You may not be aware but the Seat Mii is in its final year. A replacement is expected before the end of 2016, but that hasn’t stopped Seat frothing up the milk a bit. The FR Line isn’t quite a full-blooded FR; you don’t get any more power from the 74bhp three-cylinder we already know and love, hence the ‘Line’ addendum. It’s an aesthetic thing, with 16in wheels, red-trimmed air vents and seat cloth, and a gloss black dashboard panel.
As fans of small, urban runabouts we think the Mii looks fine, but this model has kicked things up a notch. In lower specifications the Seat has never quite been as striking as the Škoda and Volkswagen triplets built in the same factory, but with sporty, tasteful graphics along the sides and across the boot lid, a boot spoiler and the biggest wheels ever factory-fitted to a Mii, it comes to life. The sharp lines suddenly suit it so much better and the proportions seem that much more right. However, being a junior in the size stakes there isn’t a vast chasm of space inside, but it uses what it has very well. Clever packaging means four adults can sit comfortably, but the two cupholders have to be separated, fore and aft of the handbrake lever. It’s also worth noting the significant extra stretch backwards to grab the seat belts in the three-door.
The boot is a surprise, and as long as you’re happy lifting baggage over the deep boot lip then you can get loads in there. Break out your packing skills and you’ll be stunned at how much slots in before you need to lower the rear seats.
On the other hand, while the test car has cruise control for easier highway slogs, it isn’t the best car for high-speed mile-munching. It’s short, wears low-profile tyres and there’s not as much soundproofing as there is in larger cars, so while it exceeds expectations and blows the small cars of yesteryear out of the water for refinement, it’s still not super-relaxing to cross cities in.
Naturally, the larger, heavier wheels and tyres on the FR Line impact fuel consumption, taking at least 10 per cent of the efficiency away depending on usage compared to the smaller-rimmed Miis below it. The FR isn’t blessed with low-rolling-resistance tyres, either, and the ride is a little firmer than in cheaper Miis.
The throaty three-banger under the bonnet is as characterful as ever, buzzing away happily under power. There’s a little vibration but it feels natural and never gets annoying. Even with all 74bhp working hard the Mii is never more than lightly brisk, but the wider Bridgestones cling to corners like you wouldn’t believe. You can really throw this sporty little number around. Five speeds leave you wanting an extra cog on the motorway, but it’s geared pretty well for scratching through town, and the engine is flexible enough to be left in gear down to 1,000rpm or less, although the shift arrow on the instrument cluster’s red LCD display will have appeared by then.
Refinement around town is good. You can shift up early, keeping revs and noise down. The light clutch (we tested a manual, of course) and forgiving steering are a joy in traffic, too. The turning circle is bettered by the pricier Renault Twingo and Smart ForFour twins, but it’s still a doddle to park.
Young drivers searching for something that looks the business, isn’t expensive to run or insure, and that has a bit of character will love this. Parents of new drivers will too, considering its five-star crash safety score. It’s also a great second car if you spec it with five doors, with enough room for a child seat and a phenomenal range of abilities for not much money. It’s great.