The Arona is SEAT's idea of a small sporty SUV and it's likely to find favour with the increasing number of buyers who would once have simply bought another supermini but now feel the need to get themselves something more interesting and lifestyle-orientated. It's good looking, safe, well connected and very personalisable. If this is the kind of car that appeals to you, then an Arona may well tick a lot of boxes.
As expected, the Arona shares the engine line-up used in SEAT's Ibiza supermini, which means that all of the powerplants on offer have direct injection and a turbo. There are three different petrol units to choose from, the headline emphasis being on the usual Volkswagen Group three-cylinder 95PS 1.0 TSI petrol unit, available in 95PS form with a five-speed manual gearbox or in 115PS guise with either a six-speed 'box or dual-clutch seven-speed DSG auto transmission. The third petrol choice is a 1.5-litre four-cylinder 150PS TSI unit with active cylinder deactivation technology, which is exclusive to the 'FR' trim and is connected to a six-speed manual gearbox.
Go for that sporty 'FR' trim and you get dual-mode suspension and the 'SEAT Drive Profile' that allows you to alter the steering, throttle response and suspension feel via four modes: 'Normal', 'Sport', 'Eco' and 'Individual'. As for diesel options, the efficient and reliable 1.6 TDI unit is available with 95 and 115PS. The 95PS version can be paired with a five-speed manual transmission or a seven-speed DSG auto, and the 115PS variant with a six-speed gearbox. All Arona models are front-driven: there's not much appetite in this segment for 4WD.
The Arona's sits on the same hi-tech MQB platform that underpins the latest Ibiza supermini and its styling follows the same structure as that used in the brand's slightly larger Ateca SUV. Here, that model's three-dimensional look is more pronounced, without being too aggressive. Like its rivals, this car is trying to give the feel of being a sturdy car for everyday life for the urban jungle, hence the strong protection in the bumpers, the wheel arches and the dark coloured rubber side skirts, as well as the roof rack and the aluminium look-like protection at the bottom of the bumpers.
In terms of its dimensions, the Arona is 4,138mm long, which is 79mm more than an Ibiza. However, the real difference lies in its height, as the Arona is 99mm taller. As a result, this SUV offers not only higher ground clearance for any off-road adventures, but also more front and rear headroom, and, above all, a larger boot, with a 400-litre capacity. Another important feature is the seat cushion, which is 52mm higher and gives a dual advantage. Firstly, a higher driving position for raised view of the road ahead. And secondly, it makes it much easier to get in and out of the car. The passenger seats are also 62mm higher than they would be in an Ibiza, while headroom is 37mm greater in the front and 33mm in the rear. The suspension height has been increased by 15mm and the windscreen is slightly more vertical for a roomier interior.
The Arona, says SEAT, is designed for 'drivers looking for a sense of excitement, distinction and functionality. People who know that age is just a number, not an outlook on life.' In other words, the people who've been busily buying Nissan Jukes and Renault Capturs in considerable numbers over the last five years. The Spanish maker wants in on this lucrative market and this little Crossover looks to have everything necessary to entitle them to a useful slice of sales in this segment.
The potential for personalisation will be key to this car's prospects, as will the efficiency made possible by its efficient engines and light, stiff MQB chassis. It's taken some time for the Iberian maker to bring us a Crossover of this kind but we can see quite a few target Arona customers feeling that the wait has been worthwhile.Click here to find out more about our SEAT Arona range
Renault's little Captur Crossover model has proved to be a strong seller for the French company, but since its initial introduction, an army of fresh rivals have been launched to try and eat into its market share. Hence the need for regular updates. A facelifted version arrived in 2017 delivering a smarter look, a classier interior and extra safety technology. In 2018, Renault updated the range structure too. As ever, the Captur will appeal to supermini buyers wanting extra versatility, as well as family hatchback customers in search of something more interesting and affordable.
Nothing's really changed here in terms of either engineering or driving dynamics, but then, nothing really needed to. Set off on your first drive and if you're used to a supermini, the commanding driving position will be welcome - unless you're the kind of enthusiastic owner who realises that with extra ride height, you usually also get extra body roll through the bends. Renault appreciates this too, which is why the Captur features a 'Roll Movement Intervention' system, supposed to stop the body pitching about through sharp corners.
Under the bonnet, all Captur owners will find 90bhp beneath their right foot. Most will want the dCi 90 diesel, offered with either maual or EDC auto transmission. If you'd rather have petrol power, there's a manual gearbox three cylinder 0.9-litre TCe 90 unit. We'd choose the diesel every time. That TCe engine gives you over 50% less pulling power than the equivalent dCi diesel, so as usual, the black pump version will feel the quicker day-to-day tool.
Don't get any designs on off-roading though. There's no 4WD option and there won't be for the platform this car rides upon hasn't been designed to take it. In compensation, there's a decent 170mm of ground clearance.
On to design. 'Passionate, practical and innovative'. Is that what this is? The answer depends, as usual, upon your point of view. The Captur's certainly an eye-catching thing, especially when specified in contrasting colours. Changes made to the facelifted version included a modified radiator grille that features smarter chrome trim and can be flanked by full-LED 'Pure Vision' front headlights that bring the look of this baby Crossover even closer to that of its larger Kadjar stablemate. At both the front and rear, the bumper incorporates smarter skid plates.
The cabin was upgraded as part of the facelift too, benefitting from higher-quality plastics, extra chrome trimming and more comfortable seats. The steering wheel is made from more upmarket materials and, on certain versions, comes trimmed with full-grain leather. The gear lever boasts a more modern appearance, while the door panels have been revised to seamlessly incorporate buttons and controls. At the same time, the Captur retains its most practical features, including the availability of removable upholstery and the 'Grip Xtend' traction system, depending on trim level.
As before, all variants get a pretty unique feature in this class, a sliding rear bench that moves backwards or forwards by up to 160mm (though only as one unit), enabling you to prioritise either legroom or bootspace. Position the seats to maximise luggage space and cargo capacity rises from 377-litres to 455-litres. And you get a false boot floor that can be repositioned to suit the height of the load you need to carry and has a wipe-clean reversible flip side. Push forward the 60/40 split-folding rear seat and you'll find that it doesn't quite lie fully flat but in this position, you do get access to 1,234-litres of total fresh air.
The Captur continues to deliver a set of impressively economical running cost figures. Perhaps the most interesting powerplant option is the Tce 90 unit, a three-cylinder 899cc petrol engine that manages to return 55.4mpg on the combined cycle and emits just 114g/km. The more powerful Tce 120 EDC automatic version does pretty well too, getting 51.4mpg and 125g/km. Go diesel and you'll be looking at 78.5mpg and 95g/km from the dCi 90 engine.
And in summary? Well, passionate and practical, the Captur remains an endearing thing. True, it faces increasing competition from a growing band of very talented rivals. But it's a model you must consider before buying any one of them. A cleverer Crossover. If you really want a car of this kind, then you'll really want to try it.Click here to find out more about our Renault Captur range
Hyundai fills a conspicuous gap in its model range with this Kona, a little SUV aimed at the many supermini-based models now populating the smaller part of the quickly-growing Crossover segment. It's more extrovertly styled than you might expect a Hyundai to be and ticks all the right boxes in terms of safety and media connectivity.
Kona buyers get a choice between two petrol engines. The entry-level 1.0-litre T-GDI three-cylinder turbo is borrowed from the i30 and puts out 120PS and 175Nm of torque. It's manual only, using a six-speed box, and drives through its front wheels only. The other unit on offer is a 1.6-litre four-cylinder variant with 175PS, available only with a seven-speed dual-clutch auto box and the only derivative in the Kona line-up offered with 4WD. This top petrol model can make 62mph from rest in just 7.9 seconds on the way to 127mph flat out. For the 1.0 T-GDI, the figures are 12.0s and 112mph.
There are 2WD-only diesel alternatives too, a 1.6-litre CRDi unit available with 115PS and 136PS power outputs and a choice of either 6-speed manual or 7-speed dual clutch auto transmission. There's also an all-electric version, available in either a base 39kWh/135PS form or an uprated 64kWh/204PS guise. Hyundai claims a driving range of up to 300 miles.
Small Crossovers in this class need to be able to offer fun, agile handling, something Hyundai says is delivered in the Kona thanks in large part to an advanced multilink rear suspension system - though this is only fitted to the higher output models. Lesser-powered versions get the kind of cheaper torsion beam rear set-up that features on less advanced rivals. There's also an 'Advanced Traction Cornering Control' package to improve traction and damping in bends.
Aware that it was late launching a model into the smallest sector of the SUV segment, Hyundai felt the need to make a bold statement with the design of this car. Hence the aggressive body styling with its two-tone roof, unusual twin headlamps and distinctive 'Cascading' front grille. Short rear overhangs and a low roofline add to the purposeful silhouette, plus contrasting exterior accents and standard-fit roof bars inject a bit of all-important SUV flavour.
Inside, there's a cabin you can colour co-ordinate in a choice of different shades and lots of the switchgear is borrowed from the company's i30 family hatch. Plusher models get a floating 8-inch screen at the top of the dash. Lesser models get a 7-inch set-up. Either way, the infotainment package is compatible with the 'Apple CarPlay' and 'Android Auto' systems. A head-up display is being offered for the first time in a Hyundai and audiophiles can opt for a thumping Krell stereo system. As for practicalities, well the Kona is a little longer than a rival Nissan Juke, something that really tells in terms of back seat space. Plus there's a 361-litre boot that you can extend in size to 1,143-litres when the 60:40 split-folding rear backrest is flattened.
With the Kona, Hyundai has clearly benchmarked what buyers want in this class, then ruthlessly set about providing it. Aggressive styling: tick. Trendy media connectivity: tick. Class-competitive safety: tick. Potential for fun handling: tick. It's hard to argue with the finished result. Surprise, surprise, it ticks a lot of boxes.
You can't always create a great product through this kind of process. We'd argue, for example, that the class-leading Nissan Juke has an extra dash of emotive spirit that doesn't come from working through a spread sheet. If you don't care about that though, the Kona makes a strong case for itself. We think it's a car the segment will like.Click here to find out more about our Hyundai Kona range