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MotorBar - New Car Reviews
SEAT Arona FR 1.0 TSi 115PS

Click to view picture gallery“What do the compact crossover
  car sector and the galaxy have in
  common? Both keep on expanding
  with no sign of stopping. For car
  buyers, in particular, this is wonderful
  news because it means an ever-
  increasing menu from which to
  choose...”


SITTING FAIRLY HIGH OFF THE GROUND and comfortably high up on the compact-sized SUV list is SEAT's Arona. Facing it down are the likes of the Kia Stonic, Nissan Juke, Citroen C3 AirCross and Peugeot's 2008. In this sector, where 'cleverly compact' is the name of the game, the Arona delivers in spades — its trump card an unexpectedly capacious 400-litre boot.

For today's car buyers design rules and for most of them the Arona will be eye-candy, especially the more nuanced body styling that marks out the sportier FR and FR Sport trims. That said, thanks to their sharp looks and 'kicked-up' rear body styling, even 'ordinary' Aronas turn heads go for one finished in Eclipse Orange metallic paintwork (astonishingly at no extra charge!) and you'll pull in even more likes.

The driving position is,
as you
ll be expecting for
a crossover/SUV,
commanding — all of the
controls are easily within
reach plus the central
touchscreen display is
only a quick glance away.
Visibility out to all
points of the compass is
excellent making the
Arona a very easy car to
place and manoeuvre
in traffic...”
Climb aboard and settle behind the flat-bottomed multifunction steering wheel (sporty with good-to-grip perforated leather 'work' areas) and you'll be faced by a streamlined dash it looks great and the instrument panel is equally uncluttered: a multi-function driver's display (with the essential digital speed readout) flanked on either side by white-on-black dials ringed with chrome bezels all instantly informative and easy on the eyes.

The supportive sports-style seats, upholstered in a silky textured black cloth that's as welcome on hot summer days as it is on chilly winter ones, are nicely bolstered and supportive in all the right places. Both are height adjustable and enough headroom for you to drive wearing a top hat, plus enough space between the front seats to avoid any elbow clashes with whoever is riding shotgun. There's red detail stitching, of course (this FR is a 'hotter' version), but it's not overdone and fit and finish is consistently to a high standard.

The driving position is, as you'll be expecting for a crossover/SUV, commanding all of the controls are easily within reach plus the central touchscreen display is only a quick glance away. Visibility out to all points of the compass is excellent making the Arona a very easy car to place and manoeuvre in traffic.

Adequate in-cabin storage seems to be becoming harder to find in many so-called family-friendly cars but thankfully the Arona is not one of them: up front you'll find twin cupholders alongside the trad-style pull-up handbrake, long and deep bottle-holding door bins, a large glovebox, and a good supply of secondary cubby-holes.

You don't go short on comms either everything you'll need is channelled through a superb eight-inch touchscreen with crystal-clear graphics; all your infotainment and navigation needs are easily accessed via fast-acting menus. Drivers will welcome the integrated SatNav with its foolproof directions and 3D mapping and be glad of the safe hands-free voice recognition feature for navigation, telephone, radio and media functions.

“Arona strikes a good
balance between a
comfortable ride with
well controlled body
movements and the right
degree of firmness
necessary for decent
handling. For proof,
pitch it into a corner or
weave it through a series of bends and you’ll be
unlikely to hear any complaints. Driven with
more composure it
will whisk you out for a
takeaway with as much
élan as it will take you
from Land’s End to
John O’Groats...”
Meanwhile Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are on hand for smartphone mirroring, plus there's also a DAB radio, CD autochanger, ample connectivity ports (as well as SD card slots) and even a dedicated 'bed' for your smartphone where it can be charged wirelessly while you drive!

Kit-wise, FR versions tick all the boxes: two-zone climate control, cruise and speed limiter, four one-shot-op electric windows, powerfolding door mirrors (on demand and automatically on locking and leaving), plenty of comms stuff (already detailed above), tinted glass (darker from the B-pillars back), auto-dimming rearview mirror, rear parking sensors, cosmetic FR body enhancements, sports suspension, adaptive dampers, auto lights, rain-sensing wipers, LED DRLs, twin-blade silver 17-inch alloy wheels and, unusually, standard finish metallic paint.

Most wanted of the safety assists available today has to be autonomous emergency braking and the Arona gives it to you. Free. And then backs it up with a maximum five-star EuroNCAP score.

Also helping to keep you safe are expected items like stability control and multi-collision braking as well as a driver tiredness recognition and warning system. Items such as blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert (scans the road behind you when you reverse exit a parking bay), and a rearview camera are available on higher-spec trims.

Measuring just a shade over 4.1-metres the Arona is big enough to accommodate adult passengers comfortably in its rear cabin there's enough room for tall grown-ups to travel behind equally tall folks up front and still enjoy liveable knee-room and more than a fist of headroom without feeling like an afterthought. Which, for a supermini-sized SUV, is pretty damn good.

Back passengers also sit about six inches higher than those up front so watching the world go by through the deep side windows is an enjoyable option for those not glued to their mobiles. A set of third side windows add extra light to what is a spacious-feeling rear cabin while decent-sized door pockets hold bottles and above them comfy outer armrests help your backseat passengers stay relaxed.

Some three-cylinder
engines can be rather too
vocal but the 999cc unit
powering the Arona is
impressively muted;
pedal to the metal you’ll
hear its likeable three-pot
‘thrum’, but even then
it remains smooth.
It always feels keen to
race forwards and the
clean clutch action and
easily slotted gear lever
make for pretty lively
performance whether
you’re fighting your way
out of town or enjoying
less cluttered back
roads...”
Rolling on its standard-fit 17-inch alloys shod with bump-pacifying 205/55 Pirellis, the Arona strikes a good balance between a comfortable ride with well controlled body movements and the right degree of firmness necessary for decent handling.

For proof, pitch it into a corner or weave it through a series of bends and you'll be unlikely to hear any complaints from your passengers. Driven with more composure it will whisk you out for a takeaway with as much élan as it will take you from Land's End to John O'Groats.

As to what goes under the bonnet you have options: three petrol and one diesel petrol engines choices are between a 1.0 TSI petrol with 95 or 115PS (the more powerful rating has the option of a seven-speed DSG auto transmission) plus a 1.5 TSI EVO with efficiency-boosting active cylinder deactivation (it can run on just two of its four cylinders to save fuel when it's safe to do). The diesel is a 1.6 TDI with 95Ps and with it you get the choice of stirring a six-speed gearbox manually or letting a DSG auto transmission do the gear-changing for you.

We've been driving the turbocharged 113bhp (115PS) petrol-drinking 1.0-litre engine and while it's only got three cylinders it more than makes up for that by being enjoyably game its 147lb ft of torque helps a lot too. Some three-cylinder engines can be rather too vocal but the 999cc unit powering the Arona, while not absolutely as quiet as a mouse, is impressively muted; pedal to the metal you'll hear its likeable three-pot 'thrum', but even then it remains smooth.

Being an eager-beaver when it comes to revving, it always feels keen to race forwards and the clean clutch action and easily slotted gear lever make for pretty lively performance whether you're fighting your way out of town or enjoying the less cluttered country roads.

Along with a perfectly accomplished top speed of 113mph and a sub-ten-seconds 0-62mph figure, the Arona FR also does its bit to save the world courtesy of 114g/km CO2 emissions. Adding to its 'greenness' is its reasonable thirst for unleaded which, officially, is 43.5-47.1 mpg on the combined cycle but which, we're pleased to report, is borne out in real-life a week's hard driving saw a recorded 43.7mpg. Most ordinary Joes should be seeing 45-50mpg.

As mentioned earlier,
when it comes to boots
the Arona has a
big ’un — and in this
class its 400-litre luggage
bay is positively XXL.
Better still it’s easily
accessed via a generous
tailgate opening.
And a dual-height boot
floor boosts versatility by
adding extra inches of
height to what is notably
more ‘family car’ than
‘supermini’ capacity...”
FR spec Arona models gain a sportier suspension set-up along with adaptive dampers and multiple drive settings: Eco, Normal, Sport and Individual. There's a stop/start system (than can be switched on and off) doing its bit for maximising economy whichever mode you're driving in.

Keen drivers will be no doubt be quick to select the firmed-up Sport setting which really does give your driving an edge and makes the easy-to-place Arona feel decidedly sharper. Naturally the raised driving position and compact SUV dimensions, well-managed body lean, and direct steering all also contribute to the sense of agility that makes the Arona fun to drive with some verve. Strong brakes add a persuasive, and essential, counterpoint!

As mentioned earlier, when it comes to boots the Arona has a big 'un and in this class its 400-litre luggage bay is positively XXL. Better still it's easily accessed via a generous tailgate opening with a lift-up rear parcel shelf to keep the contents private. A dual-height boot floor boosts versatility by adding an extra four inches of height to what is more 'family car' than 'supermini' capacity.

If you want more cargo room you have two options: you can either fold down the 40:60-split rear backrests to open up an extended loadbay or hitch up a trailer the FR will happily haul a braked maximum of 1,200kg.

So, the ultimate test: would we spend our own money on a SEAT Arona? In a word, Yes! Why? Because it does so many things so well. In turboed three-pot petrol guise it's also fun to drive and even if you don't spare the horses it still manages to keep your fuel bills down. In the compact crossover galaxy, it shines very brightly! ~ MotorBar
.
SEAT Arona FR 1.0 TSI 115PS | £20,840
Maximum speed: 113mph | 0-62mph: 9.8 seconds | Test Average: 43.7mpg
Power: 113bhp | Torque: 147lb ft | CO2: 114g/km

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