Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
Kicking off the engine range is the 94bhp 1.0 TSI 95. Its official 0-62mph time of 11.4sec might not seem impressive, but it's gutsier than you might imagine and never feels frustratingly slow. We reckon it's the pick of the Arona range, especially if you drive mostly in and around town. It’s available with the two lowest trim levels only, but one of those (SE Technology) is our favourite.
The more powerful 114bhp 1.0 engine (badged 1.0 TSI 115) pulls more eagerly from low revs and feels more energetic in every situation. In fact, it knocks over a second-and-a-half off the TSI 95’s 0-62mph time. If you regularly travel on the motorway or with a full car, it’s well worth considering. At the top of the range sits the 148bhp 1.5 TSI Evo 150. Unsurprisingly, its extra power helps deliver much nippier acceleration than either of the 1.0-litre units, but it pushes the Arona's price into the territory of bigger, more grown-up cars, such as the Volkswagen T-Roc.
The sole diesel engine option is the 94bhp 1.6 TDI 95, which doesn’t feel as responsive or sprightly as the petrol units. Indeed, it’s the slowest engine in the line-up, but it’s fine around town and builds speed steadily up to the motorway limit when required.
Suspension and ride comfort
However, if comfort is high on your list of priorities, there are better options in the class. The costlier Volkswagen T-Roc is certainly more supple in every situation, but you don't need to spend that much money. The Skoda Kamiq is also pretty wafty.
FR trim brings firmer sports suspension, and FR Sport, SE Technology Lux and Xcellence Lux trims all get 18in wheels. All of those 'upgrades' make the ride a little less settled over craggy roads.
One of the best things about Seat's larger Ateca is how jolly good fun it is to drive – a rare quality among SUVs, especially at this end of the market. And the good news is that, on the whole, Seat hasn’t dropped the ball with the Arona.
In fact, because it’s lighter and a bit lower to the ground than its bigger brother, the Arona actually changes direction with a bit more gusto and leans less doing so. It’s more agile and entertaining than most of its direct rivals, including the Renault Captur and Volkswagen T-Cross. The Arona isn’t the cornering king of this class, though; the sweet-handling Ford Puma undoubtedly takes that title.
With sports suspension as standard, FR versions add even better body composure. Along with the range-topping Xcellence Lux model, they also feature a Drive Profile switch that allows you to adjust the weight of the steering. Even in its Normal mode, the steering builds weight progressively as you turn the wheel and better than the rather light (yet still precise) steering of the regular models.
Noise and vibration
The 1.0-litre TSI engines have three cylinders and will send a few vibrations up through the pedals – particularly when you work the engine hard. Upgrade to the TSI 115 and you get a six-speed manual gearbox over the TSI 95’s five-speed ‘box, helping keep the engine revving lower for more relaxed cruising. The four-cylinder 1.5 TSI 150 is the smoothest engine in the range, but none of the petrol engines are annoyingly vocal.
As for the diesel, the 1.6 TDI 95 is, predictably, less refined. It isn’t too gruff or unpleasant-sounding, but noticeably noisier than the petrols, particularly when accelerating. There’s a bit more vibration through the pedals, too.
Above 50mph, you can hear the wind whipping around the Arona’s door mirrors and there's a bit of road noise – more than you'll hear in the T-Cross or T-Roc. The Puma’s gear lever and clutch have an even more satisfying feel, but the Arona's gears, clutch and brakes are still very good compared with most rivals, especially the Citroën C3 Aircross. That makes the Arona an easy car to drive smoothly.
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