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Brand New Alfa Romeo

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Mike Stevens | Jan 28, 2009

They say fashion is cyclical, and in motoring nothing illustrates that better than the hot hatch. The Volkswagen Golf GTi, Peugeot 205 GTI and even the Suzuki GTi gave the class runaway popularity through the 80s. During the 90s however, things waned for the hot-hatch as the small convertible began a return to favour.

Now, however, we’re seeing a resurgence of small, practical, affordable cars that are more than just lukewarm.

Is the hot-hatch back? And which is the current king of desirable hot hatches? You would have to think that the MINI tuned by John Cooper Works has gotta be up there - it's got rolled-gold heritage, cute-as-a-button looks, and - unlike some retro-styled modern vehicles - is actually a cracking drive. (It's a BMW thing; they know the importance of making cars that people actually enjoy driving.)

The latest member of the hot hatch fraternity to line up head-to-head against the Germanic Brit, is from the land of automotive flair. Alfa Romeo has announced a GTA version of the diminutive MiTo to be unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show.

Alfa MiTo Rear

The Gran Turismo Alleggerita, or lightened grand tourer, editions have always been Alfa Romeo's sportiest cars. Alfa Romeo's last hot hatch, the 147 GTA, took the 'big engine in a small car' principle (something at the core of every hot hatch) and did it with typical Italian exuberance. Instead of your regular weedy four-pot the car copped a large capacity V6, and it only powered the front wheels.

The results were interesting, in the same way a shark attack is 'eventful'.

The Alfa MiTo GTA will not be deviating from this course: 176kW sounds like fun in anyone's books. That's around 20kW more than the John Cooper Works MINI, and when you're only hauling 1.1 tons around, equates to over 10 percent more power.

Thankfully, Alfa has learned from the 147 GTA, and decided to fit a proper sporting differential. The Q2 electronic diff will do its best to stop all that Italian passion from flinging you head-first into the scenery wreathed in tyre smoke, the biggest criticism of its bigger brother.

It wouldn't be Italian if it didn't look 'the goods', and the MiTo GTA has its lines sharpened and a bespoke front bodykit. If people seeing their rear-view mirrors quickly filled by the tiny beast approaching didn’t realise it was all business, the sight of the pumped guards and big wheels will definitely let them know.

To sweeten the deal, the projected price for this car is about $4000 under the JCW Mini. With the other Italian chic heavyweight, the Fiat 500 Abarth, also on the horizon, the MINI is in for one hell of a fight to keep its crown.

Alfa MiTo Gallery:

[Gallery=342]

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