Drives well enough, no surprises, affordable
Cabin a little drab, no AWD versions, lacks a USP
What is it?
The VW Group was slow to climb on the small crossover bandwagon, but the Seat Arona eventually arrived in 2017 ahead of the Volkswagen T-Cross and the Skoda Kamiq. Since then, it has gone on to become the brand’s most popular car with over 480,000 sold globally, with a mid-life facelift back in 2021 keeping it relevant today.
The trend for small crossovers is showing no signs of slowing down either. The Arona can count the Nissan Juke, the Ford Puma, the Hyundai Kona, the Vauxhall Mokka, the Peugeot 2008, the Kia Stonic, the Citroen C3 Aircross and the Renault Captur among its many, many rivals these days. And that’s just the slightly memorable ones that we can recall off the top of our heads.
So what’s special about the Arona?
It's actually not a very crossover-y crossover, the Arona. There's no AWD version. It runs on the same wheelbase as the Ibiza, and the cabin is very similar. The pre-facelift version looked remarkably like Seat’s small hatch after an all-inclusive holiday too (save for the kicked-up window line at the rear and contrast roof), but the 2021 update added more individual bumpers front and rear along with those fog lights that look like pimples on a spotty teenager’s face.
It still uses the crossover version of the VW Group's 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.
What about powertrains?
Engines are standard for the small VW Group range: the 1.0-litre turbo three-cylinder is available in 94bhp and 109bhp tunes (the latter can be optioned with a seven-speed DSG auto gearbox), and you can still have the 148bhp 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo plus auto gearbox setup that has now been dropped from the Ibiza range. The diesel Arona was axed in the UK in 2020, and just to reiterate – there’s still no four-wheel drive option.
How does the cabin fare?
Where the pre-facelift Arona had a rather ordinary, cheap-feeling interior, the facelift brought with it a revised interior layout with bigger screens (8.25-inch unit on the base spec model and a 9.2-incher on all other trim levels) and more connectivity, as well as a load more driver assistance systems to keep up with the competition.
Even so, the Arona’s interior is still a little bland. And while there’s plenty of room up front (though you do sit a little lower compared to other crossovers), space is a little limited in the rear. The 400-litre bootspace is about average for the sector, and offers 50-litres more space than an Ibiza’s. Full details on the Interior tab.
How much does it cost?
Prices start from £21,695 for the 1.0-litre 94bhp turbo three-cylinder, rising to £22,980 for the same engine in 109bhp tune, and £26,475 for the 1.5-litre 148bhp turbo four-cylinder, while you’ve the choice of six trims to choose from. Full details over on the Buying tab.
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
The Arona drives pleasingly enough, offers easy to use tech, and it’s as roomy in the cabin and boot as most rivals. It has no glaring faults.
But it lacks commitment. The facelift improved the cabin but it still feels routine. Little imagination or effort has been put into making it different to the Ibiza. Not in the visuals or the practicalities. It lacks a unique selling point. And 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 looks or are sold on the (slightly) higher driving position we'd say get a Leon. It looks smarter, it’s better to drive, it offers roughly the same interior space, and it’s only slightly more expensive. Win-win.