A fresh look at the MiTo and Giulietta

Back-to-back: The Alfa Romeo hatchbacks

We’re having quite the Alfa Romeo time here at Motor Writer. We shall be covering the rather magical 4C shortly but in the meantime, we’ve had both the MiTo and Giulietta on test.

Carrying their evocative badges and distinctive shield grills, these two hatchbacks aren’t new. In fact, excepting a mild refresh, little has changed since 2007 in the case of the MiTo and 2010 for the Giulietta. Yes, 2007: the MiTo really has been around for eight years. So, with the QV Line version of the MiTo and QV Giulietta specification on test – their respective sporty variants – how able are they when compared to the hot competition and are they enough for the die-hard Alfa aficionado?

Let’s start with the MiTo

Arguably less attractive than its larger sibling, the MiTo has always been a practical runabout. The QV Line (QV for Quadrifoglio Verde, or four leaf clover) spices things up somewhat with 140 PS on tap here (a 170 PS version is available) and a useful 0-62 of 8.1 seconds. However, performance alone maketh not the car and even with a neat multimedia display there are a couple of niggles. Limited height and reach adjustment on the steering column means the seat can’t be set too low, yet raising the seat height also tips it forward, losing support behind the knees. After a couple of days fettling, the seating distraction was put aside and we concentrated on what’s at the heart of this pocket rocket.

Pottering about, the MiTo works well. The TCT dual clutch automatic gearbox slides up and down the cogs in a civilised manner and other than the marginally firmer ride, there is little to mark it out as a sports hatch. If giving the little MiTo a good spanking is your thing, however, it is time to drop to Dynamic mode and this is where things became interesting.

Comparing to a Polo GTI with DSG ‘box, the Alfa’s changes are on the lethargic side. Kick down can be slow and when reaching the speed limit, it steams along for a little while in a lower gear, attracting unwanted attention. In fact, it becomes almost essential to override with the manual paddles when working the car hard – both down ahead of a corner and up again after reaching speed. After a while, it is possible to learn the car’s ways and combine the paddle shifts with auto selection for the best control.

The DNA (Dynamic-Normal-All weather) control is at the heart of the baby Alfa’s drive. It does take a little too long to switch between modes but when in Normal or Sport, the MiTo behaves with appropriate manners. In terms of dynamics, the MiTo is quite chuckable and the sports suspension set-up provides a great balance between comfort and control (certainly scoring points over the Ford Fiesta ST). The electronic Q2 system (which aims to emulate a mechanical limited slip differential) also proved its worth on wet country roads, allowing the MiTo to deploy its horses in a straight line.

During the week, the MiTo has been easy to run. Driving it quickly has taken more effort that it should and internal storage is on the lean side (a wallet plus phone won’t fit in the central section) but it certainly doesn’t feel its eight years. The smart red callipers, deep front spoiler and throaty exhaust note add to the appeal.

The Giulietta QV

The Giulietta still feels reasonably fresh. It is certainly one of the prettiest cars in its segment and led the pack when it came to styling: hidden rear door handles to make a five-door look like a three-door plus funky tail lights before LED offerings became so popular. It also pioneered the cross-over swage line.

The Giulietta QV also feels fresher to drive. It is certainly more grown up than the MiTo QV Line, but more accomplished, too. When we drove an early Giulietta QV, back in 2011, we praised its all-round usability and had few niggles. These seem to have been addressed in the latest car (including new dashboard with updated media interface like the MiTo). Four years ago, we did criticise the lack of purposeful exhaust note. Now, with revs held low and on part throttle, this QV delivers a satisfying growl.

The comments about the MiTo’s dual clutch gearbox also stand for the Giulietta. It feels somewhat burdened by it rather than enhanced. For spirited driving, manual mode (or a manual ‘box) is the order of the day.

There are crisper drives and hot hatches more technically advanced than the Giulietta but it still has much to offer. Our verdict? The MiTo feels better with a manual ‘box and doesn’t lend itself as well to the QV branding. The Giulietta, on the other hand, while out-classed in terms of performance by some rivals, still has a presence on the road and much to give in terms of driving enjoyment.

Finally, we leave you with a teasing picture of the new Giulia and look forward to seeing how the technology and design language cascades through the range.

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