A week with the SEAT Arona FR

BY Joel Tam

In a small city-nation like Singapore, a compact SUV like the SEAT Arona is pretty much all you need.

The Arona impresses from the moment you lay eyes on it. It’s dashing (for an SUV) and handsome to behold with its modern, edgy lines. The FR model we’re driving also comes with sporty 17-inch allow wheels, along with a feature-packed list of goodies.

For an ‘entry-level’ compact SUV, the Arena boasts driver assistance features (like adaptive cruise control and front assist), drive mode selection, paddle-shifters and a full suite of in-car media abilities like Apple CarPlay and androidauto which can be controlled via a large touchscreen panel. It even has wireless phone charging!

The interior is also very well designed, the flat-bottomed steering wheel is equipped with multifunction keys and buttons and feels really good to the grip. Cabin space was also surprisingly adequate for five people - perhaps better for four adults and one child. But a slight squeeze will still seat five comfortably for short trips.

Even the 400-litre boot space was surprisingly ample. In our extended time with the car, we stuffed football equipment and even a guitar at the back. Which made us wonder if this was really a B (subcompact) or C (compact) segment SUV.

Powered by a turbocharged 1-litre 3-cylinder unit, the Arena pushes out a decent 114 bhp and 200 Nm of torque. As long as you have no racing intentions, this is more than enough for Singapore city driving use.

The Arona will still accelerate willingly in all revs and overtaking slower traffic is no struggle at all. Floor it from a standstill and 100 km/k will come in 10 seconds - very commendable for a ‘regular’ SUV.

What also impressed was how the soft-roader managed to carve corners with enthusiasm and verve. At times it even felt like a little hot hatch.

Taking corners with composure and having fairly direct steering made it a joy to steer, and sometimes it can be differences like these that make a car feel special.

Coming in slight under $100k, the SEAT Arona is not the cheapest of the lot, but having spent a good seven days with it, we’re pretty darn sure that it is well worth the money. It looks good, is very well equipped, drives superbly and is affordable to maintain (think of cheap the road tax will be) - what more could you want?