ALFA MITO TICKS THE BOXES.
ANYONE with a drop of petrol in their veins should rejoice at the arrival of the MiTo, Alfa Romeo’s first really sporty hatchback since the fabled Alfasud some 30 years ago.
This car has `winner’ written all over it. Consider the basics in its favour; one of the best chassis/handling packages in its class thanks in large part to an electronic front differential that is standard across the range, some stellar engine options, a decent equipment list and the whole thing underpinned by a price list that makes you read it twice to make sure you got it right.
Hard to believe but this car starts at list price, never mind the scrappage discounts etc at under £11,000 on the road and goes up to a car that still leaves change from £15,000 for the range-topper. With the discounts you’re talking at under £9,000 and that makes this a bargain.
Still want that MINI?
In admit that I approached this test with a degree of trepidation. I love Alfas and their heritage and one of my best motoring memories was the time my brother and I did a Mille Miglia-inspired tour of Italy in his Sprint (rust in peace) but too often they have promised more than they delivered. The Brera is the most recent example of that. I harboured too the suspicion that this might be another Fiat on steroids, a formula that has allowed Alfa to underachieve for too long but credit where it’s due, the MiTo is a fantastic car.
I’m not sold on the styling personally because there is still a bit too much of the Grande Punto in there and I find the 8C-esque front lights a bit clumsy but the interior is a big step in the right direction and the nightmare build quality has long been banished.
There is a choice of engines, a 1.4 that comes in three power outputs one of which gives a remarkable and very satisfying 155 bhp (not bad from 1400cc!) plus a 1.3 and 1.6 turbodiesel. All versions come with the Q2 electronic front dif that automatically transfers power to the wheel with the most grip when cornering hard and which goes a long way to overcoming the limitation of front wheel drive. More of this later.
Every car also has a little switch by the gear lever which Alfa calls the D.N.A control (Dynamic, Normal and All Weather) which alters the throttle response, steering sensitivity, the traction control package etc. Quite a few cars have these things nowadays but few are as dramatic as on this. In fact, the last car I drove where there is such a marked difference between the settings was the Maserati Gran Turismo.
Normal mode is absolutely fine and delivers a ride/handling experience that will still put a smile on your face but in Dynamic the MiTo is really transformed. Throttle response is MUCH quicker, the steering much more direct and the Q2 diff comes to life giving the Alfa brilliant cornering.
The turn-in is instant, there is just no delay between your command at the steering and the front responding. The diff is a marvel, helping to push the nose in to your intended line and keeping it there with understeer (where the front end starts to wash a little wide) effectively non-existent.
That, plus the throttle and engine delivery, combines into a really potent and very engaging package. The Alfa feels balanced, it communicates well and is a delight to drive.
Even when pushing its limits in Dynamic mode with the threshold for all those nanny-state electronic safety net features raised so they don’t intervene so early, it never feels as if it would bite a ham-fisted driver.
I loved this car and that came as a surprise a pleasant one, I must say. Alfa has woven some magic into this little marvel which works at so many levels with its cornering, its performance from relatively small capacity engines and of course, the exceptional value for money.
Now, if it could se its way to altering the styling and make it look a little less dumpy then it would be complete but for now let us celebrate the arrival of a very special new Alfa and one which I suspect is going to do very well for the company.
I would be very happy to head back to Italy and relive that Mille Miglia trip in one
Alfa Romeo MiTo
Price from £10,995.
Car tested 1.4 TB 155 bhp from £14,045.
0 to 62 8.0 seconds
Top speed 134 mph
CO2 153 g/km
Average mpg 44