Decent chassis, good infotainment system and tech
Drab and inflexible cabin, engines are noisy in this application, trim levels restrict your kit choices
What is it?
The VW Group has been slow and awkward to climb on the small crossover bandwagon. While city streets filled with Nissan Jukes, Renault Capturs, Peugeot 2008s, Fiat 500Xs and Jeep Renegades, the VW Group had nothing smaller than a Yeti. Now it's launching the Seat Arona in the middle of the second wave of rivals: Hyundai Kona, Kia Stonic, Citroen C3 Aircross.
It's actually not a very crossover-y crossover. There's no AWD version. It runs on the same wheelbase as the Ibiza, and the cabin is very similar. The bodywork hasn't had much of a lift versus the Ibiza's.
On external styling, the main differentiator is the kicked-up window line at the rear. And of course the contrast roof, which is becoming standard procedure for mini cars in this line of work.
It uses the crossover version of the VW Group's new MQB A0 platform. You sit higher than a supermini but less so than many rivals. But it is enough extra height to gain cabin and boot space in a smallish and parkable overall size. Wheel size is bigger than the Ibiza's too – it goes up to 18s – which helps comfort and ground clearance.
Engines are standard for the small VW Group range: the 1.0-litre three-cylinder in 95bhp and 115bhp tunes, the 150bhp 'TSI Evo' 1.5-litre four-cylinder with cylinder deactivation, and a 1.6 diesel. No four-wheel drive is offered or planned, though it is technically feasible.
As usual for Seat, the equipment majors on tech that's visible, easily mastered and useful: good connected infotainment, loud stereo, bright LED headlights.
Seat pretty much hit the jackpot with the bigger Ateca, a class-leading car that's selling at a faster rate than the factory can churn it out. Was that beginner's luck or will it score again with the Arona?
Our choice from the range
What is the verdict?
We asked if Seat could repeat the Ateca's great showing, The answer is no.
The Arona does well on space and tech, and isn't a chore to steer, and it’s as roomy in the cabin and boot as most rivals. It has no glaring faults.
But it lacks commitment. The cabin is routine. Little imagination or effort have been put into making it different from the Ibiza. Not in the visuals or the practicalities.
Underway, you sense places where they didn't give it the final polish. The engines aren't as refined as we know from other cars they can be. Wind noise intrudes too. The control weights and driving position aren't as good as other Seats.
Mini crossovers are a difficult breed as a whole because none are great to drive and they cost as much as their makers' next-size-up hatchbacks but don't drive as well. Unless you love the look of the Arona or are sold on the higher driving position we'd say, any day of the week, get a Leon. It's bigger and better and no more expensive.