Alfa Romeo MiTo

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Alfa Romeo MiTo 1.6 JTDM Veloce

Road Test

Alfa Romeo MiTo 1.6 JTDM Veloce

Driven July 2009

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It's taken a few months for the MiTo to get a proper diesel engine. So far it's been getting by on a safe but dull 1.3-litre unit, but now we have this - a 1.6-litre looking to flex its muscles in the direction of a Mini Cooper D. It's about the same size as the Mini's, give or take a cubic centimetre or two, but gets a lot more torque (236lb ft versus 177).

Unfortunately, that extra shove gives the MiTo's CO2 figure a kick in the guts. That plentiful torque is useful if quick driving is your kinda thing, but not great if you're looking for a cheaper tax disc. While the Mini emits a squeaky-clean 104g/km, the MiTo puts out 126. That's an 85-quid-a-year difference.

Forget carbon for now, though. Because if you're going to buy an Alfa, what you really want to know is how it goes. And it's good news, from the engine at least. The 1.6-litre JTDM is quiet, swift and more refined than most Fiat Group diesels. There's no sign of intrusive clatter and it sounds peaceful enough at motorway speeds.

For a diesel, it can even feel fun, especially when you flick the DNA (Alfa's electronic trickery system) into ‘dynamic' mode. That sharpens the throttle, weights up the steering, and engages turbo overboost, sending the revs hurtling into the redline a good deal faster.

But - and because it's an Alfa there is always a but - the MiTo has a major problem, and it lies at each corner of the car.

The suspension just can't deal with what the road throws at it. Roll over potholes and it crashes hard enough to make your teeth chatter. Hit a speed hump slightly too fast and the dampers thump into their bump-stops, sending passengers into an impromptu head-banging session. And then there's the motorway bobble as it fails to settle into a smooth, flat cruise. There's just nothing subtle about it, and it's hard to enjoy the car's strong points while all that rodeo action goes on underneath you.

It's just not good enough for a car hoping to compete with the best. And that's a shame, because there are lots of reasons to like the MiTo. The stylish interior, the pretty exterior, the strong diesel, the lively DNA system. But at this price, if it's really going to scrap with the Cooper D, that suspension needs to do a whole lot better.

Dan Read

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