The Arona is the smallest of Seat's SUVs. It promises a practical cabin and enjoyable drive but, can a 1.0-litre engine handle towing duties?

Overview

The Arona is the smallest of Seat's SUVs. It promises a practical cabin, an enjoyable drive and a healthy list of standard kit. Most buyers looking for a car of this size opt for petrol power, so we're testing the 1.0 TSi 115FR, priced at £20,405.

But, can a 1.0-litre engine handle towing duties, or will the Arona struggle to pull a lightweight caravan? Is the Seat stable at speed, and is there enough space for holiday luggage?

Towing

Being a small, light car (the kerb weight is just 1189kg), the Arona is only suited to towing lightweight vans. We matched it to a Swift Basecamp with a MiRO of 916kg.

Even with a caravan weighing less than a tonne, acceleration was steady. That's no surprise with an engine mustering just 148lb ft of torque.

But so long as the driver was happy to work the engine and gearbox, it was possible to keep pace with traffic.

Small petrol-powered cars sometimes struggle with hill starts, especially in the rain, but the Arona handled this test reasonably well. The handbrake stopped car and caravan rolling backwards on a 1-in-10 slope, and the Seat pulled away with only a brief moment of wheelspin. Not bad, given how damp the road surface was.

Out on the motorway, we were always conscious of the engine's modest power. On even a slight incline, the car was happier in fifth gear than sixth. But it would hold 60mph so long as the driver was ready to change gear whenever the road started to climb.

In terms of stability, the Arona mostly felt secure. But when overtaking or being overtaken, slight movements from the caravan gently tugged at the back of the car. This side-to-side motion was never pronounced enough to make us nervous, but it was noticeable. Backing off to 55mph rather than 60mph made the Arona more settled.

At journey's end, we found the Arona easy enough to manoeuvre. There was no hot smell from the clutch after reversing onto the pitch, and controlling the car at low speeds was straightforward.

When hitching up, a rear-view camera would help, but this is only fitted to top-spec Excellence Lux models. But on the plus side, there's plenty of clearance around the towball and the fold-down electrical socket can be accessed easily.

Everyday driving

Of course, any car feels livelier without a caravan behind it. But with the Arona, that is all the more noticeable. With no Basecamp to pull, the 1.0-litre engine is nippy and willing. There's a sporty engine note and acceleration is brisk.

Out on the country roads, the Arona is great fun. The sports suspension (standard on the FR model) maintains composure and control on bumpy roads, and the steering is precise. Choosing the sport setting adds more weight to the steering and sharpens the throttle response.

There's a price to pay for the Arona's sporty side - a rather firm ride. It's most apparent at low speeds, but stops short of being harsh. Keen drivers will find Seat has struck a sensible compromise, and other models in the range come with comfort suspension. At speed, engine noise stays in the background, but there's a lot of wind noise around the door tops at 70mph.

Space

For a car that takes up little more room than a supermini, the Arona packs lots of space into its cabin.

Some of the plastics could be better finished, but the design is neat and it all feels solid. The touchscreen infotainment system is intuitive. The system is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

There's ample head- and legroom in front for drivers of most shapes and sizes, and adults can travel in the back without feeling cramped, unless those in the front are very tall.

Boot space with the seats upright is a generous 400 litres.

Running costs

In FR spec (mid-range), the Arona 1.0 TSI 115 costs £24,405. Judging by What Car? research, it shouldn't be hard to save £2000 on the asking price. You get plenty of standard kit, including dual-zone climate control, DAB radio, Bluetooth, eight-inch colour touchscreen sat nav, cruise control and 17-inch alloys. There's lots of safety equipment, too, and the Arona has a five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP.

Running costs should be affordable. Under the tougher WLTP tests, the car achieves 45.6-49.6mpg, on the combined cycle. That's broadly in line with what we saw in everyday driving. While towing the Swift Basecamp, the Seat returned a frugal 38.8mpg.

What Car? predicts strong resale values, with a 47% return on the original list price after three years and 36,000 miles.

Technical specs

Engine size999 cc
Kerbweight1189 kg
85% KW1011 kg
Towball limit55 kg
Maximum towing limit1100 kg
Power113.0 bhp
Torque148.0 lb ft
Official MPG45.6 mpg
Towing MPG28.8 mpg
CO2114 g/km

Verdict

The Arona is fun and practical, as long as your caravan is light and makes a sensible match.

Conclusion

Pros

  • Good handling on hill-starts
  • Lots of space in the cabin with ample head- and legroom

Cons

  • Plastics could be better finished
  • Rear-view camera would help for hitching