What is it?
A bold attempt to miniaturise whatever it is that makes an Alfa covetable, the MiTo brings Alfa’s desirability and sporting pedigree to the supermini segment. Or at least that’s what we’re meant to believe. The truth is that the MiTo is an odd-looking, compromised affair that makes precious little sense against the Mini, or even a highly optioned Fiat 500. Looking like an 8C Competizione that’s been captured by one of those Amazonian head-shrinking tribes you read about in old geography textbooks, it’s a classic example of a car you can be vaguely happy exists on the strict proviso that you don’t have to own one. It’s facelifted for 2014, you know. No, we can’t tell, either.
The MiTo is no mini 8C, sadly. In fact, it’s no Mini either. Despite Alfa’s raison d’être being great handling and driver involvement, the MiTo is a very ordinary driving experience. It’s based on the Fiat Punto, no driver’s choice itself, and as such gets a raft of decent enough engines: various turbo petrols, topping out at 170bhp, and two strong if agricultural diesels. But, charismatic as the two-cylinder TwinAir is (in 105bhp guise, it’s punchy too), none provides the MiTo with a convincing performance angle, and despite the inclusion of Alfa’s ‘DNA’ system that offers three settings for throttle, ESP and steering weight, this remains a woolly driving experience with insensitive controls and a terrible ride. It’s a shame, as we love the idea of an affordable and entertaining Alfa in the vein of the legendary Alfasud, but this isn’t it. Anyone looking for performance on a shoestring would be mad to overlook the Mini for this.
On the inside
The MiTo is a mixed bag inside. It’s reasonably solid-looking and finished with contemporary, nicely styled details, but it loses ground to the Mini and Polo in terms of overall quality (and that’s despite a supposed quality lift for 2014).
The rear of the three-door-only MiTo is cramped, yet the boot doesn’t benefit from this. And despite being well equipped up front with things such as aircon and a trip computer, you have to stump up for a split/folding rear seat. No, practicality is not at the forefront here, something worth remembering in a competitive market segment where doing all things for all people is not an impossible ask.
Alfa’s reputation for inconsistent quality requires a gentle mention, but the MiTo might fare better, and certainly those Fiat-sourced diesel engines are strong and reliable. It’s a fairly expensive car, though, and not one that is likely to hold its value as convincingly as a high-spec VW Polo or nicely optioned Mini. This is a heart-over-head choice for sure, but we’re all about heart.