9:30am Thursday 28th February 2013
By Steve Teale
If you thought the hot-hatch was dead, think again. SEAT has proved you wrong with a spirited version of the Mii (above).
Mii, if you hadn’t noticed, is the new compact SEAT and is closely related to the Volkswagen Up and Skoda Citigo.
On name alone, I think the Mii wins this three cornered family dust-up and, as if to prove a point, SEAT has turned out a sports version. It’s called the SEAT Mii Vibora Negra Sport 1.0 12V 75ps, but for brevity SEAT Mii Sport will do. It comes as a three-door and five-door and is typical SEAT: solid, dependable and exciting with fun and frolics all round.
Small cars as a genre have improved tons of late. They come well-equipped with features that would have cost an arm and a leg a few years ago. I guess SEAT and other manufacturers realise that if you’re going to attract the iPhone generation, then two airbags and a radio isn’t enough.
The Mii is a neat enough car but the Sport model adds plenty of style. It’s on the road, though, where the Mii shines. It has the kind of go-kart handling and urgency that made hot-hatches so popular.
But it’s also an incredibly practical car with lots of cabin space. OK, so the boot is a little tight but otherwise it’s hard to fault.
The Spanish brand SEAT is part of the Volkswagen Group, and that means shared technologies. It means you get rock-solid VW engineering and the sunny cheekiness of SEAT thrown in.
This being a SEAT means there is a sportier flavour. It hits you from the moment you set eyes on it. Mii starts at just under £8,000 for the base model but even in Sport mode it can be yours from £10,430.
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 dashing and look expensive and the number of style creases and edges in the bodywork give it a toughness that adds to the appeal.
Sport models benefit from 15in alloy wheels and tinted windows. You can go crazy 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.
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 a bargain.
There’s more good news underneath with a new 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol unit up front. It sounds like a little motor but 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 character.
I expected it to sound like a sewing machine but 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 grown up too. 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.
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