Neat ... but pe­tite

The trim three-door drove and han­dled well — and took Alfa re­li­a­bil­ity up a notch

Herald Sun - Motoring - - USED CAR - with Gra­ham Smith

NEW

We don’t al­ways as­so­ciate pres­tige with lit­tle cars but Alfa’s cute lit­tle MiTO hatch bridged the gulf pretty well.

Alfa wasn’t alone with a pres­tige lit­tle car but with its sport­ing her­itage it promised some­thing more than its ri­vals in terms of Ital­ian looks and driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

As a three-door hatch only, the MiTO had lim­ited ap­peal for any­one look­ing for prac­ti­cal trans­port. It lived up to the ex­pec­ta­tion of strik­ing looks, with its dis­tinc­tive grille, stylish head­lamps and smooth lines.

At launch in 2009, there were the base model and the Sport, joined by the QV in 2010. In 2012 the re­vised line-up deleted the lesser pair and brought in the Pro­gres­sion and Dis­tinc­tive.

The up­mar­ket QV, with more equip­ment and tuned for per­for­mance, car­ried on un­til the MiTO was pulled from the mar­ket in 2015.

The sta­ple 1.4-litre four­cylin­der turbo came in vary­ing lev­els of tune.

In the ini­tial base model, it pro­duced 88kW/206Nm and in the Sport 114kW/230Nm, the QV get­ting 125kW/250Nm.

In 2010 the base model went to 99kW/206Nm and added the Sport en­gine as an op­tion.

Trans­mis­sion choices were a five-speed man­ual un­til 2010 when that was dropped in favour of a six-speed man­ual, and a six-speed dual-clutch trans­mis­sion was in­tro­duced as an auto op­tion.

Shortly be­fore the MiTO was phased out, Alfa added a 900cc twin-cylin­der turbo (77kW/145Nm).

If buy­ers were ex­pect­ing a fire­ball, the MiTO might have dis­ap­pointed. It wasn’t a slouch, it han­dled well and was a plea­sure to drive but it wasn’t as quick as the Alfa badge might sug­gest.

NOW

Men­tion Alfa Romeo and you’re of­ten howled down with hor­ror sto­ries of poor build qual­ity and non-ex­is­tent re­li­a­bil­ity. That was cer­tainly the case in the bad old days when Al­fas would rust while you watched them and break down in the drive­way, it’s not the way they are to­day.

Read­ers tell us they en­joy own­ing and driv­ing the MiTO. Build qual­ity is not a prob­lem and break­downs are rare.

Me­chan­i­cally, the MiTO seems sound but check all the con­trols — win­dows, re­mote lock­ing, air­con­di­tion­ing — for elec­tri­cal or op­er­a­tional glitches.

Give the body a close in­spec­tion, par­tic­u­larly for paint, which we’re told can be patchy and un­even. Also check that ex­panse of front body­work that is prone to chips from stones thrown up off the road.

As in any mod­ern car it’s vi­tally im­por­tant that the en­gine oil is changed reg­u­larly, par­tic­u­larly so with a highly tuned turbo like the MiTO’s. View the ser­vice record to con­firm reg­u­lar main­te­nance has been car­ried out.

The MiTO’s turbo is prone to los­ing oil, so check around the assem­bly for leaks. The toothed belt to drive the camshafts needs to be re­placed ev­ery 120,000km. Make sure that has been done — don’t risk a belt break­ing.

If you’re in­tent on buy­ing a MiTO it’s prob­a­bly best to avoid the twin-cylin­der en­gine, a quirky item that will surely be an or­phan when it comes time to sell.

OWN­ERS SAY

Rod­ney L I owned a 2014 Pro­gres­sion 1.4-litre turbo for 12 months be­fore sell­ing it at 20,000km. It was very re­li­able, build qual­ity etc was fine. Ex­cept for turbo leak­ing oil, I had no ma­jor is­sues with it. It was fan­tas­tic to drive in Dy­namic mode but lacked en­thu­si­asm in Nor­mal mode. I was dis­ap­pointed with the turbo is­sue and the de­ci­sion by Alfa to dis­con­tinue it, which was the rea­son for my sale. But I still have a soft spot for it.

Don Cairns I bought a new Pro­gres­sion in 2013 and have done 78,000km in it. It is fun to drive and in Dy­namic mode in man­ual us­ing the pad­dles it is pos­i­tively ex­hil­a­rat­ing. It’s very eco­nom­i­cal as well, av­er­ag­ing 6.2 L/100km to date, and has had no me­chan­i­cal prob­lems. The only down­sides are a hard ride and a noisy en­gine at revs but who cares? The gear­box is not al­ways smooth but its road­hold­ing and urge still put a smile on my 76-year-old face ev­ery day.

Evan Dob­son I bought my Dis­tinc­tive with 60,000km on it and have done an­other 30,000km. It’s su­perb, pulls well, is eco­nom­i­cal and is great fun to drive.

Gor­don Whyte I’ve had my Pro­gres­sion for three years and I love it. It’s com­fort­able, well equipped and so far it has been re­li­able. The only thing I’ve had to at­tend to is a squeaky elec­tric win­dow reg­u­la­tor.

Les­ley Bright My MiTO has been the most re­li­able and eco­nom­i­cal car I have ever owned. It looks good, the ride is firm but sporty and the econ­omy is good.

SMITHY SAYS

One to con­sider if you like the looks and want a neat driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

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