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SEAT Arona (2018 on)

4
reviewed by belknap on 8 June 2021
4
reviewed by belknap on 8 June 2021
4
reviewed by Anonymous on 23 February 2021
4
reviewed by Anonymous on 14 September 2020
1
reviewed by Anonymous on 6 August 2020
5
reviewed by Anonymous on 24 January 2020
5
reviewed by belknap on 28 December 2019
5
reviewed by Anonymous on 23 September 2019
1
reviewed by Roger Wyles on 26 June 2019
5
reviewed by cap boiler on 6 March 2019
3

SE Technology DSG

reviewed by Shugs on 28 January 2019
3
Overall rating
3
How it drives
4
Fuel economy
5
Tax/Insurance/Warranty costs
5
Cost of maintenance and repairs
5
Experience at the dealership
3
How practical it is
2
How you rate the manufacturer
2
Overall reliability

Is the SEAT Arona really the best car in its class? Surely not.

Updated January 2019, mileage 9900

I bought my Arona SE Technology DSG (115PS) in November 2017 from Duff Morgan in Norwich who, it must be said, gave completely excellent service. The Arona appealed because it offers reasonable practicality for its modest dimensions, and a usefully elevated driving position which gives much needed extra visibility when pulling out of junctions.

The car's interior is relatively plain (boring) but tasteful and generally a nice place to be. The large touchscreen is very responsive and relatively easy to negotiate, and while there are a lot of buried functions, none are critical things that you need to access on the move. The radio has FM and DAB, which is handy, and an SD card slot in the glovebox means it's easy to load up a music library. Accessing albums etc is very easy, so no complaints regarding the infotainment system. The sat nav system is completely useless, with hopeless screen information and traffic information; and (unbelievably) it does not get updated by SEAT during servicing. The system does support Android Auto and Apple Car Play so there is at least an alternative for sat nav for those with a suitable smart phone. Talking of phones, the audio quality of hands-free calling in the Arona is excellent.

The manual heating and ventilation system looks simple and just like the one in my previous Skoda, but there are irritations - the recirculate button does not work if the distribution control is set to 'screen' and the aircon comes on automatically if the distribution knob is set to ‘screen’ and when the heating control is set to minimum. Both rather annoying, as is the very noisy fan, even on its lowest setting; and the aircon system sounds like a cement mixer. Another minor niggle is that the car takes quite some time to warm up and deliver a decent cabin temperature, which is odd given that my last Skoda had a version of the same engine and delivered warm air within minutes.

The car drives and rides tolerably but the 7-speed DSG gearbox infuriates as much as it impresses. Gear changes are generally smooth and snappy when on the move, but it does often lose its wits when asked to kick down for overtaking etc, when it seems to get stuck in the lower gear for a very long time.
Pulling away from rest is the main problem with this DSG gearbox. The little motor clearly suffers from a bit of turbo lag, and combined with relatively slow DSG clutch operation from stationary, the result is very often a heart-stopping delay followed by a violent burst of energy and front tyres scrabbling for grip. Moving off from rest is mostly rather abrupt, however careful I am with the throttle. That same slow clutch operation also means that it does not like hurried parking type manoevres and a 3-point turn is an infuriating and jerky experience. I realise that this is all rather characteristic of these DSG type transmissions but selecting 'sport mode' on the gear selector does seem to make the clutch engagement more decisive, which is a help at junctions. Whenever approaching a junction, I now select ‘sport mode’ almost subconsciously.

I can understand why stop/start systems are needed to massage official CO2 emission figures, but the Arona's is way too keen and intrusive. If left engaged it will cut the engine when the car is still coming to a halt at a roundabout or junction, and then the inevitable slight delay on re-starting combined with the gearbox delay mentioned above further adds to those heart stopping moments at busy junctions. The good news is that, once disengaged, the start/stop function stays disengaged until the car is re-started.

To date, the car has now done nearly 10,000 miles, and it's delivering decent economy, but only if journeys are on gentle A or B roads, in which case it's easy to see more than 50mpg. On motorways, expect to see something like 38mpg, and around town very much less than that. All pretty much on par with any other smallish car with one of these 1 litre turbo motors, I reckon and possibly not bad in reality, with whole-life costs probably less than an equivalent diesel car.

The best bit of this car is undoubtedly the engine, which is very impressive now that it's run-in. It is the only refined part of the car and pulls like a train with a lovely dollop of torque that is almost dieselly.

My car was fitted as standard with Pirelli Cinturato P7 17" tyres and these lacked grip, felt a bit hard and were noisy on any road surface- literally deafening on concrete roads or those with rough surfaces and even noisy at little more than walking pace. Noise is an overriding characteristic of the Arona – quite bad wind noise, road noise, ventilation fan noise, aircon noise all add up to make a shockingly unrefined package. A weekend spent in a small Mercedes Citan diesel van showed that, engine noise aside, the Arona's refinement is well below par. Lately, I changed the tyres for a set of Michelin Cross Climate+ and these are much, much quieter than the truly awful Pirellis. Road noise is now mostly pretty low, and only gets really intrusive on rough road surfaces, where previously the noise was deafening. The Cross Climate+ tyres have rather stiff sidewalls which means that the ride is now a touch ‘knobblier’ than before, but for a smallish car the Arona still rides as well as anything else. Sadly, the seats are rather flat and unsupportive, which has been a problem on longer journeys (the seats in my old Citigo were much, much better).

I have seen various comments online (including here at HJ) about the Front Assist system being unreliable. My car has on quite a few occasions told me that the Front Assist sensor was ‘impaired’ but it always came back on after a few minutes. Travelling on open roads, the distance warning to vehicles in front has always worked fine, so I know the radar bit is OK. Recently, the Front Assist warning message popped up every time I drove down a particular road, in exactly the same place on each occasion, so I’m inclined to think that the system sometimes gets confused by peculiar sensor readings and then turns itself off, when nothing is actually wrong with the system. Narrow roads with stone walls etc seem to cause confusion. I do have the system sensitivity set to ‘medium’ which seems a reasonable compromise between safety and erroneous warnings. My mother has a new Honda Jazz which is far worse in delivering erroneous safety warnings.

Overall, I tolerate the Arona only because I'm committed to a 3 year lease and I cannot recommend it to anyone unless they specifically want a jacked up VW Group supermini and are hard of hearing, in which case the noise and poor overall refinement won't matter. I am genuinely puzzled by the overwhelmingly positive reviews of the Arona in the motoring press, who always place the car at the top of the ‘compact crossover’ class, which rather makes me wonder how dreadful the Renault Captur, Kia Stonic, Fiat 500x etc are in real life. Maybe there's a good car in here somewhere, at least without the DSG gearbox, but would I recommend anyone to buy one? Sadly, no, I would not. Not for a moment.

Faults - defective front wheel bearing replaced at 1500 miles.

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5
reviewed by Anonymous on 31 October 2018
2
reviewed by Anonymous on 30 October 2018
2
reviewed by Anonymous on 30 October 2018
5
reviewed by Anonymous on 26 July 2018
4
reviewed by Hugh57 on 19 March 2018
5
reviewed by Anonymous on 18 March 2018
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reviewed by Anonymous on 12 March 2018

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About this car

Price£17,305–£24,520
Road TaxB–F
MPG56.5–65.7 mpg
Real MPG82.5%

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