It’s time for the Alfa Romeo Mito to stand up and be counted. The Italian hatch and stablemate Giulietta must soldier on until at least 2015, when Alfa’s new range of rear-wheel drive machines starts to take shape.
For a supermini that’s always struggled with a fidgety ride and disappointingly numb dynamics, that’s a big ask – so Alfa’s come out fighting with a refreshed Mito for 2014. Read on for the CAR review.
It doesn’t look much like a new Mito from where I’m sitting…
This isn’t Jackie Stallone’s full facelift; more a subtle nose job. There’s extra chrome around the bulbous nose’s 'shield' grille, and new surrounds for the headlights and taillights. Fresh paint colours and tinted rearward glass are the only other exterior alterations for the bug-eyed Mito.
Has there been a more comprehensive overhaul inside?
Yes, but not necessarily for the better. To jazz up the cabin – which was easily outshone by the Citroen DS3, Fiat 500 and Mini Cooper – Alfa looks to have turned the dash over to a community kids art project. The resultant faded red tint across the dashtop bears an unfortunate 1990s tie-die phase resemblance – mercifully a more muted grey-to-black finish is also available.
Front-and-centre in the dashboard is a revised infotainment system. Yes, Alfa has had a crack at a touchscreen system: it’s called ‘Uconnect’, and features an in-built TomTom nav. Suffice to say it’s not up there with Renault’s funky R-link interface, or the likes of the unsung Kia/Hyundai touchscreen, feeling too clunky in operation to really freshen up the ageing Mito.
Plus, it’s marooned in an ocean of blank plastic, where Alfa has shoehorned in the afterthought system halfway through the Mito’s life cycle. In a class where trendy showroom appeal is goldust, the Mito’s cockpit isn’t up to muster, with mis-matching surfaces and material all competing for attention.
Can the engine make up for the flaws?
If any motor can, it’s an Italian one, and this particular TwinAir is a hoot. Alfa has upgraded the 990cc turbocharged twin-pot for 2014, upping power from a spritely 83bhp to a downright rorty 104bhp. The turbo two already provided loads of fun as a rev-happy plaything, but now there’s extra incentive to forza Mito, thanks to the amusingly thrummy engine note and improved response.
The Mito’s a bit of a porker at 1130kg, so the extra Italian stallions don’t make the Mito TwinAir fast: it takes 11.8sec to haul to 62mph, and tops out at 114mph. With such a characterful motor on board, it always feels faster though. Claimed economy is an optimistic 67.2mpg – our TwinAir-equipped Fiat Panda long-termer averaged half that figure. However, CO2 emissions stand at 99g/km, so at least there’s no road tax to fork out for (wow, £20…).
And does the chassis live up to the engine?
Sadly not. The Mito is best sampled in Dynamic mode, selected via the centre tunnel’s ‘DNA’ switch – the other two modes being ‘Normal and All-weather’. Dynamic adds weight to the steering and sharpens up the throttle response noticeably, but even here, the Mito isn’t playful like a Ford Fiesta or Mini Cooper. The steering is dully weighted and vague, though the pronounced body roll and unsettled ride do their best to distract you from the mute helm as you punt the Mito along a twisty road. But yes, it is at least better in Dynamic, so just make sure you select it as routinely as you clip your seatbelt on.
Sure, rival trendy superminis like the Audi A1, Citroen DS3 and Peugeot 208 aren’t the last word in dynamic depth either, but they’re of a higher perceived quality – crucial in this hotly fought market. Our ‘Distinctive’-spec test car costs from £15,550 – TwinAir Mito prices kick off at a more competitive £14,350. Still, even at that price, a super-talented 99bhp Ford Fiesta Ecoboost in top-dog Titanium trim is just £595 more…
Much as we love Alfa Romeos, and appreciate the Mito’s distinctive looks and game engine, its all-round ability simply isn’t convincing enough against newer, sharper opposition. It’s small wonder, then, that Alfa is going for broke instead, and chasing BMW in the hatchback and saloon battle – roll on the new era, we say.