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Seat is on a roll but can the Arona, its new junior SUV, cut it in such an ultra-competitive class?

You may or may not be the sort of driver who is suggestible to the idea of trading in a hatchback for a compact crossover like the Seat Arona – but even if you’re not, you can hardly blame a car maker for selling one at the moment.

By Seat’s estimation, the global market for supermini-based pseudo-SUVs is four times as large today as it was even as recently as 2015 – and it’s expected to continue to grow just as quickly for years to come.

The Arona’s profile view is dominated by a sharply rising shoulder line that adds plenty of ‘wedge’ aesthetic and drama with it

For those reasons alone, any car manufacturer whose business depends even vaguely on volume and market share would need a very good reason not to introduce a car such as the subject of this road test: the Arona.

And that’s why so many have. In a segment where the likes of Renault, Nissan, Peugeot, Mazda, Ford and others are already represented, we’ve seen the likes of the Citroën C3 Aircross, MG ZS, Vauxhall Crossland X (2017-2020), Kia Stonic and Hyundai Kona all join the party in recent years. Blink and you’ll have missed at least one of them.

At times like these, one full Autocar road test a week doesn’t seem like nearly enough to stand the pace. But although we could easily devote a segment to another new jacked-up supermini every seven days for the rest of the year and still have a few left over, you can rest assured that we’re not going to.

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The Arona impressed us more than most of its new and established rivals when we first drove it and, between the Seat Ibiza, Seat Ateca and Seat Leon, its maker is also on a bit of a roll at present.

And so, while one or two of its newbie competitors may still get a road-test workout before they’re a very common sight on UK roads, we’re paying the Martorell-based marque the compliment its run of form merits and turning to the Seat first.

So has this blossoming Spanish industry player got another class-leading crossover on its hands? This road test will answer that question and more besides.

Seat Arona FAQs

Is the Seat Arona available as a plug-in hybrid or electric?

Despite a very recent facelift, the Seat Arona doesn't get any form of electrified engine option. In fact, the Spanish SUV is limited to just two engine choices, both TSI petrols - a 1.0-litre three-cylinder with either 84bhp or 108bhp, plus a 148bhp 1.5-litre. The larger unit does get cylinder deactivation that helps save fuel, but that’s about it for advanced engine tech. There’s not even mild hybrid assistance, like you’ll find on the similarly sized Ford Puma.

What are the main rivals for the Seat Arona?

Few sectors of the new car market are as fiercely fought as the small crossover class. Combining chunky off-roader looks and decent practicality with compact dimensions and supermini running costs, cars like the Seat Arona are hugely popular. The closely related Volkswagen Volkswagen T-Cross adds premium appeal, while the Ford Puma is more fun to drive. For style the Peugeot 2008 is hard to beat, plus it’s available in all-electric Peugeot e-2008 form, as is the Vauxhall Mokka.

How much power does the Seat Arona have?

You don’t expect high performance from a compact crossover, but the Seat Arona’s engines are surprisingly responsive. The entry-level 1.0-litre TSI delivers 94bhp, which is enough for a respectable 0-62mph time of 11.5 seconds. A more powerful 108bhp version of the same unit drops the benchmark time to a sprightly 10.6 second. The most muscular version of the Seat Arona is the 148bhp 1.5 TSI, which can sprint from 0-62mph in a warm hatchback-rivalling 8.2 seconds.

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What choice of gearbox are there for a Seat Arona?

The entry-level engine on the Seat Arona is a 94bhp 1.0-litre petrol, which is available exclusively with a five-speed manual, while the more powerful 108bhp variant gets a six-speed unit. Both have light and precise actions and are mated to a progressive clutch, making gear changing smooth and effortless. A seven-speed twin-clutch DSG automatic is standard on the 1.5-litre TSI and an option on the 108bhp 1.0-litre. It delivers seamless shifts and can be operated manually using steering wheel paddles on FR models and above.

Where is the Seat Arona built?

Like most of the Seat line-up, the Arona is built at the brand’s headquarters at Martorell in Spain. Part of a huge site that includes the design and technical centres, as well as the Cupra motorsport department, the factory is capable of producing around 500,000 vehicles every year. Constructed alongside the Arona are the Ibiza and Leon, plus the Cupra Formentor and the Audi A1.

How many generations of the Seat Arona have there been?

Introduced in 2017, the Seat Arona was the brand’s first ever small SUV, following in the wheel successful tracks of the larger Ateca, which is aimed at rivals such as the Nissan Qashqai. The Arona is still in its first generation and there currently no plans to replace it imminently. In fact, it was only facelifted in late 2021, revised subtly revised looks and the addition of enhanced technology, including improved infotainment and digital instrument cluster.

Seat Arona First drives