- We like...Looks, style, prices
- We don't...Harsh ride
New small Alfa is cute, distinctive - and pretty good to drive. Do you still want to buy that new Mini Cooper? If you’re shopping for a new Mini, hold it right there. Because Alfa’s new MiTo is there to pull you its way – and it’s just so cute.
It’s the make’s new baby, slotting into the range beneath the 147. Alfas are distinctive cars, but the MiTo has a a definite ‘face’ – round headlamp eyes, a definite pert ‘nose’ and an air intake ‘mouth’ at road level. It’s the kind of car owners will give a pet name to.
But there’s a purposefulness that cuts its cuddly appeal, though. Engines that promise up to 155bhp, plus auto-adjustable dampers, throttle and steering on even the cheapest model means that it has proper sporting credentials. And a starting price that leaves change from £11,000 is keen for this three-door, four-seater hatchback.
The MiTo borrows its engines and some of its underpinnings from Fiat’s Grand Punto. But despite humble origins it feels characterful and a true Alfa. We’ve driven the two top models, a 155bhp 1.4 petrol turbo and a 1.6 turbodiesel. Each, if specified in the Lusso trim of our test cars, costs over £14,000.
Both were well equipped – alloy wheels, air conditioning, and leather seats - while the adjustable dampers/steering/throttle already mentioned come as standard. In the metal, the Mito’s striking, though for us it looks better from the front or in profile than it ds from the rear, where it appears squat and heavy.
Inside, it is handsome, the dash on Lusso models covered in carbon fibre-look plastic and available in black, red or blue. The effect is classy and grown-up, although the plastics used in some corners are noticeably cheap. Space in the front is fine and there’s enough for a pair of grown-ups in the back, providing neither is above 6ft. That and the generous room in the boot comfortably beats what you’d see in a Mini, although the boot lip is high, making heavy luggage a sweat to load.
On the move, the car feels very different according to what’s powering it. The 155bhp petrol is the quickest engine and makes a heady noise. But with it the MiTo rides restlessly, skittering over broken surfaces and feeling settled only on smooth tarmac. And that’s true even with the car put to ‘Normal’, the mid-setting of the three available. Switch to ‘Dynamic’ – the sportier setting – and the throttle and steering responses brighten, but the ride stiffens still more, to bump ‘n’ thump on any road less than perfect. The sharper steering and throttle are a treat but the ride will soon have you crying ‘enough’.
The third setting – ‘All-weather’ (so the settings choices spell ‘D’, ‘N’ and ‘A’ = DNA, geddit - see left) feels much like ‘Normal’ except that the anti-lock brakes and traction control systems adjust to help out should the going turn slippy.
Drive the 120bhp diesel and it’s a different story. The engine’s extra 30kgs of weight ‘plant’ the car more firmly and tie down the ride, making it noticeably comfier, whichever setting you pick. It’s smooth, quiet and punchy, too, making it the one we’d pick.
With the MiTo, Alfa hopes to attract younger buyers and expects half to be women. That’s new, but the little car’s appeal is enough to pull in the 5000 or so UK customers the make expects this year. Should you pick one over a Mini?
It’s certainly worth a test drive – but take it far and over bumpy roads to check that you’re happy with its ride. The other area to think on is its second-hand value. Minis keep more of their worth over time than almost any other car. Alfas usually lost money rapidly. The make claims a Mini-rivalling performance in this important area, but we’re not so sure. Time will tell.
That apart, the MiTo is cute, fun and potentially the best car Alfa has at present. We like it - a lot.
- Engines1.4 petrol, 1.3, 1.6 diesel
- 0-60 mph11.2secs-8.0secs
- Insurance groups3-9
Motors.co.uk value verdict: