Take a SEAT please

After looking at my favourite trio of city cars the other day, I was intrigued by the fantastic deals that were being offered in this category; £109 a month for a brand new car and insurance is a great deal, but the C1 Connextion is more of a run out special from a company well known for offering special offers and rates aimed at younger drivers. But when looking at the cars’ rivals, well there are some very appealing deals to be had by customers looking for an efficient, well built and modern city car.

Despite the C1/Aygo/107’s charms, it is obvious from reading most reviews of cars in this class that the VW UP! is the car to beat; with it’s premium image, classy interior and interesting looks it is a pretty perfect package for most buyers…sure the engines could be a tad more economical and list prices could be cheaper, but in a way this adds to the UP!’s appeal, after all if it was too cheap then everybody would be able to have one right?

But Volkswagen have an answer for those people not overly concerned about impressing the Joneses, and are instead content to save a bit of cash whilst getting what is essentially the same car apart from a few badges. Well in fact they have two; both the Skoda Citigo and SEAT Mii have very similar looks and equally annoying names, and for a chunk less than the UP! they still give the premium interior and tight driving experience that the VW version is much praised for.

SEAT’s position within the Volkswagen Auto Group (VAG) has been in trouble for a while, and the Mii is a prime example of the muddle the brand has found itself in. Originally positioned as a sexier, sportier mainstream brand, SEAT’s models featured edgier styling and more performance orientated trims as opposed to Skoda and VW, and as a result were priced above the more downmarket Skoda’s and semi-premium VW’s. This plan worked for a while, but as Skoda’s range found a foothold in the European market as more of a low-key, practical version of VW (and gained its own VRS performance brand) they began losing buyers, especially as SEAT’s own cars grew less attractive and increasingly similar to look at.

Failing to learn from these lessons, VW has inadvertently handicapped SEAT’s version of the UP! before any prospective buyers even get inside the car; the UP! itself looks incredibly modern and ‘cool’, especially in ubiquitous white and with retro chrome hubcaps. The Citigo skirts rounds its strange name with a classier and more aggressive face-the rear is very similar to the SEAT but with go-faster stripes and black alloys the Skoda manages to look classy and in-your face at the same time, a rare feat. But the Mii? Well it’s Nintendo-esque name lends itself well to the startled Pokemon face that has been bestowed by stylists. I guess there was not much that could be done with the square shape of the car, but surely something better could have been done with the tail lights or the dull alloy design. Inside and on the road the Mii also fails to stand out against rivals related and not; sure the dashboard is well laid out, but it lacks the UP!’s impressive glossy materials or the Citigo’s good equipment levels. On the road the SEAT drives much the same as its siblings, so very grown up basically.

I am probably the exactly the market for cars like the Mii; people in their late teens and early 20’s looking for a thrifty run-about which will prove reliable and cheap to run, as well as offering all-important  connectivity options such as Bluetooth and iPod cables. In that respect the car is a success, and the amazing finance offers which are available will be enough to lure plenty of young customers to the car-precisely what SEAT and VW want. £79 a month including insurance is a great deal, even if you have to be over 21 to get the insurance, and apparently the Mii can be had for even less (about £50 a month)…admittedly the C1 is a better deal for people under 21 but money talks for most people. Would I buy a Mii? Maybe not, but with more effort in the styling department and a tweak or 2 under the bonnet it could stand on its own laurels as opposed to the value card.

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