By Nigel Wigmore
IT was timely when I got behind the wheel of this week’s drive, because the Seat Arona had a good start to 2020 by winning a top award.
The Arona celebrated its first full year of sales by picking up What Car? magazine’s Small SUV of the Year.
I would add to that accolade that above all this car strikes you as, yes, small — but it is an SUV (sport utility vehicle) with a big heart.
Indeed, the panel of judges praised the Arona for its “interior practicality, pricing, smooth ride and handling”.
Which is fundamentally what the Arona is all about.
Above all, I liked the Arona because this “lightness of being” translated into easy, comfortable handling but not at the expense of good all-round stability.
Often in the past if a car was literally a “lightweight” there might be issues of handling, especially at speed and on corners.
Not so with the Arona. Driving at speed is a good indicator of how a car handles. Of course, there is little opportunity on public roads — as it should be.
But I have driven in the past various models on a proving ground in the UK used by carmakers.
There, on a banked circuit and away from the restrictions of a public road, I was able to test a car’s true handling at speed.
What surprised me was that once you get up to say, around 100mph on the banked circuit, you ask yourself the simple question: do I feel safe?
The answer should be yes, but in some cases, I did not feel so confident in a car’s steadiness — and therefore, safety — at speed.
Of course I was unable to test the Arona at this kind of speed, but on motorway cruising in the fast lane, it handled perfectly well.
The Arona is the second SUV in Seat’s line-up, a baby brother to the Ateca and sibling to the Tarraco seven-seater large SUV launched in the UK early last year.
Six trim levels are available: SE, SE Technology, SE Technology Lux, FR, FR Sport, Xcellence and Xcellence Lux.
I have been driving the Arona FR 1.0 TSI 115PS six-speed manual.
I often tell people these days that I prefer an automatic transmission even in smaller cars. But after a
while in the Arona — maybe because it was small and easy to handle — I liked the manual gearbox.
The Arona is available with three petrol engine options and a turbodiesel. The 1.0-litre TSI three- cylinder turbo petrol unit is available with outputs of 95 or 115 PS, the latter with the option of seven-speed DSG (direct-shift gearbox) automatic transmission.
If you prefer automatic transmission then I would always recommend this DSG automatic unit.
FR versions can be specified with Seat’s 1.5 TSI EVO unit, which makes use of automatic cylinder deactivation to ensure fuel and emissions-efficient performance when driving in traffic or around town.
The 1.6 TDI is offered with 95 PS and six-speed manual transmission or DSG Auto.
Xcellence versions have Adaptive Cruise Control, Blind Spot Detection, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and KESSY keyless entry and go.
Xcellence Lux specification brings in 18in alloys, front parking sensors, a rear-view camera and Park Assist, plus the Seat Drive Profile and Microsuede upholstery.
The Arona is equipped with a range of advanced
provided as standard across the full range. There is Park Assist for parking manoeuvres, prompts from the Tiredness Recognition system to take a break from driving, or avoiding the risk of low-speed traffic bumps with the intervention of Front Assist.
Other aids include automatic LED headlights and rain-sensing wipers, Hill Hold Control, Blind Spot Detection, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Adaptive Cruise Control.
All versions of the Arona except entry-level SE grade come as standard with Connectivity Pack Plus. This covers all bases in terms of connectivity and integration of personal devices.
Media System Plus has an eight- inch colour touchscreen and proximity sensor. There’s also a navigation system with 3D mapping and voice recognition, plus Full Link for smartphone integration while on the move.
Further features include a wireless charger, GSM antenna, two USB ports, a pair of SD card slots and, for good measure, an Aux-in socket.
SE versions of the new Arona are fitted with Media System Colour with Media System Touch, including a five-inch colour touchscreen.
All models have a six-speaker audio package with FM/AM radio and DAB reception, plus Bluetooth for audio streaming and hands-free phone use.