We drove the Seat Arona Excellence 1.6 TDI 95 HP and 1.0 TSI 115 HP: it does your thing…the right way!

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Compact SUV and crossovers are all the rage nowadays, and the VW Group has many irons in the fire in this segment. Under the Seat brand it offers in the B segment the well styled Arona, which not only pleased us with its pure, angular contours, but also with the way it drives, handles and performs, and offers lots of pleasure to the whole family.

This test drive also amply showed us the high level of engineering and well honed workmanship which went into this Arona, and last but not least how good modern day diesel and petrol engines have become…

Just read further!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Design refinement

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Seat has adopted resolutely over the last few years a clean, purified, angular styling language, which combines excellent aerodynamics with elegance.

It has contributed greatly to giving the SEAT brand a proper, individualistic image within the VW group, evoking Latin “savoir faire” combined with excellent engineering and performance.

The new Arona, built on the MQB A “0” platform, shares its excellent state of the art technology with many family members of the group, last but not least with the Ibiza, which is of course a strong selling point, and which results in excellent, precise handling and comfort.  More of which later here in this post.

The Arona looks light and elegant from any angle, and it sweeping lines are shaped with confidence. We like also the styling treatment of the C pillar. The proportions are well chosen and we believe the styling of the Arona will age well over the years.

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The same clean Seat styling language is found in the interior, and the choice of the materials and finishes of the dashboard panels also evoke this elegance and simple purity. We liked the panel surfaces executed in matte aluminum for instance, giving the Arona that futuristic touch.

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The quality of the materials and the level of fit and finish is impressive, and this puts it doubtlessly at the (very) top of its segment. Dashboard layout is just as you want it, with all the levers, knobs and handles in the right place. We love the nice analog, circular dials for speed and revs, seen also on the Ibiza, and the big touchscreen in the Excellence version we drove, which is totally intuitive to use. Our test car was also equipped with an inductive charge pad for your smartphone, and two USB keys, so you can play your favorite music even when your phone is connected.

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Seating adjustment range is ample, with also the steering wheel being adjustable, so an ideal seating position is soon found.

State of the art engines…

Of course, superb engine technology is what you expect from the VW Group, and indeed, also this Seat truly delivers. We drove the 1,6 liter 95 HP diesel engine version with the manual 5 speed gearbox, and subsequently the 115 HP version of the three cylinder 1 liter petrol engine, coupled to the 6 speed manual.

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The diesel engine is smooth enough, quite willing, unobtrusive, yet one clearly hears in urban traffic and slower speeds that a diesel unit is humming under the bonnet. Quite vibrationless, it is in terms of refinement however no match for the 1liter petrol engine, of which more hereunder. The diesel unit has ample pulling power at lower revs, and indeed it develops an inspiring 250 Nm between 1500 and 2600 rpm, which also means that it has no trouble dealing with the widespread gearing of the five speed manual box. At speed, the diesel unit is also almost inaudible, and on the open road it is a pleasing gran Turismo companion. Performance will please most, with acceleration from 0 to 100 in 11.9 seconds and a top speed of 172 km/h. The strong point of the diesel is of course its economy. We achieved an average of 5,4 liters during our test, with a fair amount of urban and short distance driving thrown in. The manufacturer quotes CO2 emissions at being 105 g / km.

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Then we drove the petrol engine 3 cylinder 1 liter petrol engine, and we already applauded this engine in our columns. It transforms also the Arona, and adds a lot of mechanical refinement, especially at slow, urban speeds. With a very creditable torque delivery of a healthy 200 Nm between 2000 and 3500 rpm, it needs to rev just that bit more than the diesel, but the shorter gearing of the 6 speed manual admirably compensates for this.

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We just love the utter silence and refinement of this unit, with is a delight to drive sedately at the inner city 30 km/h limit in third gear, matching the velvety panache of expensive multicylinder engines, and coming very close – in terms of vibrationless silence – of an E-powered car!

But there is more: when keeping at these very low revs in urban traffic, average consumption drops to levels close to 6 liter/100 km, and that’s were modern day petrol engines truly start to score.

Driving to deliver the diesel powered Arona, and taking the same route back with the 1 liter petrol engine Arona, we achieved virtually the same consumption, between 5,3 and 5,6 liter respectively, and this amply shows how efficient in everyday driving petrol engines have become.

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Performance is inspiring, with 0 to 100 km/h in 9.8 s, and a top speed of 182 km/h. Mind you, this is what an early 60’s Porsche 356 achieved…

Precise Handling and very good comfort

As said earlier, the Arona rolls on the MQB A “0” platform, which it shares with the Ibiza, but also with the Polo and the Skoda Fabia. Therefore you can just expect state of the art, precise handling, and indeed, this compact SUV – or crossover if you like it – even steers like a sedan.

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Spirited driving on curvy roads is a pleasure, which the Arona takes very well in its stride. Very entertaining, and with the Excellence equipment level you can even suit the damping and responsiveness to your taste. With all this, the comfort is not suffering at all, and this compact Arona scores very, very high in this department.

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Roomy and practical

On top of all this, the Arona offers very good leg and headroom also in the rear, even up to 1,9 meter grown ups find enough room on the back seat. Boot space is also among the best in its class. It offers a variable height floor, so you can choose to set it deeper or on the same level as the fifth door sill, and has a volume of 400 liter with both seat backrests up.

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Conclusion

The Arona scores very well in many departments: stylish, well finished, roomy, sturdy and practical, with an excellent suspension and platform, which makes this Arona a fine handling car, offering also very good comfort. Superbly engineered, it offers state of the art drivetrains, formidable engines and transmissions, with of course also the 7 speed DSG being available. When you are in the market for a compact SUV/Crossover in the very crowded B segment, we would suggest you take a (very) close look at this Arona… as I comes also at an attractive price too!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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