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