Test drive Seat Mii Electric: how good is the cheapest EV on the market?
260 WLTP km of range for less than €17,500 euro excl. VAT: it looks good on paper, but does the electric Mii walk the fleet talk?
As a full VW Group subsidiary, Seat gains access to the revamped VW e-Up’s all-electric powertrain and enhanced battery for its entry-level Mii. To respect the hierarchy, the zero-emission Spanish runabout carries a lighter price-tag than its German twin. That makes it the cheapest EV on the market, no less. All the more reason to subject it to a fleet assessment.
Street cred (look&feel, driving experience, equipment): 7/10
Let’s face it: the Seat Mii is not top of mind for most company car drivers. It’s not a head-turner, it doesn’t have a premium badge and it’s not particularly competitive in the A segment, which is dominated by the Fiat 500, the Renault Twingo and its German twin brother, the VW Up. Now that the all-electric version is available, the cards might just get a reshuffle.
The Mii Electric still looks like a regular Mii, give or take a few badges and details, but it has one major trump up its sleeve: it’s the cheapest EV on the market. Contrary to what you might expect, that doesn't mean the battery is tiny. With 36.8kWh worth of lithium ion cells, it does a lot better than the Smart ForFour (17.6kWh) and even outperforms the Mini Electric (32.6kWh). Under WLTP conditions, this little Spaniard can travel 260km.
It drives better than it looks, too. It’s not as zippy as a BMW i3, but it can surprise your fellow-drivers when the traffic light turns green. It also corners with surprising confidence, mainly thanks to the low centre of gravity. Despite the added weight of the batteries, this little Seat is as agile as a clownfish in a field of sea anemones. It’s compact size makes manoeuvring in the city child’s play, too.
It’s not all peaches and cream, though. The infotainment system is as basic as a 90s VW Golf and if you want navigation, you have to rely on your smartphone. That’s something one could live with. Even the lack of steering wheel controls could be condoned. Less forgivable is the poor support of the seats and the fact that the upper part of the steering wheel covers a large section of the instrument cluster, regardless of the position you put it in – unless you are rather small. Like many things in this Mii, the outside mirrors are quite petite as well.
Concerning the build quality: it's still a VW product and there are no rattles or squeeks to be heard. Even wind and tyre noise is quite contained for such a small car. It does look a bit cheap on the inside, though, where naked steel and hard plastics dominate. The contrasting piping on the seats and the offwhite dash decoration with a funky print do make things a bit less dull, but it's a far cry from the Fiat 500's sophisticated frivolity..
Fleet cred (Safety, eco-credentials, TCO): 7/10
Small cars usually don’t perform well in the safety department. They might still offer decent protection for the occupants in case of a frontal and lateral crash, but as they lack advanced driver assistance systems and a large bonnet to absorb energy when they hit a pedestrian, they generally get four EuroNCAP stars at best.
The 2019 Seat Mii (well, actually, the technically identical VW Up) got just three stars, losing precious points for missing an AEB system (autonomous braking). Indeed, the Mii does not come with technology to recognise fixed obstacles, let alone moving cars or pedestrians and cyclists. You can’t even order it as an extra – contrary to the pre-facelift models. VW Group removed City Brake from the option list, taking a step back rather than moving forward. To safeguard margins, VW?
Other than that, the Mii is pretty convincing. It is amazing how VW succeeded in stowing away a medium-sized battery (36.8kWh) in such a small car without compromising the interior space or trunk size. The latter is tiny anyway and the hidden compartment houses the charging cables, so if you go shopping, folding down one or both rear seats is the only option.
As to the financial aspect, the Mii Electric simply is unbeatable. Its 17,350-euro price tag (excl. VAT in Germany) and low SMR costs translate into a TCO that makes the CFO happy, especially if tax benefits apply. Those who mainly drive in slow to moderately fluid traffic can easily squeeze 230km of range out of the battery. If you hit the motorway, this number comes down to 180km or so, as we found out. That’s still pretty decent, especially compared to other BEVs we tested.
There is little to tell about the charging options: this Mii comes with a 7.2kW onboard charger, which is pretty standard. DC fast charging can be done at a relatively limited 40kW, but given the size of the battery, that should not be a big issue.
Bottom line: 14/20
The all-electric Mii is worth considering for employees who need little more than a handy city car that can also handle the occasional motorway drive. As the best value-for-money BEV on the market today, it also makes a great pool car for many fleets. Too bad it misses the mark in the safety and ergonomics department and lacks personality.
- The best value-for-money EV on the market
- 200km effective range
- Driving fun, agility, easy manoeuvring in the city
- Clever packaging: battery does not compromise cabin space
- Ergonomical shortcomings (seats, mirrors, driving position)
- Just 3 EuroNCAP stars (lack of ADAS)
- Lack of personality, ageing model
- Limited infotainment
Main competitors: Smart ForFour, new Fiat 500e, Renault Zoé, VW e-Up, Skoda Citigo iV, Honda e.
Photo credits: Dieter Quartier, 2020