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Designer baby. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.

Designer baby
Not since the iconic Alfasud has Alfa Romeo had a car in its range as affordable as the new MiTo. First impressions are good.

   



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| First Drive | Milan, Italy | Alfa Romeo MiTo |

Alfa Romeo has an aggressive new model strategy for the next few years, with plans to grow the brand including diversifying into emerging markets and even returning to the USA. One of the most important new cars though is the MiTo, an entry-level Alfa the likes we've not had the option of since the much-loved Alfasud of the '70s. Alfa is squarely taking aim at the MINI with this car, as well as Audi's forthcoming A1.

In the Metal

Alfa Romeo traditionally trades on style, but the designers have been given a particularly free reign with the new MiTo. Alfa's new supermini may sit on the same platform as the Fiat Grande Punto, but the MiTo shares only its proportions, as the detailing is far more flamboyant and the shapes used not found elsewhere in this market segment. At the front, large, teardrop-like headlights are complemented by the evocative Alfa shield grille and two large lower air intakes. Adding to the impression of a face is the option to change the colour of the headlight surrounds. Much noise was made at the launch about the similarities between the MiTo and the fabulous 8C Competizione supercar, but arguably the MiTo is cooler, as a supercar is expected to be this dramatic, whereas few superminis are.

As with the exterior of the MiTo, the interior is barely recognisable from that of its Fiat sibling. The dashboard is new and features a distinctive swathe of soft-touch material that has the appearance of carbon fibre weave. There are a few instances of cheaper plastic inside the MiTo, they are not where it matters. The sporty steering wheel, gear lever and handbrake are all as nice to hold as they are to look at and the new instruments manage to be interesting and clear at the same time.

What you get for your Money

Even though the MiTo range starts at just 10,975, every model is decently equipped, with air conditioning, alloys, seven airbags and an array of fancy new electronic driving aids all standard even on the basic naturally aspirated 1.4-litre model. The 153bhp 1.4-litre sits between the MINI Cooper and Cooper S in terms of price and performance, but it's incredibly well equipped. Regardless of the rational, logical reasons for purchasing the MiTo, we expect many to be swayed by its looks, though if that's not tempting enough, Alfa Romeo plans to offer buyers special deals on insurance too, which should attract younger buyers.

Driving it

It's easy to get comfortable in the driver's seat thanks in part to reach and rake adjustment on the steering wheel. Insert the key and the rev counter and speedo needles swing all the way to their maximum in sync before sharply returning to zero. Before setting off, you can choose to alter the character of the car with Alfa's new 'D.N.A.' system. All models feature a neat switch next to the gearlever that offers three modes of operation: Dynamic, Normal or All-weather. This alters the steering assistance, electronic driving aid thresholds and the engine's torque curve. In time, it will also be tied in with Alfa's new twin-clutch automatic gearbox. In the Dynamic mode, the steering weights up, the throttle is more sensitive and more torque is available lower in the rev range.

The MiTo features coilover springs fitted to the monotube dampers, which is claimed to reduce body roll, but in a manner that has a less negative effect on the car's ride quality than stiffer springs would. Despite that, the ride is distinctly firm though the MiTo definitely feels agile and roll-free, even if the steering could do with a lot more feel.

Both 118bhp turbodiesel and 153bhp 1.4-litre turbo petrol models are willing and eager, though the former is the better all-rounder with a superb 58.9mpg combined consumption figure and just 126g/km of carbon dioxide. It's commendably refined too.

Worth Noting

Despite sitting at the bottom of the Alfa range, the MiTo is being treated like the company's halo model and so there will be loads of new technology rolled out in the coming years debuting in the supermini. A DSG-style dual-clutch gearbox is just around the corner, as is a new valve opening mechanism Alfa calls Multiair. A MiTo GTA has been confirmed for production in 2009, with 230bhp from a 1,750cc turbocharged engine, front-wheel drive and a limited slip differential and there are strong rumours that Alfa will produce a MiTo cabriolet.

Summary

In the UK, order books will open for the Alfa MiTo in October, though the first customer cars won't arrive until January 2009. Prices start at 10,975 for the 1.4-litre, 94bhp Turismo model, with the top-end 153bhp 1.4-litre turbo costing from 14,975. The initial range will also include a 118bhp version of the 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine, as well as the 1.6-litre turbodiesel used in the Bravo Eco and a 1.3-litre turbodiesel, all except the latter fitted with six-speed manual gearboxes. Taking into consideration the high level of standard equipment - never mind the unique styling - we'd have to say that the MINI has a serious rival on its hands.

Shane O' Donoghue - 2 Jul 2008



  www.alfaromeo.co.uk    - Alfa Romeo road tests
- Alfa Romeo news
- MiTo images

2008 Alfa Romeo MiTo specifications:
Technical specifications for 2008 Alfa Romeo MiTo 1.4-litre turbo petrol 155
Technical specifications for 2008 Alfa Romeo MiTo 1.6-litre JTDM 120

2008 Alfa Romeo MiTo. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2008 Alfa Romeo MiTo. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2008 Alfa Romeo MiTo. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2008 Alfa Romeo MiTo. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2008 Alfa Romeo MiTo. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.

2008 Alfa Romeo MiTo. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2008 Alfa Romeo MiTo. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2008 Alfa Romeo MiTo. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2008 Alfa Romeo MiTo. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2008 Alfa Romeo MiTo. Image by Newspress.



2008 Alfa Romeo MiTo. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2008 Alfa Romeo MiTo. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2008 Alfa Romeo MiTo. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2008 Alfa Romeo MiTo. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2008 Alfa Romeo MiTo. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2008 Alfa Romeo MiTo. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2008 Alfa Romeo MiTo. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2008 Alfa Romeo MiTo. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2008 Alfa Romeo MiTo. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 






 

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