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Road test: Seat Arona 1.6 TDI

Seat’s Arona could just be what the market wants and needs, finds Jonathan Musk…

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SECTOR Small SUV   PRICING £18,845-25,120   FUEL 65.7-64.2mpg   CO2 113-115g/km

Seat has been enjoying fleet success of late, with figures up year-on-year with 27% growth (from 16,285 to 20,595) and this despite a general UK market decline. With 4% market share, the company has managed to jump into the top ten brands.

Having the right cars available at the right price and time, of course, is key to Seat’s success and the Arona sits pretty as the affordable, capable and cost effective small SUV ticking the price, versatility and fashion boxes in one fell swoop. It’s everything the market is asking for, and thanks to its popular small capacity petrol turbo engines or a relatively old but proven diesel, it’s what the market needs too.

Our test car was equipped with the 94bhp 1.6-litre diesel four pot that, under NEDC correlated figures, emits 113g/km CO2 in base SE spec and ranges to 115g/km in range-topping Xcellence Lux – comparable to the petrol 1.0-litre turbo. Literally miles ahead of the petrol, however, is an official average fuel economy of 65.7mpg on the combined cycle, compared to the petrol engines’ 56.5mpg average best.

Consequently, Seat has rightly recognised fleets will be attracted to this winning combination, and as such the three base Arona trims – SE, SE Technology and SE Technology Lux – are only available with diesel power.

While the 1.6-litre might not cut the mustard in terms of refinement compared to newer motors in the Volkswagen Group empire, and indeed its own petrol stable-mate, it is perfectly suited to the Arona. There’s a hint of under-power while revs are low, but it’s a surprisingly versatile, relaxing and easy to drive machine thanks to well-chosen gear ratios in the five-speed manual of our SE Technology.

Inside, you’ll find more space than the Ibiza (the Arona’s base), while spec, trim and fit/finish remain the same high standard. Essentially, it’s a raised Ibiza but more than just a styling exercise, this additional height and redesigned exterior means the car gains practicality by way of improved cabin access with larger doors and a larger boot aperture too.

And its well-equipped as standard – with our SE Tech’ coming with a more intuitive and attractive touchscreen interface than its Volkswagen sibling, while incorporating sat nav, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

The Arona is lively and surprisingly energetic on the road. Expectedly it has firmer suspension than its Ibiza base, to compensate for the taller ride height, but not at the expense of long range comfort. The diesel engine pulls well and once at speed quietens down to a background murmur. It doesn’t really beg for a sixth-gear either, so don’t let that put you off.

What we think…

The Arona is therefore a compelling option, even when considered amongst strong competition from the Renault Captur, Citroën C3 Aircross and Kia Stonic. The Arona holds its own in terms of quality and flexibility but loses out slightly on paper in economy and CO2 output, largely thanks to its five rather than six-speed transmission.

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Jonathan Musk

Jonathan turned to motoring journalism in 2013 having founded, edited and produced Autovolt - one of the UK's leading electric car publications. He has also written and produced books on both Ferrari and Hispano-Suiza, while working as an international graphic designer for the past 15 years. As the automotive industry moves towards electrification, Jonathan brings a near-unrivalled knowledge of EVs and hybrids to Fleet World Group.