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Although the Arona is only Seat's second SUV, initial impressions when driving the car in Spain were pretty positive. But now it's time to see how it stacks up on UK roads. Having driven a manual diesel on the first test drive, we opted to sample the 115hp three-cylinder petrol engine with a seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox, in SE Technology trim.
The acid test for all new arrivals in the UK is how well they cope with our sometimes-variable road surfaces, and on this front, the Arona gets off to a pretty inauspicious start.
Although the car is reasonably subdued acoustically, it can feel somewhat brittle, with a fair amount of restlessness coming from the rear axle when driving over poorly repaired road surfaces.
Where the Arona is more impressive is when taking on a fast, twisting B-road. The steering is light but precise, and body roll is minimal, considering the lofty body shape. It makes the experience more fun than you might expect, though you could question whether Seat should have traded a degree of cornering ability in favour of comfort.
As three-cylinder petrol engines go, the Arona's is one of the best. It pulls well and is refined when cruising, only becoming audibly strained when you rev it hard. However, despite the engine's willingness, the DSG gearbox can hinder progress. In regular driving mode, it's so keen to change up through the gears, it can often feel like the engine is bogging down. You can override this trait by selecting sport mode, but it's hardly an ideal solution.
Although the changes are generally smooth when you're rolling, a relatively jerky initial take-up can make things a little tetchy when attempting to park in tight spaces. Thankfully, good all-round visibility means you'll have to be pretty leaden-footed to engage in a spot of bumper bashing.
Key kit included
Although some of the plastics inside aren't exactly premium, everything feels solid, while the fit and finish is generally excellent. There's also a good sense of airiness up front and a decent amount of room in the back seats for adult passengers. There's also a fair-sized 400-litre boot, which should just about accommodate a bag of golf clubs or a baby buggy.
The SE Technology may only be one trim level up from the base spec, but it still gets alloy wheels, metallic paint, an upgraded 8in touchscreen with sat-nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. With air-con and cruise control also included, it's difficult to imagine many drivers feeling shortchanged when it comes to extras.
Fuel economy of 56.5mpg is by no means disastrous, either, even if it's well down on the 67.3mpg that the DSG diesel is capable of. That said, financial compensations come from the petrol car being two BIK bands lower once the 3% diesel surcharge is applied.
Overall, the Arona continues to make a strong case for itself. While its slightly edgy ride quality won't suit all tastes, it's undoubtedly fun to drive, attractively priced and a well-equipped all-rounder. If your days of swapping cogs the old-fashioned way are over, then this auto version could well be the sweet spot in the range for you.