SEAT's smallest little car aims to match itself to your personality. June Neary tries it
Will It Suit Me?
Kids at my house tend to gravitate towards just one thing in the lounge: my Ninendo Wii games console. But before playing, they've to make themselves - create their own little character by making a 'Mii', the little person you become when you play one of the games. When it comes to cars, there's also a personality match needed: you have to gel with the wheels you choose. After a few days with SEAT's little Mii citycar, I think I could get on with this little runabout.
This is the Spanish brand's version of the segment-leading little urban tot we've already seen badged as either a Volkswagen up! or Skoda's Citigo. Why would you want the SEAT version? That's what my test was intended to discover.
SEAT has done just enough to distance the look of this Mii from its Volkswagen and Skoda design stablemates with restyling of the C-pillar, the bonnet and the boot. What's importance with this design though is not the aesthetics but the packaging. Though a Mii is no longer than a Fiat 500, it offers far more room inside, space in fact for the four fully-sized adults who could never comfortably fit in the apparently space-efficient Italian car. Those destined for the back seat will of course much prefer it if you've specified your SEAT in five-door form. Access to the back in this three-door variant isn't actually too awkward, but the five-door will be miles better if you're lugging a baby seat or such like.
With either bodystyle, the comparatively big area of the rear side windows ensures great all-round visibility and the pop-out function you get with this three-door model makes the back a little less claustrophobic than it would otherwise be. The rear seats are pitched quite upright, which isn't a problem for smaller passengers, but lankier occupants might find the seating position serves up a few headroom issues.
Up front, if like me you've tried the Volkswagen and Skoda versions of this design, the first impression you get is that this SEAT has a little more spark and vibrancy to its cabin finish. Some of it's down to little things - the italic-ised graphics on the instrument dials for example - and some of it down to sheer flair in the way that the interior has been styled and appointed. The white dash panels on my test car for example, that brightened up the interior without leaving it feeling self-consciously funky.
That only leaves luggage space. Which gives me another chance to underline the packaging genius of this design - with a stat that perfectly sums it up. This Mii is only 2mm longer than SEAT's previous Arosa citycar. Yet its 251-litre boot is double the size. This cargo bay will hold objects of up to 58cm in height, has four bag hooks and can feature a double storage net attachment to keep your eggs from mixing with your Iron Bru. And you can massively extend it by pushing forward the rear bench (unfortunately, it only split-folds on plusher variants like this one) to reveal up to 951-litres - or 959-litres in the five-door version. That's nearly twice as much space as you'd get in something like a Peugeot 107 or a MINI.
Behind the Wheel
So, does this car have enough about it beneath the bonnet to jink around in the traffic light Grand Prix that is modernday city motoring? Yes - just about. In either 60 or 75PS guises, the 1.0-litre three cylinder petrol engine has just enough pulling power to mean that you're not always bothering the gearbox. Which is as well for gearshift quality isn't this SEAT's strongest point, a firm hand and a 'one-pause-two' action across the gate needed if you're not to rush the synchro.
Personally, I'd think twice about paying extra for the 75PS version, unless you particularly want the auto gearbox you can specify with it: subjectively, after all, it hardly feels any faster, even if on paper, the 0-60 time improves from 14.4s to 13.2s and the top speed rises from as little as 99 to 108mph. And the discussion's a pretty pointless one anyway, since no one bases their citycar decision on how quickly they'll be able to flog the thing from rest to sixty.
I didn't think that this was an engine that especially encouraged press-on driving - but it is one that'll happily shoot you from point to point in a way suggesting that this car might be quite fun away from the city limits.
Value For Money
Expect to pay somewhere in the £8,000 to £11,000 bracket for this Mii, with a £350 premium model-for-model, if you want five-doors rather than three. As you'd expect, that's in the same ballpark as the two rival cars that share this same design, Volkswagen's up! (which costs a sniff more) and Skoda's Citigo (which model-for-model costs a couple of hundred pounds less). Dig a bit deeper though, and there are certainly arguments in this SEAT's favour.
Many buyers, for example, will want an entry-level variant with extra-cost air conditioning and the affordable option of ESP stability control. That's simply not possible with basic versions of the up! or the Citigo: neither offers air conditioning at this level and both charge pricily for ESP. With a basic Mii, you can have both these features at an affordable price. Which means that if you've done your homework like this, then it could well be the SEAT version of this citycar design that you might be tempted to choose.
Could I Live With One?
I liked this little SEAT more than I expected to. Yes, it is a couple of hundred pounds more than the equivalent Skoda version of this design, but it's been specced very cleverly - to the point where it makes a strong financial case for itself if you're already convinced by this design. And you may well be. In terms of space-efficiency, this car has been very thoughtfully configured. Spanish state-of-the-art then? That's about the size of it.