Is there a problem with the Volkswagen Group 1.5 petrol engine?

Reader is buying a new Seat Arona and is concerned about reports that his car's 1.5-litre engine suffers from 'kangarooing' when cold...

Seat Arona

As a regular reader of What Car? magazine, I am hoping that you can assist me with a concern over a vehicle I'm in the process of buying.

I have ordered a Seat Arona FR Sport, which has the Volkswagen Group TSI Evo 150 1.5-litre petrol engine. I have recently become aware of owner reports of issues with this engine stuttering during low revs and in low-speed situations.

I am in contact with my Seat dealership and Seat UK and awaiting information on them about this, but I'd also very much value your independent assessment of this issue.

So can you tell me about your experiences of driving cars with this engine, and is the problem historical or does it affect the latest cars? 

David Smith

What Car? says…

We are aware of the problem with the 1.5-litre and 1.0-litre VW Group petrol engines with a manual gearbox, which are fitted to a number of Audi, VW, Seat and Skoda models.

It appears to happen when pulling away when the car's engine is cold – some owners report that the car judders violently in first gear and also struggles to pull away smoothly if they change up to second gear.  

As well as reports from owners, our colleagues at Autocar ran a 1.0-litre Skoda Karoq last year, which suffered with the problem. 

However, we have been told that the Volkswagen Group has issued a software update for existing cars, which some owners have told us has improved the cold-starting performance of their cars. Not all owners are happy with the fix, though, and some have said that it didn't resolve the problem. We understand this has been applied to new cars, too, so your Arona should have had the update done. 

Seat Arona engine

The problem doesn't appear to be consistent across all cars – some owners have told us they find it only mildly annoying and can overcome it by keeping the engine revs up at first, while others say it makes their cars very difficult to drive. 

Although we believe that Volkswagen has remedied the problem in many instances, we'd recommend you take a test drive in a car with this engine – ensuring the engine is cold and the outside temperature is low – to see if you are happy with the way the car pulls away from a standstill when cold.

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Best small SUVs – and the ones to avoid

Small SUVs are among the most popular cars on sale because they offer the high-set driving position, practicality and muscular looks of more traditional off-roaders, but usually without the high purchase price or running costs – so they can make great family cars.

Here, we count down the top 10 small SUVs you can currently buy – and reveal the models that are best to steer clear of.

Renault Captur

The Captur may look like a chunky SUV that shrunk in the wash, but it’s actually a cunningly disguised Clio on stilts. Like the Clio, a range of economical petrol and diesel engines are available and only the front wheels are driven.

The Captur is good value, undercutting most of its rivals on purchase price and offering some of the lowest CO2 emissions in its class. It's not as swift or agile as the competition, though, and its interior quality is underwhelming compared with the best in class.

Read our full Renault Captur review or see our latest Captur deals

9. Mini Countryman

Used Mini Countryman Hatchback 17-present

The Countryman has a well-appointed, plush-looking interior and a decently sized boot. It handles well, but the ride can be unsettled and it has more road and wind noise than some rivals.

The Countryman is large by small SUV standards and makes decent use of what space there is. A high roof and low seating position mean even the tallest of drivers will be able to get comfortable, while a wide body means you shouldn’t be rubbing elbows with your passenger.

Read our full Mini Countryman review or see our latest Countryman deals

8. Suzuki Ignis 

Suzuki has taken the 'small' part of the small SUV to the extreme – the Ignis is just 3.7 metres long and 1.7 metres wide. That makes it about the same size as the Volkswagen Up and Kia Picanto city cars. However, with its flared arches, bluff nose and jacked-up stance, there’s no mistaking it for anything other than a radically designed and eye-catching baby SUV.

The Ignis is also well priced and neatly packaged. Only its stodgy handling and so-so perceived interior quality let it down.