Arona! Is it some exotic creature or historic moment? Is it related to the famous word Aloha? Turns out its none other than the Arona municipality in Tenerife, one of the Spanish territories in the Canary Islands. Seat (pronounced Say-Att) has a history of naming cars after places in Spain – Ibiza, Cordoba, Alhambra, Marbella…the list goes on. Why travel the world looking for names when you can look in your own back yard?
Seat of course is under the vast umbrella that is the Volkswagen Group and has been since 1986. If you think the Arona looks familiar, it’s based on Volkswagen’s MQB platform that underpins many VW vehicles including the Audi Q2. Seat says its based on the Seat Ibiza, and calls it a mini crossover SUV.
In Sri Lanka, Ideal Automobile are the party responsible for bringing down the Seat Arona together with the Skoda Karoq that we tested in the June issue, and impressed Ranjan highly. Ideal have brought down the Arona not to compete with the Karoq, but to offer more choice to the discerning SUV buyer as it is priced nearly one million below the Karoq, brings a tiny bit less features and is a tad smaller (200mm shorter and 100kg lighter are some figures for your reference).
The Arona has strong Audi cues in the design and that’s no bad thing. Being underpinned by VW group means that there are a lot of shared synergies and having strong Germanic design and engineering can only help the Arona further, especially on our shores where the Seat (Say-Att! Say it aloud to condition your mind that it doesn’t sound like what you sit on) is still to make a name for itself.
The front end is dominated by those triangular DRL/turn indicators, followed by a grille that has restrained use of chrome. Moving to the side profile, the Arona has a rising beltline and the quarterlights behind the rear doors add to the design. The matte silver panel with an “X” on it serves to remind that this is an “Xcellence” trim variant. The rear has more Audi to the light design, but the Seat logo and A R O N A lettering in the centre make it clear who this mini SUV is from.
The stylish alloys are 17 inchers with comfortable 205/55 rubber, while the top trim called “Lux” enjoys 18-inchers with lower profile tyres.
Mech & Tech
The engine is a 999-cc triple as seen in a multitude of VW cars (including the Karoq). It’s a petrol engine assisted by a turbocharger, and puts out 115bhp at 5,000rpm, and a good 200Nm of torque between 2,000 and 3,500rpm. Drive is to the front via a six-speed DSG. Suspension is multi-link, and braking is via discs all round. There is the customary ABS, EBD and ESP plus a host of safety features that will be covered in that section. Steering is via electric rack.
The seat is fully manual but offers a good range of adjustments, and the steering allows adjustment for reach as well as rake (you can bring the wheel closer or push it further away). All major controls fall to hand easily. Thumb the starter button and the rev counter wakes up but you barely hear anything.
At this price point there are no paddles, but you can manually shift from the gearlever (push up to upshift, down to downshift). Or you can flick the lever once more down from ‘D’ and keep it in Sport mode.
Although it only packs 115bhp, the little engine is quite a cracker. Give it medium throttle and the Arona moves with more get up and go than you’d expect. The sprightly kerb weight in the 1,150kg region helps as well. The DSG (VW are masters at this now) is so intuitive that you may as well leave it in ‘D’ to do its thing or select ‘S’ if you want to keep the engine on the boil. Zero to hundred is said to take less than ten seconds and it certainly feels nippy. The speedo has MPH and KMH but the MPH scale is the primary, so bear that in mind – 50mph is 80kmh! You can configure a KM/H readout in the screen between the dials.
Engine noise is suitably muted with a distant three-pot thrum at the higher rev ranges, which the engine will happily zing to, but you rarely need to explore. The max torque comes between 2,000 and 3,500rpm – smack bang in the everyday driving range, so ride the wave of torque and let the DSG do its thing.
The ride is softly sprung and helped by the 55-profile tyres – Myuran from Ideal who accompanies me on my test drive tells me that the “Lux” version with the 18-inch wheels on lower profile tyres offers better road holding but the trade-off is a firmer ride. Nevertheless you can hustle the Arona along with more gusto than you rightly should on the public road.
The brakes grab well with good feedback through the pedal. There is auto braking too, so the car will brake on its own if a hazard presents, obviously we didn’t test this out but it’s a useful safety net to have on our ever chaotic roads.
Cruise control and speed limiter are present too. We didn’t have a change to test them out on our city drive, but they are useful to have when you take to the highway. One feature we did get to try in the city was the auto stop-start that helps you you eke out more kms per litre. It’s quite unobtrusive and as with all auto-start systems, it’s best to shift into Neutral at stop lights or traffic and shift into Drive when things start moving – this prods the engine to start and doesn’t leave you waiting for that split second when you step on it.
Living with it
The Arona has an airy cabin with an angular design to the dash. A white strip across it gives a touch of lightness to what is a primarily black and dark gray cabin. The meter cluster is typically Audi design but with Seat’s font and very easy to read.
You get dual-zone climate control to keep your pax cool (no rear AC vents, but the Arona isn’t really big enough to need them), and a very slick touch-screen infotainment system that offers Radio, Bluetooth, Android/Apple integration, USB, AUX and control of the vehicle settings and features. You can install a Seat app on your phone and manage things from there too. The touchscreen responds well and uses touch icons on either side of the screen to allow quick selections – as well as the steering wheel buttons. Sound quality from the six-speaker system is pretty decent.
You also get a phone cubby in the centre console (angled downwards so that your phone won’t slip out) and surprise, it’s a wireless charger too! Other convenience features include automatic headlamps, automatic wipers and voice control. We tried it and it got some commands right and some wrong, so maybe you need to practice a Spanish accent beforehand.
Space in the rear seat is decent – I was able to sit very comfortably behind my own driving position with a few inches left over – so an average person can fit even if a six-footer is driving. The doors and centre console have cubbies and bottle holders for your odds and ends also.
The boot is rated at 400L and the boot floor can be adjusted among three levels. It can be extended to 1,200L if you fold the rear seats down. More than enough for the average family who may also transport a wardrobe when the need calls.
The Arona has six airbags – two in the front, two in the front seats and two curtain bags, so it’s a pretty fluffy place for the occupants should things go pear shaped. It also has a host of safety features. Blind Spot alerting in the mirrors which flashes orange when it detects vehicles in your blind spots on either side – we tried it and it worked superbly. The Arona also has auto braking as mentioned, front and rear parking sensors and speed limiter.
Fuel Economy and Price
The Arona should do around 9-10km/l in city and about 15-16km/l outstation. It’s a small turbocharged engine, not a hybrid powertrain so you shouldn’t expect unrealistic figures. The 40 litre tank will give a decent range at these figures, and helps keep the kerb weight down – remember, larger fuel tank means more fuel and more weight too!
The price is the kicker. It costs 6.95 million which puts it in the sub-7 million bracket and undercuts quite a few Japanese and European options. Ideal Automobile offer a 1-year / 30,000km warranty on the vehicle.
The Arona represents a solid choice in the sub-7 million category for those who want a small SUV that is stylish, nippy and well equipped with a European badge on the front. Yes, Seat may not have the brand cachet of others in Sri Lanka, but let’s give the brand a chance. They produce some impressive vehicles that must be experienced to understand why they are a worthy contender in our market.
After Sales Support for the Arona
Ideal Automobile operate a large workshop in Ratmalana where they cater to the needs of Continental cars from all the recognized brands. When writer Ranjan Alles visited recently, even supercars were getting TLC at this facility! We are told that the facility is manned by trained ex-pat Sri Lankan technicians who have expertise working at the service centres overseas for several European brands, including those under the VAG umbrella. This ensures that they are able to offer a high level of service and after-sales care for your Seat, Skoda and other Continental vehicles.
999cc, three cylinder
115bhp @ 5,000rpm
200Nm @ 2,000-3,500rpm
Six speed dual clutch
Tiptronic on gearlever
Discs all round
Wheels & Tyres
205/55R17 all round
Kerb Weight: 1,150kg
Fuel Tank: 40L
Boot Space: 400L
0-100km/h in 9.8s
Top speed 190km/h