Alfa’s MiTo: head or heart?

The MiTo’s big sister, Giulietta, might be a looker (she’s certainly good to be seen out with) but she falls into the likeable category rather than loveable. Motor Writer has just had the smaller MiTo on test for a week, so time to share our conclusions.

Size-wise, the MiTo is almost a foot (288mm) shorter than the Giulietta and not quite as pretty. Slightly bug-eyed, it still has a clean shape, neat rear and with the Alfa grill and offset number plate there is no mistaking the brand or where it comes from.

Only a three-door (there’s rumour of a five-door for next year,) it’s perfectly big enough for day-to-day operations. It’s small enough to provide a delightfully intimate environment for the driver, yet can easily carry four and has a useful boot. In fact, it’s about 7” (173mm) longer than the family-sized Alfasud of the ‘70s. And after a few days with the MiTo, Giulietta is starting to look a little hefty.

The 120 bhp 1.6 diesel engine on this model sounds rougher and produces less power than Ford’s same-sized offering but it pulls cleanly from low revs. The Alfa has the dna switch to allow three different driving modes. I couldn’t really differentiate between all weather and normal, even on wet roads – behaviour is impeccable in both settings. Moving to dynamic, though, changes the car from faithful Labrador to a full-bladdered Terrier faced with a row of lamp posts, so eager is it to hurtle to the next corner or set of traffic lights. On paper, 9.9 seconds to 62 mph looks disappointing, yet with the power easily accessible this MiTo feels nimble. It doesn’t have the beautiful tones of Alfas of old, but it is good to hear the engine, even in diesel form.

The suspension is marginally stiff over uneven surfaces, but still supple enough not to crash about too much. The trade-off is beautifully controlled cornering – even when pushing hard over a changing camber. Despite rather appalling weather conditions, sometimes hitting an inch or more of standing water, there is never any question of losing grip.

The MiTo interior is a good place to be. There’s a carbon fibre-effect dash (dark red on this model) and clear instrumentation. The driving position is good but the steering wheel adjustment doesn’t allow the wheel to come quite low enough. This is the only car in which I have ever had to raise the seat to match the wheel. Climate control would be a welcome addition (£370 option), the left foot rest is a little awkward and when plugging in to the media socket, the wire fouls the hand brake. Otherwise, it’s all very well set-up for a delightful driving experience.

Does the MiTo also sit in the likeable rather than loveable band like big sis? In fact, it sits very firmly in my ‘don’t want to give back’ category. It does emit a very loud ‘beep-beep’ when unlocking, so perhaps it’s one my neighbours will be glad to see go.

This latest generation of MiTos feels well built and now ranks in a recent top 10 for least depreciating cars over three years so no longer need the head and the heart be at odds when considering an Alfa Romeo.

Alfa Romeo MiTo starts at 12,250 for black 1.4 8v Progression.

Model tested, 1.6 JTDm Distinctive, with Biancospino white paint (£425) £17,075

120 bhp @ 3,750 rpm, CO2 122 g/km (band D), 0-62 mph 9.9 secs

Motor Writer rating: ●●●●○

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