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First Drive: Seat Arona

An accomplished small SUV to augment Seat’s expanding line-up, reckons, Craig Thomas.

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SECTOR Compact SUV   PRICE £16,555 – £24,235   FUEL 56.5-70.6mpg   CO2 105-115g/km

I f you think that you’ve been seeing more small SUVs/crossovers on the roads recently, you’d be right: the segment has grown by 700% in just six years.

And that isn’t going to change any time soon, as this will be the fastest-growing area of the car market between now and the end of the decade.

Pump-priming that growth will be an expansion of new models, which will seriously challenge the Nissan Juke, Renault Captur and Peugeot 2008 (with the Audi Q2 and Mini Countryman at the premium end) that have previously constituted the available options to buyers who were looking for a small, high-riding, faux off-roader. Cue the Seat Arona.

If you like what Seat is doing with the design of its latest vehicles, you’ll like this too. The company’s designers have made a good fist of making an SUV attractive (albeit a compact one, rather than a hulking seven-seater); the triangular graphics work well with the different-coloured roof and gently rising C-pillar at the rear to accentuate the compact sportiness of the Arona, for example.

The cabin is neat, but the plastics are hard and slightly cheap-feeling. However, the dashboard and console layout is well resolved, while the 8-inch colour touchscreen is a nifty, user-friendly piece of tech that controls satellite navigation, media options (including DAB, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto) and telephone operation.

The interior also wins in spaciousness stakes – Seat claims class-leading status – with a comfortable adjustable driving position and plenty of room for four adults, with the rear offering lots of head- and legroom. There’s even a 400-litre boot capacity.

Engine choices are pretty straightforward, with three petrol and two diesels. A three-cylinder 1.0 petrol unit comes in two forms (94 and 114bhp), with the more powerful likely to be the most popular choice among buyers. It’s easy to see why; there’s plenty of go for most drivers to tap into, with its sub 10-second 0-62mph. Officially, it’s relatively economical too, with 56.5mpg on the combined cycle. There will also be a 1.5-litre 148bhp petrol option, which offers appreciably better performance, but this will primarily be a retail proposition.

Diesel options are two versions of the tried-and-tested 1.6 TDI, also in 94 and 114bhp guises. Seat hasn’t yet released performance and fuel economy data for the 114bhp version, though the lower-powered unit returns 70.6mpg with CO2 emissions of 105g/km, which is competitive.

On the road, the Arona does the job with positive handling credentials. There’s plenty of grip and good balance, plus impressive body control for a car with a 190mm ground clearance, while the steering is accurate and consistent. The ride is also credible – not perfect, but better than most of its rivals – but we’ve so far only driven on relatively smooth Spanish roads, so we’re keen to see how it does on UK roads.

What we think

Appealing design, a spacious cabin, and selection of technology, efficient engines and on-road character all add up to a serious player in the compact SUV arena.

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Craig Thomas

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