Back road fun in a

small SEAT

SEAT Arona FR, front
SEAT Arona, front
SEAT Arona, side
SEAT Arona, rear
SEAT Arona, rear
SEAT Arona, interior

I'M always on the lookout for new routes and often drive minor and unclassified roads just because they head in the right direction.

Sometimes I come unstuck and find myself stuck behind tractors or mired up in roadworks, but more often than not the back roads have little traffic on them and make my journey vastly more entertaining.

Of course, setting up a sat nav to use these routes is a nightmare and, should you wish to try it, get out the map and do it the old way before you leave.

I recently had a fantastic blast around Oxfordshire in three of the latest Lotus models but my drive there and back was still a huge amount of fun.

I was driving the SEAT Arona smaller SUV and believe me, it's a cracking not so little car with a huge amount to recommend it.

The VW Group, of which SEAT is a part of course, has gone down the route of smaller engines and turbochargers to maximise economy and lower emissions.

So this Arona has a 1.0-litre unit under the bonnet, but it produces the same 115bhp that the company's petrol 1.6 engines used to have only a few years ago.

It's a peppy little unit with a lovely sound when revved, yet its refined and quiet most of the time at lower speeds.

There's great acceleration in second and thirdgears of the easy changing six-speed gearbox and fourthtoo has plenty of grunt.

But, as you would expect, fifthand sixthare the cruising gears, to help keep up the economy.

It pulls happily from low speeds in the higher gears. There is a slight thrum from the three cylinder engine, but that's pretty normal with them all.

Generally it's very refined and quiet and has a willing and zesty nature which makes it a joy to drive.

The excellent steering is positive and full of feel - a complete delight to use - and it helps make the handling brilliant and very safe.

There is a little roll but it never upsets the excellent road hodling, which is assured and strong, with huge grip and stability.

The ride in the FR I drove was a little unsettled on rougher roads at speed, but it rarely reached as far as the occupants. In fact, the suspension soaks up the worst surfaces and insulates the interior very well.

The dash is beautifully clear with a readout for the sat nav, the trip computer or other info in the centre.

The sat nav is very good, but it doesn't come with traffic warnings to enable you to change your route before you get there.

There are a huge number if colour combinations to personalize each car to the owner's taste, boot space is good, there's plenty of room for four adults and there is loads of useful storage around the cabin.

Safety is a priority, so that high-tech systems suchautonomous emergency braking, a hill-holder, blindspot monitorandcross traffic alertare all available - but not in all models.

FAST FACTS

Price: £20,850

Mechanical: 115bhp, 999cc, 3cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 118mph

0-62mph: 9.5 seconds

Combined MPG: 56

Insurance Group: 12

C02 emissions: 114g/km

Bik rating: 26%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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