Seat Arona FR Sport
I wonder what the extraterrestrials will think when they come across Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster, the surprise cargo he sent into space on his rocket the other week? He had ‘Made on Earth by humans’ printed on the car’s circuit board just in case they can read. And speak English. The guy’s a genius, a PR-savvy visionary, the only player in a game for one. A real-life Iron Man.
I’ve often wondered what aliens would make of our so-called progress. What would they think of the concrete conurbations we’ve built, so billions of us can live like sardines, away from the openness and beauty of nature? I wonder what they’d think of the electronic devices we spend half of our lives on, talking to anyone but those nearest to us, and the fact we can’t stop ourselves from producing billions of machines that pump poison into the air we need to survive. I know what I’d think. I’d think we’d lost the plot. Yet on we stampede, anywhere and everywhere, on planes, trains and automobiles, unhindered by guilt or reason.
The Arona is simply the most sensible car I’ve ever driven, with everything just as it should be and no surprises
Mrs E, the ankle-biters and I nipped off for a few days’ skiing last week. We travelled early Sunday morning from Gatwick. I have never seen an airport so insanely busy. Thousands of people practically killing each other to get to the front of the queue for a takeaway coffee and a copy of The Mail On Sunday. And everyone was so unbelievably grumpy into the bargain. Except, ironically, the people serving, who were too busy to have any kind of free will. ‘You all right son?’ I asked Noah Nicholas Martin.
‘Yes, Dad, fine. I’m fine.’
It was his second day as a nine-year-old, after a birthday that saw him receive his first proper bike, an Eighties Challenge Ascot fold-up. We had seen it outside a charity shop three weeks before. On its stand, chrome mudguards and chain guard, dynamo-powered lights, three gears, a luggage rack, big black rubber peddles with orange reflectors and an old-fashioned bell. Much TLC would be required to bring it back to its best but all the bits were there – and we know a man who can.
‘What are you looking at?’ I persisted. Noah was spookily quiet for a kid going on his holibobs.
‘It’s the new Ferrari SUV… it’s a-mazing!’ ‘NOOOOOO!’ I screamed. ‘Please God. You cannot let this happen.’ First Bentley, then Lamborghini and now Ferrari. Enzo won’t be so much spinning in his grave as tunnelling back up into his Maranello office as we speak. ‘Dad, calm down. It’s absolutely gorgeous. Here, take a look.’ ‘Don’t be so ridic…’ And then I saw it. ‘Oh my.’
The kid was right and I was wrong. It is, indeed, a thing of extreme beauty. Far more stunning than any of Ferrari’s previous attempts at producing anything remotely practical. I’ve been in denial about the SUV luxury supercar market ever since it was mooted, basically because I never want to die and think if everything is put on hold, this may improve my chances. I am the opposite of Elon Musk. But, like Noah, he couldn’t be more right and I couldn’t be more wrong. Bentley’s Bentayga sales, for example, have been more than double their most optimistic expectations. Especially considering the average on-the-road price for a reasonably spec’d Bentayga is £350k. For which you could buy around 17½ of this week’s review car, the Seat Arona – yet another new SUV. As I sat in the Arona for the first time, pressed start, engaged first gear and began to pull out of the drive, I could feel precisely nothing.
It’s spacious (for its class), comfortable and extremely punchy (especially considering the size of its engine)
Not even the things I could feel before I got in it. You know, the usual stuff – vaguely human, a bit tired from the night before, contemplative of what the day had in store. The Arona neutralised me. I was no longer a person. I was a Seat Arona driver.
Let me point out immediately that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this car. It’s spacious (for its class), comfortable and extremely punchy (especially considering the size of its engine). Visibility is excellent, the interior layout is both sensible and practical, it drives very nicely around town and cruising up and down the motorway, it has an 8in touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Mine – one of the higher-spec models – even has automatic braking, the odd square yard of Alcantara and a flat-bottomed steering wheel. But none of that translated into anything remotely attractive to me as a car enthusiast.
Engine 1.0-litre petrol
Gearbox Six-speed manual
0-60mph 9.8 seconds
Fuel economy 56.5mpg
First year road tax £160
I have no idea specifically why not. The selfsame features in other cars can be almost impossible to resist gushing about. But not in the Arona. Perhaps it’s because everything is shrouded in black. It’s everywhere. Like the North Pole in midwinter or a confederation of funeral directors. I liked the driving position and some far less important things like the shape of the bonnet, the feel of the hand-stitched leather gear knob and how I could talk to the kids in the back because the front seats don’t cut off all the energy, even though they are massive. But none of that registered on my hard drive of emotional triggers that make me want to recommend a car. I can put this down to only two reasons.
Either I need a proper emotional, physical and psychological MOT, like those they do at the Mayo Clinic in the US. Or… this is simply the most sensible car I’ve ever driven, with everything just as it should be and no surprises. A car, perhaps, for people who have no interest in cars. They might be interested in most other things you need a car for – dogs, bikes, shopping, day trips, road trips, looking at nice things passing by. If you want any or all of that but don’t want a car to get in the way, this is for you. It’s also quite good value for money, quite good on fuel and quite a lot like a mini version of the hugely successful Seat Ateca. Next!