Driven: SEAT Mii SE

Small is beautiful, so the saying goes. There’s the iPhone, Monaco and Keira Knightley for example, although they’re all quite expensive. I want something that’s small but also good value, avoiding the trap of increasing prices with miniaturisation that’s caught out Smart with the ForTwo and, more recently, Renault’s Twizy.

Fortunately SEAT have produced such a vehicle, so here’s the Mii. Ok, in a beauty contest I think Miss Knightley might still edge it, but it’s certainly distinctive and by no means ugly. It’s also tiny, measuring just 356 cm in length, or just over two Keiras.

If you think you’ve seen it before, you probably have. It’s one of a triumvirate of cars from the Volkswagen Group that are near identical, with the Skoda Citigo and Volkswagen Up! making up the other two.

They all use a tiny 1.0 litre three cylinder engine producing either 60 bhp or a sporty 75 bhp and promise to sip at fuel. Officially the Mii 1.0 SE I’m in will do 62.8 mpg and on the Front Seat Driver Test Route it returned a superb 56.2 mpg, getting closer to its official figure than any other car I’ve tested. Considering the route is around 33% motorway, that’s impressive.

It’s frugal then, but is it good to drive? Leaving Cambridgeshire’s very own Nurburgring, the Huntingdon Ring Road, it’s obvious that 60 bhp is just about enough power. The Mii will keep up with other traffic happily and can stretch its legs on the motorway past the legal limit, but it’s noisy getting there. Once cruising the engine note dies down, but that highlights the pretty significant tyre noise. At least wind noise is kept at bay.

Round the bendy bits the car is surprisingly agile, darting from one direction to another and really encouraging you to have a bit of fun. Handling is nice and neutral, predictably switching to understeer when you’re going a bit too quick. There’s not actually much grip available in the first place though, so you could find yourself drifting wide on a corner sooner than you expect.

There is great visibility all round the car, so in town you can easily spot any tiny gaps that might be around and take them. That makes parking easy too, even if you don’t specify the sensors.

In the cabin itself the first thing you notice is the space. There’s actually plenty of it and despite the fact that I’m rather heftier than our actress friend there is no shortage of leg, shoulder and elbow room. It’s a shame the steering wheel doesn’t adjust for reach though, limited as it is to just up and down movement.

It’s light and airy too. The white dashboard might attract fingerprints quickly, but it’s far more pleasant than the darker interiors of its Skoda and Volkswagen siblings. Hopefully it’s wipe clean. There is also a deceptively large boot that’ll take a weekly shop without too much trouble.

The optional iPhone-like device that sits on top of the dashboard adds a certain premium feel to the car and is far more than a bolted on trip computer. There are extra dials available for when the pair in front of you just aren’t enough, stereo controls and sat-nav that will work even when you’re out of the car. Not bad for just £275.

An optional panoramic sunroof feels huge, if not quite panoramic, but that’s another £660 while the cruise control, front fogs and parking sensors add £530 to the total bill. That’s close to £1,500 in extras on a car costing £9,275, but what do you get for the money as standard? There are 14 inch alloy wheels, electric windows, air conditioning, leather steering wheel, heated door mirrors, tinted windows, radio and CD with iPod input, front and side airbags and a three year warranty.

Ultimately the SEAT Mii is a cracking car. It’s quick enough, economical, spacious, well built (even if some of the plastics do feel a little thin) and good to drive. There’s enough equipment to keep you entertained, especially if you add in that portable sat-nav device, and it’s cheap to run and insure. It’s also got the Volkswagen Group behind it so quality is top notch.

There is only one thing wrong with the car. The Skoda Citigo is virtually identical and available for less money. That said, the Volkswagen up! is near identical and costs more. There isn’t more than a few hundred pounds in it, so the decision comes down to the badge and small detail difference. I’d take the Skoda, but the sharper, more youthful lines at the front and back of the SEAT version could, and should, convince plenty to add that bit of flair.

Whichever way a buyer chooses, they’re not making a mistake. Proof, if it were needed, that small really is beautiful.

Now to put that theory to the test and take the Mii to the cinema to check out Keira Knightly in Anna Karenina.

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Phil is a motoring writer for print and web, failed racing driver, car hoarder and banger rally competitor. Nominated for the Headline Auto Rising Star award and a MGMW member, Phil freelances for outlets as diverse as Diesel Car magazine, and Cambridge Magazine, amongst many others. He also maintains a fleet of unloved motors, but spends most of his time driving an old Corvette.

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