2022 Seat Arona long-term test: report 1

When it first went on sale, the Seat Arona was the best small SUV around, but it's been surpassed by other cars. Has a recent facelift put it back on top? We're living with one to find out...

Seat Arona

The car 2022 Seat Arona 1.0 TSI 110 FR Sport DSG Run by Kiall Garrett, senior videographer

Why it’s here Can the sporty version of Seat's small SUV be spacious and efficient enough for What Car?'s videographer?

Needs to Practical, comfortable on long journeys and exciting to drive

Mileage 334 Price £20,040 Target price £19,394 Price as tested £25,580 Official economy 46.3mpg Test economy 41.8mpg

1 March 2022 – Small and fun?

After my recent success with the Suzuki S-Cross, why try to fix what wasn’t broken? With that in mind, when it came to choosing my next car, I didn't stray from the small SUV pool. I wanted something that can deal with my practicality needs as a videographer for What Car?, be efficient to run, keep me comfortable on long journeys – and (for more vain reasons) look cool too. It's a tall order, but I think I've found the answer.

Enter the Seat Arona. Or more precisely, the Seat Arona FR Sport, which Seat itself calls ‘the sporty one’ in the Arona line-up. And I think the brand is right – because while small SUVs such as the S-Cross, Skoda Kamiq and Dacia Sandero Stepway may not turn many heads, I’d argue that the sharp-looking Arona does.

A recent facelift has freshened up the cosmetics of the car, with redesigned LED headlights at the front and rear, alongside new foglights either side of the sharper-looking grille. The Arona badge is in the new handwritten Seat font to match the other cars in its line-up.

Seat Arona badge

Seat offers very few additional options when it comes to speccing your car, so the trim level you go for is crucial. The only real choice once you've selected the trim is picking one of the nine metallic paint colours, which all come with contrasting roof colours for no extra cost.

This is another reason I went for FR Sport trim, because the contrasting red stitching in the interior, the 18in alloys and the 'digital cockpit' instrument cluster all help to make the Arona feel more personalised and sporty compared with lesser versions.

On top of sport seats, a leather steering wheel and dual-zone climate control, FR Sport adds a new digital cockpit and heated seats – something I consider essential when you cover as many miles as I do.

My long-term Suzuki S-Cross had enough space for my videography needs while taking me from A to B with decent efficiency, but I found certain areas fell short – the cheap-feeling interior quality and fairly basic infotainment system, for example. I’m hoping the Arona will feel like a breath of fresh air by comparison, with a crisper interior design equipped with Seat’s latest tech offering. 

Seat Arona infotainment

And it’s inside where this facelifted Arona really shines, with slightly plusher materials than those of the outgoing car. I’m particularly impressed with the round air vents fitted with calming ambient lighting, and the new 9.2in infotainment screen with Seat’s updated software looks sleek and runs well so far.

In this spec, the Arona's list price is £23,350, which makes it cheaper than the range-topping S-Cross I had previously. With the addition of the digital driver display (the S-Cross had analogue dials and a small digital screen), the Arona is punching above its weight, offering the kind of big-car tech you'd expect to find in a more expensive car.

While the looks are sporty and the tech is aspirational, the engine perhaps makes more sobering reading. My chosen 1.0-litre TSI petrol has a respectable, if uninspiring, 109bhp. While it’s not sporty, it's certainly punchy enough, especially in Sport driving mode.

Don't go thinking the Arona can ford every stream and tackle every mountain, either – a few minutes stuck in the mud of a National Trust car park has already seen to that. Really, like many other small SUVs, it’s best to think of it as a hatchback with a raised ride height.

Seat Arona interior

For me, practicality is the most important aspect of a car, and I’m pleased to report that, so far, the Arona seems able to fulfil my needs. Certainly, it's accommodated all my videography gear with ease.

My initial impressions of the Arona are very positive, then. The car is attractive inside and out, with plenty of tech that makes you feel like you’re driving a car that costs more than it does, while also being comfortable and practical.

Can lightning strike twice, then? For me and my small SUV, it appears so.

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