THERE’S no more difficult task in the motoring world than creating a good small car. Small cars cost virtually as much to design, develop and crucially to build, yet you have to sell them at a cheap price. And when once you could get away with having a small, cheap car that felt small and cheap, you fussy lot want a small car that is neither of those things, has big-car options and can do long motorway treks too. How on earth is that going to be possible?
There are ways and means of course. The Spanish brand Seat is part of the Volkswagen Group, and that means shared technologies across the various manufacturers within. As an ordinary buyer this information is almost irrelevant, but the effects of it hugely beneficial: you get a lot more for your pound as a result.
So there are other versions of this small city car within the group, but they all have a slightly different take on the genre. This being a Seat means there is a sportier flavour, and you get that from the moment you first set eyes on the Mii. It’s a compact city car of course so the basic shape is still a take on a basic box, but character is not something it is short of. The nose has the sharp-edged Seat family grille, the lights are edgy and look expensive and the numerous creases and edges in the bodywork give it a toughness that adds to the appeal. Sport models benefit from 15-inch alloy wheels and tinted windows too. You can go a little bonkers with the options list and add numerous styling packs, but even the standard car has plenty of personality.
Probably the most impressive element of the Mii is when you step inside however. For starters the amount of space simply doesn’t seem to tie in with the exterior dimensions: the combination of plenty of light and a simple but attractive dashboard means a remarkably generous cabin, and not just for those sat in the front either. Adults can sit comfortably in the back of the Mii, and for a city car that is no mean feat. Even with a pair of adults on the back seat you can still stuff 251 litres of luggage behind them.
The small price tag doesn’t mean compromises in the quality either. It’s a grown-up cabin, with smart instrument graphics, quality switchgear and a sophisticated feel. It’s a pleasure to operate rather than a constant reminder of how little money you’ve spent, which is exactly how it should be. Equipment levels are generous; all models bar the entry-level S have air conditioning, ESP and remote locking, while the Sport is loaded with electric mirrors, leather on the steering wheel and gearknob plus chrome detailing. A modest £250 adds the Seat Portable System, which connects to the standard-fit dock and provides Bluetooth phone connection, media playback and satellite navigation and the promise of future apps for more features. It works well and is something of a bargain.
There’s more good news underneath with a new 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol unit up front. The 74bhp version in the Mii Sport has useful extra pep and handles higher speed roads with more conviction, and the three-cylinder configuration gives it real character. It emits a delightful thrum when pressed and a happiness to rev that will go down well with younger drivers. The gearbox is a breeze to use and everything operates with total efficiency and consistency.
It doesn’t feel like a small car out on the road either; the steering, although electrically assisted, isn’t overly light and responds with accuracy. The ride is surprisingly grown up too, something which is a challenge for smaller cars but you won’t worry about tackling poor roads. It’s happy to play should the mood take you too, tracking through bends with confidence and with the underlying security of ESP on most models.
Forget the notion that you have to buy a car like the Mii because you can’t afford anything bigger or better; this is a car you can buy because of how good it is. Take a closer look and you might wonder why you need anything more.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
Model: Seat Mii Sport, £10,080 on the road
Engine: 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine producing 74bhp and 70lb.ft of torque
Transmission: 5-speed manual transmission driving the front wheels
Performance: Top speed 106mph, 0-62mph in 13.2 seconds
Fuel economy: 60.1mpg
CO2 rating: 108g/km