Parkers overall rating: 4.2 out of 5 4.2
  • Stylish changes for the Mii Electric interior
  • But still very much a conventional car by appearance
  • Relies on smartphones instead of integrated touchscreens

There is so little change to the interior that the designers have felt the need to scribe ‘Mii Electric’ on the dashboard panel in front of the passenger, just to make the point.

In fact, the dashboard panel – which is finished with something called an IML foil, achieving the rather neat circuitboard-style detailing – works well as a means of lifting the whole cabin. Together with some rather natty upholstery and a bit of ambient lighting, this might be a small car but it’s really rather smart inside.

Less impressive is the supposedly sporty black leather finish to the steering wheel, gear-selector and handbrake – it feels rather cheap and plastic, and not at all as premium as SEAT was clearly hoping.

There are some cheaper plastics around the place if you seek them out, too, but largely this compact companion impresses with a deep sense of quality.

The quietness of the electric motor and the surprisingly well resolved ride comfort help with this.

Unusual instrumentation

In keeping with the general sense that this is a car first and an electric vehicle second, even a quick glance at the instrument cluster will leave you thinking there’s nothing out of the ordinary – there are three refreshingly clear analogue gauges and a modest trip computer, rather than a bunch of flashy digital displays.

Look a little closer, however, and you’ll realise either side of the large central speedometer things aren’t exactly as they would usually appear.

Instead of a rev counter there’s a gauge showing power usage – including energy recuperation when decelerating – and the otherwise normal-looking fuel gauge has battery symbols. The use of a big, analogue gauge for the battery state is a minor stroke of genius, we think, as it’s much less jarring than the digital iconography used in other electric vehicles, helping to reduce range anxiety.

If you do want or need to know the remaining driving range in miles, this is one of the available displays on the trip computer screen. This screen is perhaps a little too low tech, making the Mii seems a touch old fashioned, but may prove comforting for this very reason.

Smartphone instead of central screen

Another area where the Mii Electric may seem surprisingly low tech compared with other vehicles is the infotainment. There is no large built-in touchscreen here – not even as an option.

Instead you get a simple radio and a smartphone dock. Again, an old-fashioned approach, but the quality of the radio controls is reasonable enough; the real action happens with the smartphone dock, anyway, which holds your phone securely on the top of the dash, where it’s designed to totally integrate with the car via a pair of SEAT applications: the Mii Drive app and the SEAT Connect app.

The Mii Drive app gives you TomTom sat-nav and an Eco driving trainer system, intended to help you make the most of the Electric’s driving range. Sadly, the TomTom nav isn’t as good as Google Maps (which is free on any smartphone) – something that’s not helped by the dock putting the phone in landscape orientation; portrait would at least allow you to see further down the road.

The SEAT Connect app is more to do with remote and EV functionality, and makes use of a mobile Wi-Fi sim card installed in the car. Via this you can use SEAT Connect to lock and unlock the Mii Electric and check where you parked it, as well as pre-set the climate control while the car is charging, see driving data, vehicle health data and all the fancy power-flow displays that are usually part and parcel of alternative-fuel cars.

The integration is such that buttons on the dashboard for the radio activate some of these displays on the smartphone, which is a neat idea – physical buttons being generally easier to use than touchscreens on the move.

There were some app-loading issues on the launch, but otherwise this all seems to be as useful as we’d expect for technology of this type at this stage in its development.

We think it’s a perfectly acceptable alternative to an expensive built-in infotainment system – but no doubt some buyers will consider it out-dated and cheap by comparison to some purpose-built rival solutions.