|Alfa Romeo Mito
Well Priced, Head-Turning Little Coupe
Great, Turbo-Charged 1.4 Petrol Engine
BRIGHTON, England My first reaction on seeing the little Alfa Romeo MiTo coupe was predictable. “Wow doesn’t it look cute”, was the first thought that crossed my mind.
But someone planted an idea in my head which I can’t get rid of.
“Don’t the headlights, (which seem to sit on top of the front end), make it look just like the Nissan Micra,” said this subversive.
Now the Micra has many splendid qualities; dependability, practicality, affordability spring to mind. But cute it ain’t.
And despite the fact that Alfa in its presentation to the media insisted on suggesting that the MiTo looked just like the spectacularly beautiful Competizione, (an even more preposterous notion), I keep seeing the Micra when I look at the MiTo.
The 3-door MiTo, based on the engineering of the Fiat Punto, is undoubtedly a fun drive.
After a day piloting it around the highways and byways of Sussex I can report that the MiTo has sharp handling and firm suspension. The quality of the build seems good. The interior is very attractive. The six-speed manual gearbox gives quick, slick changes. The car has some nifty design features, with natty headlight lenses and rear LED lights.
The car has a gizmo known as the DNA button. This allows the driver to select Normal for every day driving, Dynamic if the mood turns sporty, or All Weather which provides a gentler response for snow and ice. “Dynamic” stiffens up the suspension and gives the steering wheel a loaded feel, with sharper turn-in on the corners; quite sophisticated for a low-end car.
There is a choice of five different engines (the car was designed in Milan and is made in Torino, so they just used the first two letters of each town for the name, allegedly). Four of the five have 6-speed manual gearboxes. There are three 1.4 litre petrol engines and two diesels of 1.3 or 1.6 litres. The most powerful, turbocharged petrol engine produces 155 bhp, which thrusts the car from rest to 60 mph in less than 8 seconds. Top speed is 134 mph.
Prices start at £10,745 for the entry level 1.4 Turismo and rise to £14,745 for the top of the range 1.4 155 bhp Veloce. The base model includes a raft of computerised safety gizmos, manual air conditioning, LED rear lights electric windows, remote central locking, electrically adjustable and heated wing mirrors, follow-me-home headlights, and 16 inch wheels. Lusso adds fog lights, carbon-effect dashboard, leather steering wheel, and chrome exhaust pipes, among other things. The Veloce gives you 17 inch wheels, a front armrest with storage compartment, sports dials with white background, Bluetooth and USB port. The DNA device is standard across the range.
The best engine is without doubt the 155 bhp turbo-charged direct injection petrol, which is said to provide diesel-like economy and performance, with plenty of low-down torque. Turbocharged engines like this are the shape of things to come in Europe, as the E.U. forces car makers to produce cars which are even more economical.
Alfa says that the MiTo is a competitor to the BMW Mini, a so-called luxury small car. It’s not clear who will buy the MiTo, even though Alfa seems to think that it can attract younger buyers. In fact its marketing seems to be aimed squarely at 14-year olds, rather than anybody who might have the cash to buy one. On the face of it, the MiTo does seem to be a classic hairdressers’ car, but to be fair, so does the Mini, and plenty of blokes can be seen quite happily driving them around. The quality of the MiTo does seem very impressive, and it you compared it to the Mini, it does win out in the space stakes. There’s quite a lot of room in the rear, and the boot is impressive.
As for the Micra thought, I do think that is unfair. I’ve managed to ignore it. The MiTo is a sexy little thing, and it’s priced to go.
Neil Winton January 30, 2009
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