2003 Seat Arosa S TDi 1.4 turbo diesel from UK and Ireland
Could have been great, but lack of reliability let it down.
Some kind of bizarre combination of fuel pressure and electronics, leaving the car first intermittently incapable of starting, then later prone to cutting out and being unable to be restarted. It ended, of course, with a complete inability to go anywhere for four months. For a VW TDi engine with 40k miles and a full service history, that's completely unacceptable.
Economy varied; 55 mpg in commuter traffic is fairly good, but 65 mpg when driving as parsimoniously as possible on a motorway is underwhelming (Seat claims up to 78 mpg in the extra urban cycle). Insurance and tax (£35/year) are also cheap, as they should be.
Typically for a twelve year old design, it has lots of glass and thin pillars. This will compromise its safety of course, but the great all round visibility means you'll be better able to see problems and avoid them in the first place. Ideal for town driving where speeds are low and obstacles are many.
Interior space is surprisingly good, if you treat it like a two-seater. It's actually got more head- and shoulder-room than my old Escort or my colleague's Vectra. Forget it as a four-seater though; putting people in the back is borderline sadism. The boot is also really, really tiny unless you drop the back seats. The small exterior dimensions and standard PAS makes parking a doddle. It's probably the easiest car you can buy for squeezing into tight spaces, short of a Smart car or a new Toyota IQ.
Trim quality is OK, but don't buy into the VW myth; their cars aren't that great (I sat in a wee Mazda the other day and it was leagues better than my own car). The standard fit face-off radio/CD is poor, with iffy reception and fiddly, tiny buttons. No air con as standard, which normally I wouldn't object to, but the large glass area can make the car a wee bit of a greenhouse on hot days. Conversely, I've never found a car as easy to scrape clean on cold mornings. For some reason the ice just didn't seem to "cling" to my car windows as much as the neighbours', and it's so small you can de-ice the whole thing in seconds.
This should have been a good car - in so many ways it did exactly what I wanted it to do. But it failed to get me to my destination several times, which is the most fundamental task of all and ultimately is unforgivable for a car of this age, mileage and history. I no longer have faith in it as a long term proposition, which means it'll be getting replaced sooner rather than later.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? No
Review Date: 20th July, 2009