Pocket-sized Alfa delivers style and economic driving
Keith Ward BILLED on its launch as the cleanest and most economical car in its class, this version of the little Alfa MiTo promises pocket-friendly motoring.
Into the bargain, it looks appealingly neat and stylish – best in red cheekily compared to its Fiat Group stablemate Ferrari – with the front number plate worn jauntily, Alfa-style, to one side of that iconic Milanese bonnet badge.
The Italians have always been strong on engine technology, and the MiTo here benefits from the remarkable and award-winning 875cc two-cylinder unit introduced in Fiat’s Panda, 500 and Punto. Turbocharging helps boost power to 85 bhp, while CO2 emissions at 98 g/km duck under both the annual tax disc and congestion charge thresholds.
On the road, the engine is smooth in delivery and spirited in nature, if sounding at times a bit like the neighbour’s lawnmower on a Sunday morning. Performance potential is not bad, but to achieve it requires Italianesque foot-down driving, no doubt responsible for our sub50mpg average against an official combined rating of near-70. Stopstart when stationary is standard.
The Twin Air can, not surprisingly, run out of breath when climbing, so requiring much stirring of the easy six-speed gearbox. On the level it will bowl willingly along at 70mph in top while pulling 3,000 rpm and it is mainly tyre noise you notice, from the upgraded 17in Pirellis included here.
Standard on all Twin Air versions of the MiTo are cruise control and a three-setting switch for engine response – normal, sporting and low-grip – with a difference in torque of around 30 per cent, which will also influence your fuel economy figures.
At £15,350, the Distinctive also gets cosmetics such as sports dials and pedals, special upholstery, aluminium kickplates, red brake callipers and chrome external bits as well as comforts like lumbar adjustment and rear parking sensors.
They add to the basic £14,150 Sprint version’s manual climate control, seven airbags and Bluetooth hands-free with voice recognition.
The MiTo cabin offers just about enough legroom for four adults. To extend the short but deep boot the one-piece rear seat backrest releases rather awkwardly with a catch at each end and tilts forward only to about 45 degrees, so reducing the normal hatchback benefit.
The full 15-strong MiTo range spans £12,500 to £18,765.
A recent Which? consumer survey of car owners rated the MiTo highly for driving enjoyment and styling, low on reliability.
Alfa counter the latter to an extent by stretching their full breakdown cover, Europe-wide, to three years instead of the industry normal of 12 months. Nothing went wrong during our week’s driving.
SMALL WONDER: The Alfa Romeo Mito with its remarkable two-cylinder engine.