New Hyundai Kona & Volkswagen T-Roc vs Seat Arona

Volkswagen has been slow to the small SUV party, but it has arrived in style with the T-Roc. How will it fare against two keenly priced rivals?

Words By What Car? team

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Hyundai Kona interior

Behind the wheel

Driving position, visibility, build quality

If you’re hoping for a towering Range Rover-esque driving position then we’re sorry to be the bearers of bad news. In truth, from behind the wheel of the Arona you really wouldn’t know you’re driving an SUV at all; its seat is barely any farther from the ground than a Ford Fiesta’s.

The Kona’s seat is mounted a few centimetres higher, but you still don’t really feel as though you’re driving an SUV. It’s only in the T-Roc that you get a semblance of looking down on the world; its driver’s seat isn’t actually mounted any higher than the Kona’s, but a higher window line and lower dashboard gives the impression that it is.

How high you like to sit is, of course, down to personal preference, but setting up your driving position is definitely easiest in the Kona, thanks to its electrically adjustable front seats and standard adjustable lumbar support. The latter feature is a hideously expensive option on the T-Roc and isn’t available at all on the Arona, although both cars have enough lower back support for all but the longest of journeys. What’s more, the Arona’s figure-hugging sports seats actually hold you in position most effectively of the trio through corners.

The T-Roc is easiest to see out of in all directions, but particularly when looking back over your shoulder. The chunkier rear pillars and smaller rear screens in the Arona and Kona make reversing that bit trickier, although all three cars come with rear parking sensors and the Kona even has a rear-view camera to help. The Arona is the only one of our protagonists without parking sensors at the front, although it does have the best headlights; powerful LED units rather than the weaker halogen bulbs in the Kona and T-Roc.

Chances are you’re expecting the T-Roc to look and feel the poshest inside. After all, VW has a history of building its dashboards out of upmarket, soft-touch plastics – even in the much cheaper Polo. Well, quality is actually the most disappointing thing about the new T-Roc; its interior feels surprisingly cheap, with hard and unforgiving plastics the order of the day throughout.

Granted, the Arona’s interior isn’t much plusher, but at least Seat has gone to some effort to hide the brittle plastic on the face of the dashboard by wrapping it in stitched leather. The standard part-leather, part-Alcantara seats also help lift the overall impression of quality just above the T-Roc’s – not a bad effort considering the Arona is the cheaper car.

And the Kona? Well, even in this company, it’s decidedly low-rent inside. Its dashboard feels the least robust and well-finished, while the leather on the steering wheel feels the most plasticky. The leather seats do at least lift the ambience a little, and with selected paint colours you get some matching highlights on the seats and dashboard.

In the Arona, there’s plenty of red stitching and subtle ambient lighting to brighten the mood, while in the T-Roc you can opt for orange, blue or yellow dashboard panels without paying a penny extra.

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Volkswagen T-ROC

What Car? Says Rated 4 out of 5
Owners say Not yet rated

The T-Roc is a different sort of VW – one that sacrifices a bit of substance for greater style. But interior quality aside, there's still a lot to like