Just as you can buy a briefcase from Aldi, you can buy a briefcase from Gucci…just as you can buy a small hatchback from anywhere, you can also buy an Alfa Romeo MiTo. And while we’re not brand snobs like the ladies on Foxtel’s Real Housewives, the fact is the Alfa Romeo MiTo does deliver Italian looks, style and a name which invokes real passion – a combo some rival brands in this segment can only dream of.
Alfa Romeo Australia has refreshed the MiTo lineup for 2014 with enhancements across the range making it even more ‘on-trend’. And with prices starting from just $22,500, this Italian-styled baby demands consideration from all small hatchback buyers.
Alfa Romeo MiTo Overview
Among the changes in the Alfa Romeo MiTo lineup for 2014 is the introduction of the technically-fascinating turbocharged 0.875-litre twin-cylinder TwinAir engine for the entry-grade model ($22,500).
Also new is the 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder MultiAir which powers the mid-grade ‘Progression’ and the higher-specification ‘Distinctive’. CarShowroom.com.au tested the 1.4-litre Alfa Romeo MiTo Progression model with the five-speed manual transmission which is stickered at $24,500.
The Alfa Romeo MiTo 1.4 Progression can also be yours with Alfa’s excellent TCT twin-clutch automatic transmission ($26,500) which is standard in the upscale 1.4-litre Distinctive model ($28,000).
Elsewhere the updated Alfa Romeo MiTo boasts some styling changes and technical updates inside and a freshened exterior.
The updated version of the sporty Alfa Romeo MiTo QV doesn’t arrive ‘Downunder’ until later this year.
Alfa Romeo MiTo Engine
‘MultiAir’ is Fiat-Alfa speak for a unique intake cam profile which controls the amount of exhaust gas recirculated in the combustion chamber for optimized thermodynamic efficiency. One result is sharper throttle response.
The other result is reduced pumping cycle losses which enhances fuel consumption and also cleanses the exhaust. So, aided by the introduction of auto start/stop, combined cycle fuel consumption is 5.6l/100kms and exhaust C02 emissions are rated at 123g/km, the Alfa Romeo MiTo 1.4 MultiAir is ahead of schedule for the tough mandated European standards being introduced progressively through to 2020.
Maximum power is 99kW at 5000rpm and peak torque of 206Nm is delivered at 1750rpm.
Our Alfa Romeo MiTo 1.4 Progression drove the front wheels via a five-speed manual transmission.
Alfa Romeo MiTo The Interior
Here’s where that gorgeous Italian styling jumps-out. For example we just love the curves and angles for the instrument panel cowl and even the air vents look like they were ‘crafted’ rather than churned-out by a CAD system.
Elsewhere there are new cabin materials, including a grain-look for the dashboard finish and you have more choices with the Progression model as tested available with seat trim in black, black/white or black/bronze.
The driving position is typically Italian in that at first it seems to be too long in the arms and too short in the legs…but relax, seat height adjustment and rake/reach adjustment for the stylish (leather-wrapped with red stitching) three-spoke multi-function steering wheel soon delivers the optimal settings. We liked the looks of the front seats and found them nicely supportive.
To the left is the major change for the Alfa Romeo MiTo for 2014 – the Uconnect Infotainment system with its five-inch colour touchscreen to drive the audio, media and phone functions. The Bluetooth interface allows for reading of SMS messages via text-to-speech technology and the audio streaming function transmits turn-by-turn instructions from smartphone-based navigation apps.
Access to the rear seat is via a simple lever which sees the front seats fold/slide. Once there, leg-room is on-par with others in this segment. The rear seat split-folds 60:40 for load-carrying versatility and in this format did pass our golf club test (a golf bag won’t fit into the cargo area otherwise).
Alfa Romeo MiTo Exterior & Styling
And here’s where that gorgeous Italian styling stamps the Alfa Romeo MiTo as something just a little flashier than segment rivals…just like that Gucci briefcase when you walk into a crowded meeting room. No squared-off small hatchback for Alfa Romeo – the MiTo identified by its hallmark Alfa Romeo grille (is there a grille more synonymous with a brand than Alfa’s historic V-shaped design with the sword-and-serpent badge?), dramatic front-end design and curvaceous rear with ridiculously stylish round tail-lights.
In fact the Alfa V-shaped grille has been updated as part of the 2014 model year package for the MiTo – a chrome-plated frame adding more style to the already stylish look.
The Progression model as tested rides on handsomely-styled 16-inch alloy wheels.
Alfa Romeo MiTo On The Road
It was just an average CarShowroom.com.au week with our Alfa Romeo MiTo – a run over our high-speed mountain roads loop, lots of school pickups/drop-offs, city commute and Saturday morning golf. Just how most small hatchback buyers spend their weeks in fact.
Around town, the driveability of the 1.4-litre and five-speed manual was impressive. Easy to use in the commuter crawl and easy to manoeuvre (although no reversing camera isn’t best-practice in 2014).
But this is an Alfa Romeo after all and spirited driving is part of the Italian brand’s DNA so our high-speed mountain roads test loop beckoned. And not surprisingly, in this environment, the Alfa Romeo MiTo didn’t muck around – the relatively docile 1.4-litre came into its own and the five-speed manual was nice and precise (with the driver-select driving mode system in ‘d’ for dynamic).
Alfa Romeo runs the popular MacPherson strut front/torsion beam rear suspension system and it’s calibrated for sporty drivers with the firmness and precision you look for from European cars.
Alfa Romeo MiTo Issues
Some may find that European suspension a tad too firm in a compact hatchback.
Alfa Romeo MiTo Verdict
No we’re not George Clooney driving from Milan to his villa on Lake Como, but in an Alfa Romeo – any Alfa Romeo – you’re allowed to dream. And, as the entry-level Alfa Romeo in Australia, the MiTo facilitates those dreams at a reasonable price.
Sure there are cheaper small hatchbacks and there are the slick German rivals, but the MiTo is so Alfa Romeo and so Italian, it’s definitely going on our shopping list. It’s the soul of the brand and that gorgeous styling which makes the Alfa Romeo MiTo so desirable.
Even in the cold, hard light of day, there’s no denying the Alfa Romeo MiTo’s sporty ride/handling and standout exhaust note are just two reasons why this car should be the vehicle of choice for enthusiast drivers in this league.
And for family buyers, the fact our Alfa Romeo withstood the challenges of the CarShowroom.com.au juniors for a week without anything breaking, scratching or denting is re-assuring news. Yes, you can have Italian style and practicality.
Alfa Romeo MiTo The Competition
Both the Audi A1 (starting price $26,500) and BMW 1 Series (starting price $35,600) and both five-door hatchbacks so comparison with the Alfa Romeo MiTo are a bit unfair. But you get where we’re coming – from (that would be classy European compact hatches). Both the Audi and the BMW and super little cars we’d be happy to own.
Likewise the Mini Cooper (from $25,600). To be fair though, the Mini is more likely a rival for the upcoming Alfa Romeo MiTo QV.