TEST DRIVE | Alfa Romeo MiTo
The Alfa Romeo MiTo is a 3-door hatchback and takes its design cues from the beautiful Alfa 8C Competizione. The V-shaped bonnet, high doors, flared wheelarches and LED lights certainly help it stand out from the crowd, but the bulky rear lines are too bulky and it probably could take after the 8C a little more here. The design is a bit ‘love or hate’ and you’ll either think it’s a serious rival to the Mini and Audi A1 or you won’t.
The dashboard has a certain flair in the way it’s designed but, importantly, the various switches and buttons are still logically placed where you think they should be, so you can find and use all the functions fairly easily. However, while the interior materials and textures are interesting, they’re also rather hard, scratchy and don’t have the outright class of those you’ll find in the aforementioned premium rivals. But saying that, the Mini is becoming less retro, and the Audi A1 has become more business-like inside. Getting comfortable could also be an issue, because there’s no reach adjustment on the steering wheel. The tiny rear window and thick rear window pillars also mean that blind spot visibility is poor.
This is another area in which the Mito struggles. The rear seats are cramped for both headroom and legroom, and they’re hard to get into in the first place due to the narrow opening you have to clamber through. Once you are in, the high window line makes things feel rather dark and dingy, too. You only get four seats as standard, and you have to pay extra for five. What’s more, adding this option is rather frustratingly the only way you’ll get a split-folding rear seat to boost the car’s load space. To be fair, the boot isn’t a bad size but the tailgate opening is awkwardly shaped and there’s an enormous load lip that’ll make loading heavy items difficult.
Drivers can choose between three driving modes with the ‘DNA’ toggle switch on the central console (Dynamic, Normal and All-weather). In reality, you’ll only ever drive the car in Dynamic mode, because if you don’t, the throttle response is woeful. Dynamic mode also makes the steering heavier, but it still feels a bit vague. The more powerful petrol and diesel engines get a different suspension setup as the standard harsh ride, and the top ‘Quadrifoglio Verde’ version has another suspension setup that uses electronically controlled shock absorbers.
The entry-level petrol engine is a mediocre 103bhp version of the FIAT’s two-cylinder Twinair engine, which works fantastically in the 500. It feels lively but you do need to rev it hard to get anywhere. The sweet spot is the 133bhp 1.4 engine, which is as strong and smooth as you could want it to be. The Quadrifoglio Verde version also uses this engine to give 168bhp and the figures look impressive. The 118bhp 1.6 diesel is a strong, smooth performer too so overtaking and hills are never an issue.
Just like its main rival, the MINI, the MiTo can be personalised with a wide range of wheels, contrasting roof colours and exterior paints colours. You can also add handy features like power-folding door mirrors, sat nav and parking sensors. There are also luxury items such as heated seats and leather upholstery, as well as motorsport-inspired carbon-fibre sports seats for the hot Quadrifoglio Verde version.
However, unlike with rivals such as the MINI or Audi A1, you can’t add accident prevention systems like lane-departure warning. The MiTo also lacks a low-speed collision avoidance system that applies the brakes to avoid rear-end shunts in slow-moving traffic. This technology is now offered on many small cars that cost the same or less than the Alfa Romeo, so perhaps we’ll be seeing a facelift version soon…
The MiTo has some way to go to call itself a “premium” car and genuinely compete with its rivals, but it’s a stylish car and sells well.