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Automaker SEAT, Cosmo made a 'car for women': Why this is a bad idea

2016-09-23 11:42

MISSED OPPORTUNITY: Seat and glamour lifestyle magazine Cosmopolitan UK teamed-up to create this 'car for women'. Do you think it's sexist? Image: Seat UK

Janine Van der Post

Cape Town - Spanish automaker Seat and Cosmopolitan teamed-up to create a vehicle targeted at women.

According to Cosmo, its readers want a car that was "agile and easy-to-park, and drive". It also had to be "stylish, cool, and suits their personality". Along with that, readers also said they'd love a place for "impromptu karaoke performances, last-minute wardrobe changes, dramatic gossip sessions and emergency lunch-hour kips."

Using the magazine's audience and Seat's design prowess, the duo created a new version of the automaker's popular hatchback and called it 'Mii by Cosmopolitan'. The pair hopes the premium hatch will appeal to female car-buyers.

Either European women (at least those who read Cosmo) have been living under a rock or the two companies have taken gender-equity and female-empowerment and tossed it out the window, as news of the vehicle angered female car-buyers.

A reader commented on the UK site: "What sexist bullshit is this?". She's taken the words right out of my mouth. Before I get into why this 'female-orientated' car is a problem, let's look at its specifications.

Read Cosmopolitan's full release here.

What's it about?

The Seat Mii by Cosmopolitan is not a bad car at all, at least when viewed through a gender-neutral perspective. It looks like a snazzy, pimped-up version of an old Hyundai Atos with elements from the Volkswagen Up! There are many elements, however, that are tailored for women including its head- and tail lights and interior trim, even its purple paintjob is aimed at females.

There are three petrol variants available; a 3-cylinder unit 44kW 1.0-litre mated to a manual 5-speed 'box, a 56kW unit with a choice of five-speed manual or auto and a CNG 50kW unit with a five-speed manual.

All engines in the range, says Seat, emit about 102g/km of CO2 with claimed fuel consumption ranging from 4.1 and 4.4 litres/100km, depending on the engine. The 50kW unit only emits 83g/km. 

So the engine details won't excite petrolheads, but it's important to note the car is aimed at city dwellers.

Other convenience features range from auto aircon to hill-assist, and ABS. There's a host of optional extras from rear-parking sensors to a 300-watt sound system complete with subwoofer.

What do you think of the SEAT Mii by Cosmopolitan? Email us or get in touch via Facebook and Twitter.

So what makes it special?

The car was launched at the London FashFest in the UK. The car is available in two shades, Violetta (purple) and Candy White. The car is complimented with champagne *bismuth trim. This bismuth trim is used along the side-mirrors, air-vents, the infotainment system frames, floor mats and stitching. 

The car's headlights have an ‘eyeliner’ shape. I figured this means the lights are probably emphasised by some dark outline. Its jewelled, bi-colour rims are designed to give the appearance of the car sparkling as it drives.

The seats are covered in violet alcantara with a premium design while the ceiling sports dark tone upholstery. Furthermore, Seat says there are aluminium strips along the front footwells with “COSMOPOLITANlovesMii” badging.

Nifty features include a cup-holder, boot-organiser, satnav, an EcoTrainer (prompts you on fuel-saving tips as part of the Portable System Live) and Bluetooth connectivity. The EcoTrainer also acts as a co-pilot and providing information on fuel range, distance covered.

These sound like great features for any premium hatchback but many female road users take offense to the car's message, which seems to be 'this is a car for women'. Parking sensors are great but when used in a vehicle aimed at women is the it implying European women can't park? It's also not the first time SEAT has come under fire for sexism. At the 2014 Geneva auto show reveal of its Mii, SEAT debuted its new hatch by removing a 'women's skirt', view the video later in the article.


'What were they thinking?'

I've been a petrolhead since the day I was born, so this 'car for women' irks me in ways that's not good for anyone's heart rate.  

What is a 'car for women' anyway? I can park and I'm a very good driver. Some of the features and design element seem condescending.

Shades of pink don't tickle my fancy and creating vehicles 'for women' these days is plain sexist and feels, at least for women, akin to a suckerpunch. 

Honestly, what were they thinking? This is a marketing fail of epic proportions and they have no clue what female drivers want.

I love good-looking stylish cars. Power figures for me have to be well above the 44kW variant available in the Mii range. Are you kidding me? 44kW? Is it because women travel nowhere slowly or maybe the vehicle's creators believe it's to accommodate putting on make-up in traffic?

My daughter's plastic engine-less motorbike probably generates more kilowatts via the pushing-power of her tiny feet.

Stylish? I don't think so. So it's a purple Volkswagen Up, and sure it's cute in its own right but if Seat and Cosmo had been a tad more original, and did their collective, perhaps they'd know that some women actually prefer cars such as the Ferrari 488 Spider or a Range Rover Sport. Women should not be relegated to choosing either an MPV (read: mommy-van) and tiny city cars.

Like men, we love flashy cars with huge power figures and top speed. Couple this with safety features and some convenience niceties and we're hooked. Satnav, aircon and perhaps heatable seats, won't hurt... not a compact plug-in-your-USB hairdryer or a shoe rack hanging from the back of the driver's seat.

READ: Which car tops the list for SA's motoring women?

Eyeliner headlights - what is that about? Does it increase driver visibility? Does it have any technical benefits such as lighting up corners?

The only sensible thing on this car might be the boot organiser. As a mother, there are always loose items to stow in place. Despite the Mii's small engine, its fuel consumption returns are on par with rivals.

Overall, I'm disappointed. Cosmo and Seat had the opportunity to create something special. I'm saddened that we still live in a generation where marketing departments would still create something like this.

What do you think of the SEAT Mii by Cosmopolitan? Email us or get in touch via Facebook and Twitter.

It's not the first time the brand has come under fire...

WATCH: The awkward 'skirt-removing' reveal of the SEAT Mii (2014 Geneva auto show)


W24.co.za editor, Lili Radloff, says: "I’m sorry, but if I hear something is “for women”, it immediately raises my hackles. Unless it’s something that physically supports the female anatomy (like shoes or underwear) or something that accommodates our different biological needs (like birth control and sanitary products), positioning something “for women” is very dangerous. We are not some exotic species with wildly varying needs. Manufacturers should have learnt that lesson after the whole 'Bic Pen for Ladies' fiasco. 

"How, pray tell, can a car be for women? Surely motor vehicles are gender neutral? I, for one, am just so weary of nonsensical 'pink marketing'. Stop using my gender to try and sell me stuff. And stop patronising me by telling me you know what I want when you so very clearly don’t. 

"The only positive point in this whole circus is that they at least did some sort of survey to ask actual readers what they were looking for in a car… That said, the features that were included - eyeliner headlines, jewelled wheels, shades of candy white and violetto -  is not something I would ever consider wanting, or needing in a car. And I’m a woman who wears jewellery and eyeliner almost daily. But the most offensive? The hammering on about how easy it is to park. What exactly are they trying to say?" 

Wheels24 editor Sergio Davids said: "I too don't understand the phrase 'a car for women'. Sanitary towels are a universally-agreed female product (though, according to Navy Seals, can also be used to bind a wound in battle). A car however is a gender-neutral machine. If features are positioned as female-orientated does this men don't want nor need them? If reversed, does this mean a 'male-orientated' vehicle would be one without parking sensors, stowage compartments and featuring a dull-as-bricks design? Power figures of 44kW are cringe-worthy for any petrolhead, regardless of gender."

*Bismuth, by the way according to Wikipedia, is a "brittle metal with a white, silver-pink hue, often occurring in its native form, with an iridescent oxide tarnish showing many colors from yellow to blue. They are used in cosmetics, pigments, and a few pharmaceuticals, notably bismuth subsalicylate, used to treat diarrhea." 

Irate females have taken to Twitter about the #cosmopolitancar:

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