Parkers overall rating: 4.2 out of 5 4.2
  • Lots of engine options
  • Petrols are smooth
  • Diesel is punchy

There are enough engines in the range to mean that one that will suit your circumstances - and budget. They are all familiar from elsewhere in the manufacturer's range, giving you confidence that they have been tested properly.

Three petrol engines to choose from

There’s a choice of three petrols, all denoted by their TSI badging. The lowest-cost Arona comes with a 95hp 1.0-litre TSI three-cylinder engine and a five-speed gearbox. The performance figures say that it's capable of 0-62mph in 11.2 seconds, which seems reasonable enough. But if you spend lots of time on faster roads and motorways, it will feel a little underpowered, especially on steep hills or if you regularly fill the car with passengers and luggage. It’s more than adequate around town, though. Unless you're on a very tight budget, we'd recommend going for the 115hp version.

If you want more acceleration, the 115hp, 200Nm version of the same 1.0 TSI engine Is definitely the one to go for. The 0-62mph time of 9.8 seconds isn't that much quicker on paper, but on the road, the difference between this and the 95hp Arona is night and day. It's punchy, refined and always feels up to motorway driving – and you rarely need to change down when climbing hills or accelerating. It comes with a choice of six-speed manual or DSG automatic transmissions, both of which are good. If you're not fussed either way, we'd recommend the manual as it's cheaper.

The DSG auto can prove hesitant to change down a gear under moderate acceleration causing the engine to labour and vibrate. With no steering wheel-mounted paddles to take manual control you can either change gear manually – by pushing the gearlever to the left and rowing it back and forth – or by selecting the gearbox’s Sport mode. Do this and the transmission feels much better matched to the engine, being more willing to change down a gear under acceleration without revving the engine too high when cruising.

The 1.5-litre TSI Evo petrol engine provides decent performance. Producing 150hp, it’s a great fit in the Arona, with a smooth and punchy power delivery. If you rev it too enthusiastically, the motor can become loud and harsh, with vibrations making themselves felt. We also found the clutch more abrupt than in other Aronas. Driven more sedately, however, the 150hp engine provides strong performance with little effort from the driver.

Frugal diesel

Providing diesel power is a 1.6-litre turbodiesel. It pumps out 95hp, and it's not massively fast.

However, it is smooth for a diesel (although not as smooth as the petrols) and the extra torque, or pulling power, on offer really helps when climbing hills or overtaking on the motorway.

Would we recommend petrol or diesel?

In our six-month review of the Arona, we concluded that: 'There’s no such thing as a free lunch. The diesel engine in the same trim costs over £2,000 more to buy in the first place. Also factor in that diesel fuel is generally about 3-5p per litre more expensive than petrol so it’s a real swings-and-roundabouts affair. You would have to cover a lot of miles to recoup the extra initial spend - so we think we’d opt for the petrol variant.'

How does it drive?

  • Arona is surprisingly sporty to drive
  • It feels confident in corners
  • Has strong levels of grip on offer

Despite sitting noticeably higher up than a typical small hatchback, the way the Arona handles would suggest it’s much smaller and lower to the ground than it really is. It certainly feels a bit sportier than some of its contemporaries. Take it on a twisty road and you'll notice it leans noticeably less than something like a Citroen C3 Aircross. On 17-inch wheels it deals with potholes well too, but the ride does feel a bit choppier on the 18-inch wheels. However, wind noise in particular makes itself heard around the windscreen pillars and mirrors

The Arona blends comfort and sportiness well, with good body control through twists and turns. It can become bouncy on more challenging road surfaces, though, and rough tarmac makes itself felt inside, too. The steering is very light, with insufficient feedback through the wheel to feel truly engaged.

If you're in the mood to change the way the car drives, you can flick between driving modes via the SEAT Drive Profile switch on the centre console. With Normal, Eco, Sport and Individual to choose from, you can flip between set-ups, depending on whether you want a sportier, more involving drive with heavier steering and sharper throttle responses, or a set-up that encourages smoother, more economical driving behaviour.

We’d suggest tweaking the settings in the Individual mix-and-match setting, and going for Normal for the engine and Sport for the steering, just for that extra bit of weight.