From £16,6858
No longer the class leader since the Ford Puma came along, the Seat Arona is still a well-rounded small SUV. A facelift keeps it fresh and does something about the dull interior.
2 October 2021

What is it?

The class of supermini-based small crossovers can be a frustrating one. Early efforts in particular were very similar to the hatchbacks they were derived from, thus emphasising that they offered a driving experience that was just slightly less rounded. When it launched in 2017, the Seat Arona was the first to show that B-segment SUVs could have some decent driving dynamics, as well as tick the important practicality, economy and budget boxes.

Since then, the class hasn’t stood still. The Ford Puma has redefined what a sporty crossover can be, and cars like the current Vauxhall Mokka and Peugeot 2008 feel far less like a tall Corsa or 208 than their predecessors. Can a facelift keep the Arona competitive?

On the outside, the changes seem limited. The new separate round driving lights are reminiscent of that quasi-SUV pioneer, the Skoda Yeti. All versions get LED headlights now, down to the entry-level trims. Fundamentally, it still looks like a tall Ibiza, though.

It’s inside where you’ll find the biggest changes. Like the Ibiza, the Arona suffered from quite an austere interior with a lot of scratchy plastics. That’s gone now, with a much swoopier dashboard featuring light-up air vents in place of the old more rectilinear slab. The infotainment screen, which gets Seat’s latest system as well as wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, has moved up to be more directly in the driver’s line of sight and higher trim levels get a wireless charging pad. Seat has also expanded the active safety features available on the Arona.

The engine line-up stays largely the same. The diesel had been axed earlier, leaving two versions of the 1.0-litre TSI, with 94 or 108bhp, and a 148bhp 1.5-litre four cylinder. The 94bhp unit comes only with a 5-speed manual, the middle engine gets either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed DSG, while the four-cylinder is automatic-only.

What's it like?

Facelifts rarely bring any fundamental changes, so the Arona still feels essentially like a taller Ibiza. It means some rivals feel a little more upmarket, but then they’re also bigger, and you can’t argue with small cars remaining small and easy to thread down narrow city streets and country lanes.

As in the Ibiza, the interior revamp has worked wonders for the perceived quality. You’ll still find some coarse materials – that’s par for the course in this class, but it looks and feels modern, and the other fundamentals are still sound, with a comfortable driving position, plenty of space and mostly sound ergonomics. 

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On higher trims, the Arona now also has some more advanced active safety features. The adaptive cruise control can self-adjust over a wider range of speeds, and it gains lane centring and blind spot monitoring. The lane keep assist works perfectly unintrusively, and is relatively easy to turn off. That said, don’t expect true semi-autonomous driving here – it’s a fair bit less sophisticated than the systems you might find in larger cars. 

Seat expects 67% of Aronas to come out of the Martorell factory with the 108bhp triple – 39% with the automatic and 28% with three pedals. Having tried both, the automatic seems to rev with a little more vim but either suits the Arona well. The DSG shifts smoothly and the manual has a slick action.

Like the interior, the driving experience is very much ‘tall Ibiza’. The higher of centre of gravity necessitates slightly higher spring rates, so it doesn’t breathe with the road quite as naturally as the hatchback, but for a small SUV, it’s still pointy and direct, and relatively unfazed by challenging road surfaces while remaining reasonably comfortable. 

Should I buy one?

Seat reckons SE Technology trim will be the most popular, and that makes sense, because at £20,510 that’s where the Arona represents the best value. SE Technology gets you the bigger screen and parking sensors, but FR and Xperience are quite a big step up in price, and at that point, some rivals offer even more equipment for the money. 

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Don’t get carried away with the spec, and the Arona is still a deceptively spacious small SUV that’s economical and reasonably good to drive. It no longer feels as cheap as it used to and offers as much or as little tech as you want for the segment.

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Zapetero 3 October 2021

SimpLe car this cette arona, aLthough Im not sure about Le dashboard

The Apprentice 2 October 2021

Might have bought one earlier in the year, but as mentioned in the reviews, the current interior was extremely low rent, glad to hear they have finally recognised its biggest failing and upgraded it. Couple of other annoyances, to get the toys we wanted meant buying the top spec. model, then there were thing we didn't want such as an extra amplifier in the spare wheel well so no spare possible. Finally it has so little 'jacking up' it feels far more hatchback than crossover so Mrs Apprentice rejected it. It does look good and drives well though.