Until an FR model comes along the SEAT Mii Sport is as close to an enthusiast’s choice as we’ll get in the Mii range. It might share the same 74bhp 998cc petrol engine as other Miis but benefits from lowered and stiffened suspension to liven up the handling. Can this tiny little car deliver any driving thrills or is it out of its depth once it gets out of the city?
Mii Vibora Negra? What’s That all About?
The black wheels and stripes on this Mii are part of the Vibora Negra styling pack. As well as the wheels and stripes you get black side skirts and rear spoiler, black door mirror caps, tinted rear windows, black gear stick and some stickers on the dash. The whole pack is yours for £1,740 (including fitting) or you can pick out the individual bits and ask your SEAT dealer to fit them. Personally I’d take the wheels and tinted windows and skip the rest.
In Vibora Negra trim the Mii has a touch of street-wise character, something it really needs when you consider its closest competitors. Apart from a few cosmetic differences it is exactly the same as the cheaper Skoda Citigo and more expensive Volkswagen Up so it needs to resort to every trick in the book to stand out. In this guise it does that very well.
Small Car, Big Car Feel
Open the wide front door and climb inside and you’re greeted by a simple but effective layout. In front of you is a big speedo flanked by tiny rev counter and fuel gauge. To the side are the heater controls and radio, all operated with chrome-trimmed buttons and dials that have seen action in more expensive cars from the Volkswagen group. This may be a cheap car but it certainly doesn’t feel it.
From the driver’s seat it’s easy to forget you’re in such a small car. There’s plenty of leg and head room and the only thing that lets down the driving position is the lack of reach adjustment on the steering column. Rear passengers are surprisingly well catered for and the boot, while short, has a very deep recess that makes it quite spacious. That depth is partly achieved by swapping the spare wheel for a sealant pump, but some might feel the comfort of a proper spare (a £50 option) outweighs the need for a little extra boot space.
In Sport spec you get a decent amount of kit as standard. 15-inch alloys are part of the package along with fog lights, air-con, cruise control and a multifunction trip computer. Sticking out of the dashboard is SEAT’s optional portable multimedia device that adds sat-nav, Bluetooth, radio controls and trip computer display, yours for £275.
Is It Fun To Drive?
Turn the key and the 3-cylinder engine bursts into live with a noisy idle. It’s not the best start but don’t worry, things improve. Pull away and you immediately notice that the steering is very light, as are the clutch and the gear change.
At low speeds the Mii is lively enough to keep up with the pace of traffic, helped by its low 929kg kerb weight. It starts to struggle as the speed increases and wind resistance works against it but it can still mix it with the big boys in the fast lane on a motorway. If you’re not in the mood for nipping at the heels of bigger cars it will quite happily buzz along at a cruise-controlled 70mph.
Show the Mii an empty stretch of twisting A-road and it comes alive. If you keep the engine buzzing away between 3,000 and 4,500rpm it feels great, emitting a triple cylinder tune that contains hints of Porsche 911 (if you use your imagination). Throw the Mii into a corner and you can feel the Sport’s stiffened springs compress as the body leans over but then it just grips, hanging on with great tenacity. Despite the relatively thin tyres it holds its line well, eventually giving way to understeer but you can easily feel when that’s about to happen. The excellent damping also contributes to the handling, absorbing bumps mid-corner without upsetting the balance and allowing the Mii to cruise with a composure that could embarrass a lot of ‘grown-up’ cars.
If you find yourself stuck in slow moving traffic the Mii’s light controls work incredibly well. The clutch pedal is easy on your left leg and the steering makes maneuvering a piece of cake, aided by the great all-round visibility. The brakes also deserve praise as they are both progressive and incredibly effective.
The SEAT Mii Sport model starts at £9,980 with the Vibora Negra pack pushing that to £11,720 in total. That isn’t cheap for such a small car but factor in the standard equipment as well as the running costs and it starts to make a lot more sense.
Official fuel economy is rated at 60mpg but I saw an amazing 72mpg on one thirty mile run into work and 71mpg on the way back. It’s incredibly easy to hit 60mpg and that’s something of a novelty in a petrol-powered car. Road tax will cost just £20 a year (and not a penny in its first year) and insurance will be cheap too as the Mii Sport slots into group 2 of 50.
Anything Wrong With It?
The SEAT Mii is such an accomplished package that it feels churlish to pick fault. The weak point in the driving experience is the gearbox, which betrays a bit of driveline shunt and on a few occasions was reluctant to select reverse.
You don’t expect there to be a lot of soundproofing on a small car and this is the other area where the Mii betrays its city car status. The engine can be a bit vocal at times but then I enjoyed its 3-cylinder thrum, and there is a fair amount of tyre and wind noise at high speeds.
The Final Reckoning
The SEAT Mii is something of a revelation. At a time when motoring costs are soaring there is an increasing temptation to downsize to cheaper cars, but the fear of a cheap car feeling … well, cheap … will put many off. The thing is, the SEAT Mii is a tiny car that punches well above its weight and instantly erases any fears you might have about budget cars. The icing on the cake is that it even makes sense if you don’t like big bills.
It feels solidly built with quality plastics and pleasantly damped controls. It’s got plenty of room up front and, unless you spent a lot of time in the back, it never feels cramped. It drives in a relaxed manner that makes it feel like a bigger car. It’s not too noisy, and what noise that three cylinder engine does make is actually quite pleasant. The Mii is even fun to drive. It might not offer much in outright performance but if you make the most of what it has got it can entertain at speeds that don’t require you to risk your license.
There are few cars that can match the SEAT Mii Sport for its combination of low cost, quality feel and driving experience. If this is the future of downsizing then its going to be a lot better than I first thought.
SEAT Mii Sport Scores
|PERFORMANCE||Not a quick car but makes a fun noise||5|
|HANDLING||Light weight means responsive handling with composed ride||8|
|AFFORDABILITY||New cars don’t come much cheaper to buy or run||10|
|DESIRABILITY||Not a lustworthy car but Vibora Negra pack increases appeal||5|
|DRIVING SPIRIT||Much more than the sum of its parts||8|
SEAT Mii Sport Statistics
|Kerb Weight:||929 kg|
|Top Speed:||106 mph|
|CO2 Emissions:||108 g/km (Band B)|
|Official Economy:||60.1 mpg|
|Actual Economy:||58.6 mpg|
|Distance Covered:||640 miles|
|Price (As Tested):||£12,195*|
*Prices taken from SEAT website, September 2012