The pint-sized Alfa Romeo Mito arrived in 2008, bit still looks fresh after a minor update for 2014. Announced at the 2014 Geneva motor show, the changes mirror that of big-bro, the Giulietta QV. So for the Mito, it’s ciao manual gearbox and bonjourno paddleshifters as it chases down the Audi A1, the new Mini and Peugeot 208 GTI.
Why is Alfa going away from the manual?
Who wants a manual? It’s pesky rivals like the VW Polo GTI that have convinced the masses – and car companies – to ditch the manual ’box. Thankfully, the brilliant Fiesta ST still lets you change gears with your feet and left arm, but the Mito gets the dual-clutch as means of ramping up volumes to reduce production costs. It also improves fuel economy, acceleration times and makes it much easier to text while you’re driving….
What are the QV’s stats?
There are few changes to the Mito apart from the new gearbox, with the 1.4-litre turbocharged four-pot delivering the same 168bhp as before. Yet the dual-clutcher means that the Mito now covers 0-62mph in 7.3sec – a 0.2sec improvement. That places the Alfa between the Polo GTI’s 7.8sec and the Ford Fiesta ST’s 6.9sec. There’s a sub six-second club in this class, and the Mito’s firmly locked out. Fuel consumption between this trio sees Mito’s ahead with 52.3mpg, from the previous 47.1mpg, besting the Ford and VW who both claim 47.9mpg.
What’s it like to drive?
Again, apart from the gearbox, little has been done mechanically to the Mito. So that means its charming burble remains, although you wouldn’t call it raucous, even when you’re charging hard in it. Tick the sports seat option, as the standard flat chairs are a little hard yet lack support, but the driving position is good otherwise.
Around town, the Mito’s size is a bonus, and that new flat-bottom wheel shared with the Giulietta QV looks retro and feels good to hold. The rest of the cabin is okay at best in terms of fit and finish, not quite living up to the visual polish and sparkle it promises. Flick the DNA switch from Normal – which adjusts the steering, throttle and adaptive dampers – to Dynamic, and the Mito’s at its most aggressive, which doesn’t mean it actually has any aggression. Instead, it lacks brutality, a ferocious attack that the likes of the Fiesta ST can muster, and for a top-line performance model, it’s not good enough.
The body roll is managed reasonably, but the steering is vague and you can’t place the Mito with the precision of a Clio RS, for instance. The ride, too, is an odd mix of softness – with plenty of lift under throttle – and firmness, with small bumps turning into crashes and potholes sending shockwaves through your hips.
Alfa has not yet built a serious performance hatch. The changes to the Mito for 2014 cannot transform a car that lacks a hard enough edge for enthusiast to be drawn away from some brilliant rivals, yet it doesn’t have the polish to pass a performance-luxury offering. The Mito sits in no-man’s-land, and needs to dig in and show some fight if it’s to win the B-road battle. It simply can’t answer its fresher, shaper rivals, and at £22k, doesn’t present strong value. Again, Alfa will have to rely on style to win buyers, rather than substance.
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