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What Car? says

3 out of 5 stars

For All the quality of a VW Lupo, but cheaper

Against Can't match the best for handling or practicality

Verdict High quality and strong image at a decent price

Go for… 1.0 S

Avoid… 60bhp 1.4 petrol

Seat Arosa Hatchback
  • 1. The engines are pretty refined, and all versions are quite well equipped
  • 2. The 75bhp 1.4-litre diesel is worth considering, but it's the most expensive version
  • 3. Try and find an example that's already had the cambelt changed. Replacements are expensive
  • 4. Arosas are prone to electrical failure, so make sure all the gadgets work properly
  • 5. The suspension can be prone to rattles, which usually means new bushes are required
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Seat Arosa Hatchback full review with expert trade views

Seat's smallest car is an intriguing mix of abilities and limitations. On the plus side, it has all the style, image and quality of its VW Lupo half-brother, but costs slightly less to buy. It's also cheap to run and cheap to insure.

The best thing, though, is that it's exceedingly refined for a city car, with wind and road noise kept well in check. The engines are pretty hushed, too, and all versions are quite well equipped.

On the downside, the ride is too choppy when you're travelling at motorway speeds. Also, kneeroom in the back is cramped, and as one of the more expensive city cars, the Arosa should have been better in this respect. It's no worse than other city cars, but it's no better, either.

It should be more fun to drive, too. Don't get us wrong, it isn't bad, but it's nowhere near as entertaining as a Ford Ka, for example.

Trade view

John Owen

Essentially a VW Polo - residuals almost as strong. Great first/city car

John Owen
Buyer,
Fords of Winsford

Early Arosas came with a choice of four engines - a 50bhp 1.0-litre, 60bhp and 100bhp 1.4 engines, and a 60bhp 1.7-litre diesel - and the 1.0-litre is our pick. It's a bit short of power on the open road, but it's fine around town, and it's the cheapest to buy and run.

The smaller 1.4 is pointless because it's barely any stronger than the 1.0, but the more powerful 1.4 provides some useful extra punch. Don't bother with the diesel, though - it's too sluggish.

The Arosa was facelifted in 2001, and the diesel was replaced with a new, much better 75bhp 1.4-litre unit. This is worth considering, but it is the most expensive version.

You only get a choice of trim level with the 1.0-litre - either standard or S. Standard is basic, but S is much better and won't cost much more. You'll get alloys, power steering, a driver's airbag and electric windows. The other engines only come individually trimmed.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Not many around, revised '01 better for retail; 1.4 Sport popular

James Ruppert
Used car guru

The Arosa isn't the cheapest city car by any means - similar-sized offerings from Daewoo or Hyundai will cost you a lot less. However, these cars can't get anywhere near the Arosa for quality, and the only car that can, the VW Lupo, will cost you more than an Arosa.

Filling it up with fuel won't bankrupt you, either. The 1.0-litre will return an average of 48.7mpg, the 1.4 will give you either 37.7mpg or 42.2mpg depending on the power output you choose, and the later 1.4 diesel will give you 64.2mpg.

Insurance costs will be reasonably cheap. The petrol engines range from group 2 to group 5, while the diesel sits in group 3.

Servicing costs will be pretty good, too. At 10,000 miles, the Arosa has fairly reasonable service intervals, and the bills won't amount to much more than the class average, even if the Arosa isn't really any cheaper to service than the Lupo.

Trade view

John Owen

Essentially a VW Polo - residuals almost as strong. Great first/city car

John Owen
Buyer,
Fords of Winsford

Seat might make its cars with Volkswagen bits, but the Spaniards have a better reliability record than VW. Although its overall placings in our reliability surveys have dropped in recent years, Seat usually manages to outperform its parent company.

Seat can't seem to match VW on customer satisfaction, though. The Arosa came bottom of its class in the 2005 JD Power survey because of customers' concerns over high repair costs - and rightly so.

A new clutch costs over £500, and a cambelt change on the 1.0-litre will cost you more than £400. So, if you're buying a used car, try and find one that's already had the cambelt changed.

There are also a few particular points to look out for, including rattles from the suspension, which usually means that new bushes are required. And, on later cars, electrical gripes are the biggest complaint, so make sure all your gadgets work properly and don't show any signs of weird behaviour.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Not many around, revised '01 better for retail; 1.4 Sport popular

James Ruppert
Used car guru
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