Saturday 20 October 2018

Soothing Arona therapy

The striking new Seat Arona is the latest offering in the compact SUV segment, writes Geraldine Herbert

Competitive: The Seat Arona enters the fastest-growing market in Ireland
Competitive: The Seat Arona enters the fastest-growing market in Ireland
Geraldine Herbert

Geraldine Herbert

Named after a small town in Tenerife, the Arona is the latest newcomer from the Spanish car maker Seat and is a significant model as it marks its first foray into the ultra-competitive B-SUV sector.

Looming in the mirrors of the Renault Captur, Peugeot 2008 and Opel Mokka, the Arona is designed for those looking for style and functionality.

Despite being based on its supermini sister, the Ibiza, the Arona is taller, longer and wider so better able to compete as a family-sized crossover.

Outside there is much to admire, it looks like something en route to the African savannah and while there is no AWD version, the bumpers, wheel arches, extra ground clearance and roof rack all hint at more than just the urban jungle.

Inside, the dashboard is all very familiar and is easy to use, but it lacks the styling flair of the exterior. The swathe of plastic across the dashboard is dull and charmless, but overall it all feels of reasonable quality. In terms of connectivity, Arona features Apple Car Play, Android Auto and MirrorLink.

There are three petrol engines to choose from, a three-cylinder, 95 PS 1.0 TSI, which is linked to a five-speed manual gearbox. Also available is a more powerful 115 PS version and a new four-cylinder, 150 PS TSI mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. A diesel 1.6 TDI will be available with 95 and 115 PS. The 95 PS version can be paired with a five-speed manual transmission or the seven-speed DSG, and the 115 PS with a six-speed gearbox.

Pick of the engine range is the 1.0-litre TSI which we tried on a range of roads in and around Barcelona and while it needed a little coaxing to climb some of the steep mountain roads, it was punchy around town and zipped along merrily on motorways. On the road is where the Arona really shines. Driving dynamics may not be a deal breaker in the family crossover market but the Arona's agility through corners and firm suspension means it is far more fun to drive than rivals. The sporty suspension may be a little firm for some but it is never jarring.

Reassuringly, there are a host of safety and driver assistance features to ensure that should you have a minor collision with something stationary, you won't fare too badly. There are four trims to choose from and prices start for each trim at S - €17,995, SE - €20,715, Xcellence - €22,815 and FR - €22,815. The entry-level S is a little sparse, so the SE is the one to opt for and adds 8in media system plus two USBs, voice control, Seat Full Link, 16in alloys, tiredness recognition, cruise control LED tail-lights, front fogs and LED daytime running lights. Pricing is particularly good when compared to rivals; the Renault Captur starts at €20,290, the Peugeot 2008 from €19,600, Opel's Mokka from €21,495, and the Nissan Juke is priced from €19,995.

Seat has never been a volume seller and yet produces fine cars with some real Spanish flair and this latest offering, the Arona compact SUV, hits just the right note with sporty styling, keen pricing and good driving dynamics.

Sunday Independent

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