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SEAT ditches petrol as it goes electric only for the Mii

SEAT is one of the fastest growing volume car makers in Europe as well as the brand with the youngest customer base, but does its budget electric Mii appeal to its target audience?

Discover EV expert verdict...

4 / 5

PROS
  • Great value electric city car
  • Reasonable driving range
  • Lots of equipment as standard
CONS
  • Dated interior
  • No integrated touchscreen infotainment
  • Downgraded to three-star Euro NCAP

Overview

While you may think the Mii Electric is the first zero emissions vehicle from SEAT, the brand has had its roots in electrification since 1992 with the Toledo, which featured at the Olympic Games. Three decades apart, the two cars are a good marker for how far SEAT has progressed, especially in terms of range and power.

Back in the early nineties the electric vehicle wasn’t on the average car buyer’s radar, although that aside, the low power output and reduced range of the Toledo wouldn’t have made a viable motor for a lot of people anyway.

By contrast the SEAT Mii’s battery weighs 55% less, it has four times more range and is four times as quick, but in a market that now offers a lot of choice is it enough to compete with the other A-segment superminis in its class? We find out.

Driving

The Mii electric’s motor is linked to a single-speed transmission and provides 82bhp and 156lb ft of torque. Weighing 1235kg, the Mii Electric is 299kg heavier than its petrol sibling, but it’s the fastest-accelerating version SEAT has ever produced. With a 0-62mph time of 12.2 seconds and a top speed of 81mph it’s probably not your best companion for munching through motorway miles, as it will run out of puff when you want to overtake and it’s not very efficient!

With all the torque available as soon as you stab the go pedal however, it will launch to 31mph in 3.9 seconds (new segment benchmark apparently), making it perfect for darting in and out of traffic off the faster roads. What’s more, it’s agile nature, tight turning circle and compact dimensions make it particularly good for driving in town (and squeezing into super tight parking spaces) which is what this car is designed to do.

There are three driving modes: Normal, Eco, and Eco+, which will cut in automatically when the battery level is getting really low. Normal offers maximum power while the others limit it to eke out range (Eco restricts power and torque to 67bhp and 123lb ft, Eco+ 53bhp and 98lb ft, cuts your top speed to 59mph and switches the air conditioning off). The four levels of regenerative braking can be controlled via the gear selector, but we just stuck the transmission in ‘B’ for max regen, which is not as harsh as some systems but will certainly enable one-pedal driving in stop-start traffic.

In its conversion to electric, the chassis has been adapted and tuned to offer a precise, stable and controlled ride. On the country roads, steering is light (although bordering on vague) and while its upright stance means it’ll never corner with loads of confidence body lean through the corners is admittedly well controlled. Overall it feels composed and sure-footed, ironing out potholes and speed bumps with ease – impressive for a car with such a short wheelbase.

SEAT Mii Electric driving
SEAT Mii electric motor

Range and running costs

The SEAT Mii Electric offers a range of 160 miles from its 32.3kWh lithium-ion battery which isn’t too bad when you compare it to other smaller electric cars. It’s 16 more than the MINI Electric, 25 more than the Honda e, and 37 more than the Mazda MX-30 First Edition and Volkswagen eGolf. When plugged into a 40kW DC charging system it can be replenished to 80% of capacity in as little as one hour, with charge times of roughly four hours on a 7.2kW AC system, or 16 hours with a standard three-pin plug.

The range on the SEAT Mii Electric proved to be very accurate. On mixed roads over our week with it (town, country and some dual-carriageways) while being careful not to be lead-footed we were getting close to the advertised range.

At £19,800 (including the PiCG) the SEAT Mii Electric is one of the most affordable electric vehicles on the market. Complementing this is a tempting PCP offer from £199 per month with £4399 customer deposit thanks to a SEAT UK deposit contribution of £500 and APR of 6.9%.

What’s more it’s not much more than its internal combustion engine counterparts (the next car in SEAT’s ‘City’ line-up with a conventional internal combustion engine is the Arona which cost £18,605) and with the low cost of EV ownership it’s an enticing prospect for anyone wanting to switch to electric. You don’t pay any road tax, electric vehicles are exempt from the Congestion Charge and company-car drivers won’t have to pay Benefit-In-Kind (BiK) tax until the 2021-22 tax year.  

The only expense is insurance – with the SEAT Mii Electric having an insurance grouping of 12E compared to 1 for the old 1.0-litre petrol-powered Mii in its lowest trim level. That said it’s still reasonable when compared to other electric superminis. SEAT offers a servicing plan for Mii Electric models – it covers the first two services and costs just under £400 (or 24 monthly payments of £17).

Design

The only similarity between the electric Toledo and Mii is that neither is built from scratch – they were simply converted to electric, just like a lot of EVs on market. To that end, there are hardly any modifications to the bodywork. The only signifiers of its zero emission credentials are the electric lettering at the rear and stickers on the side. And if you think this car looks like the Skoda Citigo and Volkswagen Up, you’d be right. All three virtually identical cars were released in 2012 as a joint effort by the Volkswagen Group. 

There is a choice of five metallic colours at no extra cost: Deep Black, Candy White, Tornado Red, Costa Blue and Tungsten Silver, and customers can choose to customise their car with a black roof and side mirrors (if they don’t go for the first of those aforementioned hues).

Styling changes inside include a new dashboard featuring IML (in-mould labelling) foil – a popular sub-surface labelling process. In this instance it incorporates a rather neat circuit board type detailing and together with ambient lighting and snazzy upholstery it does a good job of lifting what is now a dated cabin. The materials are perhaps what you might expect at this price point – hard, scratchy low quality plastics, but everything feels well screwed together.

Other indicators that this is an electric car is the fuel gauge now shows charge level, the rev counter has been swapped for a power meter and there’s a small display under the big central speedo for trip info. It lacks a fully integrated central touchscreen. Instead, there’s a 5 inch colour screen radio with Bluetooth connectivity, a DAB tuner and a six-speaker audio system, plus a smartphone cradle on top of the dash, which integrates with the car via a pair of new apps.

Mii Drive gives you TomTom sat nav and Eco Trainer and SEAT Connect allows you remote access and management of the vehicle, so you can review driving data, parking position, vehicle status including doors and lights, and have the ability to set charging times and pre-heat or pre-cool the car. The buttons on the dashboard for the radio activate some of these displays on the smartphone, which is rather smart and overall it’s an acceptable alternative to an expensive infotainment system that in most cases aren’t regularly updated like phones are. It does mean the screen will be smaller than other rivals and there’s a trailing cable across the centre console when it’s plugged into the USB charging point, but it keeps the cost down.

Comfort and practicality

To keep things simple SEAT is only offering what it calls one ‘fully loaded’ trim level that includes 16 inch matte Cosmo Grey alloy wheels, metallic paint, LED daytime running lights, body coloured door mirrors (heated and electrically adjustable), handles and bumpers, and dark tinted rear windows outside, and heated front sports seats, and leather steering wheel, gear knob and handbrake lever inside. Other standard equipment includes a mode 3 cable, rain-sensing wipers, electric front windows, air conditioning, cruise control, Lane Assist, Traffic Sign Recognition and rear parking sensors. It’s well equipped for its class and excellent value for a sub-£20,000 EV.

There’s a decent amount of headroom, knee and legroom for those sat in the front, and while SEAT say the batteries were manufactured specifically for this model so as not impact interior space , the rear seat passengers are 5cm higher than they were so those over six foot may complain on a long journey.

Storage space is decent for a car of this footprint, with handy door pockets, decent-sized glovebox, a cup holder and a deep cubbyhole. With a 251-litre boot, the Mii electric offers more luggage space than some cars from the segment above and there’s a split boot floor for storing cables. With the rear seats down the volume rises to 923 litres.

Verdict

The small city car market is not as lucrative as it once was, so with interest in electric cars increasing after a pretty successful period of seven years on sale, SEAT took the executive decision make the Mii electric-only.  Its sister brands followed suit, but the Škoda CITIGOe IV is now only available as a used car, and the Volkswagen e-Up!, which is £755 more than the SEAT Mii Electric, is available from stock only, not for factory order and it isn’t yet clear when VW will be able to reopen the car for factory ordering (but it is expected to be soon).

It’s still a lot pricier than comparable petrol-engined hatchbacks from other brands, but as electric cars go, it is one of the cheapest you can buy (bar the smart EQ forfour passion advanced at a current 'retailer offer price' of £15,885 but is normally around £20,785). Just bear in mind that, if your budget can stretch a little more (some 25 per cent), some rivals are more practical (Nissan LEAF from £26,845 and Renault ZOE from £26,995), tech-centric (Honda e at £27,160), better built inside and more stylish (MINI Electric from £25,100), will go farther on a full charge and drive better.

That said the move to an electric powertrain is perfect for this little city car, and if you can live with the range it is great choice if you’re considering taking that first step into the world of EV ownership, especially as it looks and feels, well, rather normal. We also appreciated its simplicity, with none of the gadgets that you find on brand new (and more expensive) cars – you even need to turn the key into the ignition to start it up!

However, it’s worth bearing in mind that while the petrol-powered Mii was given a five-star safety rating by Euro NCAP in 2011, when it was tested again in late 2019, it was downgraded to three-stars, mainly due to lack of autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and other safety technology. It still scored 81% and 83% respectively for the protection of adult and child occupants.

All in all, the baby SEAT makes a persuasive case for the city-dwelling market (and indeed its target audience to answer our earlier question), who want affordable, fun motoring while being mindful of the environment.

Key Specs

2020 SEAT Mii Electric

Price (RRP OTR): £19,800 (including PiCG); price as tested £20,030
Top speed: 81mph
0-62mph: 12.3 seconds
Power: 82bhp (61kW)
Torque: 156lb-ft (212Nm)
Driving range: 160 miles
Charging time: 4 hours (7.2kW AC, 0 to 80%); 1 hour (40kW, 0-80%)
Insurance group: 12E
Vehicle warranty: 3 years/60,000 miles
Battery warranty: 8 years/100,000 miles

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