The SEAT Arona SUV and Ibiza supermini, as well as the mechanically-related Volkswagen Polo, are to be recalled over a safety issue that can see the left-rear passenger’s seatbelt unbuckle itself when five people are seated in the car.

Owners of the three models will start receiving letters in the next few weeks informing them to make an appointment with their dealer. The recall will involve fitting a new, redesigned belt lock fixture free of charge. Both companies are advising owners not to use the middle seat until the car has been fitted with the new locking mechanism.

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Leading Finnish automotive magazine Tekniikan Maailma identified the issue, which is caused by the rear-left seatbelt socket resting below the middle-belt socket. During a high-speed lane change, the middle socket pushes down on the rear-left seatbelt socket’s release button, unlatching the seatbelt.

Road testers from Tekniikan Maailma first noticed the issue when group testing the Arona SUV, and subsequently replicated it in the SEAT Ibiza and VW Polo, all of which are based on MQB A0 Volkswagen Group architecture and are fitted with seatbelts made by Takata.

Tekniikan Maailma was unable to replicate the fault in the VW T-Roc, which has a similar rear buckle arrangement, but features seatbelts made by a different company. As a result of this, the magazine concluded that: “The reason for unlatching is a combination of buckle layout and too sensitive release buttons in the buckles manufactured by Takata.”

Having investigated the issue, SEAT later admitted the Finnish publication was right. A company statement read: “SEAT has confirmed a technical issue on the new Ibiza (2017 and 2018 models) and Arona (2018 model year): there is the possibility that in rare situations (e.g. sudden quick lane changes with five passengers on board) and when the rear center seat and the rear left seat are occupied at the same time, the left seat belt could be unintentionally released.

“At SEAT safety remains a main priority and the brand has already identified a technical solution which will prevent this from happening.”

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