Alfa Romeo MiTo: car review
If you want a Mito, the TwinAir is the engine for Londoners.
What is it?
The Alfa Romeo Mito TwinAir is a low-emission hatchback that’s smart and good fun.
How safe is it?
It includes a very good range of safety features.
Who should buy one?
The Mito TwinAir Sprint is for someone who likes a car to look and feel good without necessarily wanting full-on sporting performance.
Tom Scanlan’s review: Good Motoring, Spring 2013
DRIVING AND PERFORMANCE
The diminutive, two-cylinder, low-emission engine gives this Alfa a unique character. Its 875cc produce 85bhp, enough to allow it to gallop along the motorway very happily, once it’s been wound up into the mid rev-range. Around town, we felt inclined to want to keep the revs up: being used to cars with four or more cylinders, the relative lumpiness of the two cylinders is noticeable at low revs, as is its distinctive exhaust note (Alfa says the car’s dual-mass flywheel eliminates vibration…not so sure about that). At more than 4000 revs, this exhaust note strengthens to an impressive growl. An arrow lights up on the instrument panel telling you when to ‘shift’ up; it always seemed too early to us, but, in practice, we began to get used to it.
Alfa steering is usually excellent; at first it felt a bit dead, but turned out to be a sharp as ever, and varies in feel according to the DNA setting (see ‘Safety’ below). Handling is first-class, too. The brakes work as well as they should: not over-sensitive, but progressively powerful. The Mito provides a comfortable ride. So, although one reason to buy a TwinAir is because of its low emissions and official economy figures, we reckon its real playground is on the open road. Nonetheless, its short wheelbase means that it is handy for anyone needing to find small spaces to park in.
SPACE AND PRACTICALITY
The Mito is quite good on interior space. For the driver, everything is nicely in place; the steering wheel can be adjusted for reach and height and the front seat is levered up or down quite easily. A touch more lumbar support (optional at £100) would have been welcome. You need to be careful with the wide doors in narrow parking spaces. External visibility is average, but we’d say it’s useful to have the optional (£200) rear parking sensors. Getting in and out of the back is sometimes a bit of a struggle in three-door hatchbacks; the Mito is typical, so why no grab-handles?
The rear full-width seat back (a 60/40 split bench with a third seat as an option at £450) can be unlatched from either side – clever; however, it is not so easy to do from the boot end; on the other hand, it’s easy to lift forward the seat cushion, and this does create a good-sized luggage area. There’s no spare wheel, only a puncture repair aerosol.
We have to dig into the acronyms to discover what’s on the Mito. The Sprint version has, over and above the entry-level Progression version, VDC (ABS plus ASR plus BAS) with Hill-Holder and Electronic Q2 ; there are also VDC, HBA, MSR and CBC. All of these are further explained in the Alfa brochure, but, in short, they all come under the heading of, in Alfa’s words, ‘active safety’.
The TwinAir has parent-company Fiat’s DNA system – a switch in the central console allows the car to be set up for ‘Dynamic’, ‘Natural’ or ‘All-weather’ driving, the last being the sensible option for conditions more likely at this time of the year: all these help to prevent the car from, as it were, suffering too much input from an over-enthusiastic or less-experienced driver – reduce the chances of loss of traction is the message.
There is a total of seven airbags, including a driver’s knee airbag and the seats have anti-whiplash devices. The Sprint also has Fiat’s Blue&Me hands-free and voice-recognition system, allowing the driver to keep his or her eyes firmly on the road, if using the mobile. All-in-all, it’s an impressive package of driver and passenger protection. It has a Euro NCAP five-star rating.
Alfa Romeo offers a whole lot of equipment as standard on the basic Progression version of the Mito; for around £700 more for the Sprint as tested, another twelve items or upgrades are yours, including heated wing mirrors, front fog lights, a multifunctional display (two trips can be measured at the same time, including fuel consumption and the range) a 12-volt plug in the central console, and cruise control. A rear spoiler and 16-inch wheels complete the upgrades. These extra standard features are good value for the extra outlay.
The remote central locking can be used to open or close the windows in advance of you reaching the car, a useful feature on hot days (well, the opening bit, anyway). The test car was fitted with a very efficient two-zone climate control, an option at £410, and metallic paint (£425). If satellite navigation is required, there is the a dashboard slot for a removable TomTom.
The TwinAir’s emissions are so low there’s no annual VED to pay. And, for drivers heading into central London, no congestion charge. Start & Stop technology is standard as are tyres designed for economy – every little helps, as they say. According to the trip computer the Mito TwinAir seemed to return around 45 or 46 mpg in whatever the type of driving conditions we found myself in, reducing to an overall 42 mpg when also used a lot in heavy town traffic. As is so often the case, the official consumption figures don’t bear much resemblance to the actual, not in our case, anyway…and we don’t drive the cars hard except to try out acceleration.
AT A GLANCE:
Performance: 0-62mph 12.5 seconds
Economy: 67.3 mpg
Tax: Band A (£0)
Figures apply to the SZ4 model.