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XCELLENCE From SEAT With Their New Compact SUV
Andy Harris, Motoring and Property Editor
Our love affair with the SUV shows no sign of abating any time soon and 2018 has already seen a raft of new models hit the showrooms.

In such a crowded market, how does the buyer make a choice? Is it the standard of equipment a particular car offers or is it the brand image perhaps? Manufacturers clearly spend a small fortune trying to find out.

As someone who enjoys being behind the wheel, I would put driving characteristics in pole position and Spanish manufacturer SEAT did just that with its first SUV, the Ateca. It remains my favourite even after 18 months on sale.

On test here is the Ateca’s smaller sibling, the Arona. Based on the Ibiza hatch, the Arona sits that little bit taller and aims to offer a tad more practicality.

Rather sensibly SEAT has chosen not to offer a base model, as buyers tend to look beyond a headline-grabbing price to a model with a decent level of equipment. In addition, as most private cars are now bought on a personal contract plan, top spec models often outsell their poverty-spec relations as the difference in monthly payments is often modest.

SE and SE Technology models open the range with enough standard equipment for most. The range then splits into sporty FR or luxurious XCELLENCE variants.

Five engines are offered in the Arona. I would not expect many to choose diesel power, but those who do get a 1.6-litre motor with either 95 or 115PS. Frugal, refined and capable.

Petrol power comes from a familiar 1.0-litre petrol engine (available in 95 or 115PS guises) and a 150PS four-cylinder 1.5-litre unit with clever cylinder deactivation technology.

My test car sported the more powerful 1.0-litre motor and it would be my pick of the range. It’s a gutsy engine, with power aplenty for everyday driving. The 0-62mph sprint time just dips below the ten second mark, a fair indication of the available performance.

At higher revs the distinctive off-beat three-cylinder warble is noticeable, but mostly refinement is excellent.

Aiding progress is a slick six-speed manual gearbox, mated to a light and progressive clutch. A seven-speed self-shifting DSG gearbox can be had for an additional £1,000.

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Around town the Arona is an easy car to drive. Good visibility and light steering see to that. The ride is on the firm side but this pays dividends once out of the urban confines.

Find a challenging country road and there is definitely more fun to be had than most offerings from rival manufacturers. Body roll is well contained and the ride now supportive and comfortable.

I have not had occasion to try the sportier FR set up, but am not sure larger alloy wheels and stiffer springs will really suit this type of car. Try both maybe before signing on the dotted line.

The Arona’s 1.0-litre engine not on promises good fuel economy (57.6mpg on the combined cycle), but it delivers it in real world driving. A relaxed cruise yielded nearly 50mpg, whilst my overall figure for the week was an impressive 45mpg. CO2 emissions are just 113g/km too.

The Arona’s interior offers space for four reasonable-sized adults to travel in comfort. I would suggest the larger Ateca if rear seat passenger space is of paramount importance.

The 400-litre boot is well shaped and the rear seats are easy to fold away if bigger loads are to be carried.

Xcellence trim wants for very little with satellite navigation, climate controlled air conditioning and smart alloy wheels amongst the highlights.

I had high hopes of the new Arona and for the most part it lived up to my expectations. Sharply styled, well equipped and good to drive, it competes well for class honours.

Fast Facts

SEAT Arona 1.0-litre XCELLENCE
Price £21,040
Range starts at £16,555
115PS 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine
0-62mph in 9.8 seconds
Economy – 57.6mpg (combined cycle)
Emissions – 113g/km CO2

XCELLENCE From SEAT With Their New Compact SUV, 9th April 2018, 14:15 PM