Im late to the Holy Trinity of the VW up!, Skoda Citigo, and SEAT Mii. Having missed the launch of the first two models I was pleased to be able to make the UK launch of the Mii in Oxford, even if it meant staying in a converted prison
The Mii is substantially similar to its siblings and differs only in the fine details so I was expecting sharp handling and a great engine; the only question is whether SEAT can stamp enough Spanish flair on the model to differentiate it from the other two. Lets find out, shall we?
If youve seen a Citigo or an Up
! youll have a pretty good idea of what a Mii looks like. The rear window/C pillar, boot and bonnet are different enough to give the Mii its own identity and the result is a neat, pretty, but unremarkable car that wont alienate a single customer but probably wont delight many either.
The first thing that struck me about the Mii is how much space there is inside; four adults will fit in comfortably and the boot is impressively big as well. Sure, those in the back are forced to sit in quite an upright position but the pay-off is that they have more than enough room to stop them moaning.
The driver is looked after just as well. The steering wheel only goes up and down, not in and out, but this is a cheap car and I was able to get very comfortable anyway. The seats look flat and unsupportive but are very comfortable and hold you in place quite well.
The dash is, in S trim at least, basic but funky, pretty much the ideal for a small car aimed at the younger driver. There is a pleasing honesty to the design and materials; it doesnt pretend to be something that it isnt.
There are four trim levels: S, Ecomotive, SE, and Sport. The basic car gets manual windows, steel wheels, and a bare-bones stereo. The Ecomotive adds air-con, electric windows, and remote central locking. SE drivers can look forward to a leather steering wheel and gearknob, alloy wheels, chrome switches, and a gloss white dashboard panel, while the top-of-the-range Sport adds sports suspension, 15 alloy wheels, and tinted rear windows as well as a slightly more discreet dark grey dash panel.
The SEAT Portable System sat-nav sits on top of the dashboard and provides Bluetooth, SMS reading, and extra instrumentation in addition to route guidance. Its a 275 option and worth every penny.
The Mii is a lovely little thing to drive having light, progressive controls, accurate steering and supple suspension. The result is a car in which you have complete faith; you can hustle it along very quickly indeed.
While I accept that a small, economical supermini is never going to handle like a sports car the reality is that the Mii is tremendous fun to drive even for press-on motorists. The brakes are surprisingly powerful and utterly progressive allowing you to brake hard and late before relying on the little SEATs high levels of grip to haul you round at a very decent lick. Its not just hooligans who will appreciate the Miis chassis; handling and grip like this allows the driver to maintain a high average speed across country, minimising the need to brake conserving energy, momentum, and fuel.
The Sport felt more planted, and more grown up, than the S even if it didnt seem to handle that much better than the basic car. Future models will include a FR that will provide more overtly sporting styling but no extra power, ideal for the insurance-strapped youngster.
SEAT say there are two engines and three flavours, which is a lovely way of saying there are 59 and 74bhp versions of the three-cylinder engine as well as the 59bhp Ecomotive, the only one in the range to drop below the all-important 100g/km.
The reality is that all three flavours feel very similar. Better drivers and more eloquent writers will wax lyrical about how they differ but I struggled to tell them apart, which is good news for the buyer as you might as well save a few quid and buy the cheaper, less-powerful models.
For those who are unconvinced the 59bhp model hits 62mph in 14.4 seconds and goes on to a top speed of 99mph, while the more powerful 74bhs statistics are 13.2 seconds and 106mph respectively. They feel closer in performance on the road than the raw figures suggest.
Fuel economy is similar too with the least powerful engine delivering 62.8mpg against 60.1mpg, figures that the average owner should be able to get very close to in real-world use.
The most economical engine, and the only one to qualify for free road tax and London Congestion Charge exemption, is the 59bhp Ecomotive, which produces just 96 g/km of CO2 and should, in theory at least, return up to 68.9mpg.
Value for Money
The Mii range starts at 7,845 broadly in line with the up! and Citigo so why should a customer plump for the SEAT instead?
Its a good question and one that strikes at the heart of the Miis problem and I cant help but think theyre missing a trick by not offering an all-inclusive package that includes insurance after all, SEAT cars appeal to the younger driver, a demographic who are forced to pay up to a third of their disposable income on car insurance.
The SEAT Mii is a great car. It goes, stops, and steers beautifully and is bigger inside than youd imagine. If you have a small, young family then its plenty big enough to cope with everything you can throw at it and be genuinely good to drive into the bargain - and if you think that youll need rear doors youll be able to buy a five-door in the Autumn for an extra 300-400.
The best of the bunch is the 59bhp in S trim; youll need to crank the windows open by hand and turn your headlights on yourself when it gets dark but thats no real hardship, is it? After all, if youre going poverty-spec you might as well revel in it.
However, most buyers will visit the three main dealers involved and compare special offers and who can blame them. Platform sharing brings huge benefits to the car manufacturer and customer but it doesnt half make the marketing departments job hard
We've also reviewed the Mii's rivals the Citigo
and the Up!
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