat-nav, a DAB radio, wireless phone charging and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring. It is fully connected with in-car and out-car connectivity, including wireless Full Link integration and SEAT Connect.
Users can remotely access their vehicle’s data, such as driving data, parking position and vehicle status including doors and lights. They can set-up speed alerts so you can be warned if someone using your vehicle is driving too quickly, area and anti-theft alerts, opening and closing of the doors with the remote lock and unlock service, or remotely activating the horn and turn signals to find the car more easily.
It cannot be denied that a compact vehicle of this nature has to make compromises with space. Even so, most people have sufficient head and legroom in the front, the rear is cramped, especially for those six footers.
Compact, but still practical, boot space remains at 400 litres increasing to 823 litres with rear seats folded to the top of seatbacks and 1,280 litres when loaded to the roof, while a double floor makes the rear even more versatile.
On the road the gutsy three-cylinder petrol engine delivers 108bhp with style, and mated to a DSG automatic, it hits 60mph in around 9.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 113mph. The steering is responsive and the handling, not surprisingly, sporty, while the ride is firm but not harsh.
It feels equally at home in town or on the open road.
Safety kit is comprehensive with driver and front passenger airbags, and side airbags also in the front with curtain airbag, plus electronic stability control (ESC) and electronic engine immobiliser.
SEAT Arona 1.0 TSI FR Sport 110PS manual
Mechanical: 110ps, 999cc, 3cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via six-speed manual gearbox
Max Speed: 121mph
0-62mph: 10.3 seconds
Combined MPG: 50
Insurance Group: 13
C02 emissions: 123g/km