2014 ALFA ROMEO MITO REVIEW
What’s Hot: Sharp handling, punchy 1.4 litre and perky 0.9 litre engines
What’s Not: Interior quality is patchy, jittery ride, manual-only 0.9, woeful auto in 1.4 litre
X-FACTOR: Two-cylinder base model is new for 2014 - and the one to get
Vehicle Style: 3-door premium light hatch
Engine/trans: 77kW/145Nm 0.9 turbo petrol 2cyl / 6sp manual, 99kW/206Nm 1.4 turbo petrol 4cyl
Price: $22,500 (MiTo) to $28,000 (MiTo Distinctive)
Fuel Economy claimed: 4.2 l/100km (2cyl), 5.5 l/100km (4cyl)
Alfa's Giulietta got a host of price and specification revisions last year under new custodians, Fiat Chrysler Australia. Too pricey, and not selling well.
That strategy paid dividends for Alfa. In the past twelve months sales volumes have swelled by almost 162 percent, with Alfa Romeo selling 2373 cars in 2013 compared to just 906 in 2012.
The overwhelming majority of those sales were for the Giulietta, but now it’s the MiTo’s turn for a sales boost.
New for 2014 is the addition of a new $22,500 base model powered by Fiat’s award-winning TwinAir 875cc two-cylinder turbo engine.
Infotainment hardware across the range has also been upgraded - there's now a new five-inch touchscreen.
Meanwhile the existing Progression model has had a price cut of $2600, while the top-dog Distinctive is now automatic-only.
Other changes are relatively minor, with extra splashes of chrome around the grille and new headlamp and tail-lamp surrounds.
Besides new door trims and the better-integrated infotainment display, there’s also a new soft-touch dash pad and different upholstery trim options.
It all feels solidly built, but many of the lower dash and centre console plastics don’t feel quite up to standard at the price.
That said, the new Uconnect infotainment system is something buyers will appreciate, and the Chrysler-sourced software works quite well.
The voice-control functions in particular are hard to fault, and that’s notable in itself. Beyond that, it’ll read out SMS messages, pipe music from portable devices and display trip information.
The audio streaming function will also transmit turn-by-turn navigation instructions from most smartphone navigation apps through the car’s speakers, which is handy given there’s no option of integrated sat-nav even on the high-grade MiTo Distinctive.
Interior comfort is good enough for short stints, but we found the seat cushions to be too firm and poorly shaped for long-distance journeys. Back seat accommodation is good for such a small car though.
Key interior features:
- New door-card designs and dash materials
- New 5-inch Uconnect infotainment system
- Standard Bluetooth, power windows, electric mirrors and USB audio input
- Uconnect infortainment with voice-control
- Luggage capacity: 270 litres
ON THE ROAD
The big news for the 2014 MiTo is the new TwinAir-powered base model, which uses the same 875cc turbocharged engine as the Fiat 500 and mates it solely with a six-speed manual transmission.
It’s a plucky little engine, with a power delivery that feels much more muscular than the TwinAir’s displacement would have you think.
It’s at its best between 4000rpm and the 6000rpm redline, but there’s still a good amount of torque from 2500rpm onward.
Power peaks at 77kW at 5500rpm, while maximum torque of 145Nm is available from 2000rpm (though it doesn’t quite feel like it).
The manual-only drivetrain of the base model MiTo may be a sticking point for some, but, for those buyers, there’s the 1.4 litre MiTo Progression and Distinctive.
The Progression is available with a 5-speed manual as standard, with a 6-speed twin-clutch available as a cost option. The Distinctive is auto-only.
While the 1.4 litre turbo four has good power and torque figures of 99kW and 206Nm, it’s not helped by the TCT automatic.
It’s got one of the worst response times we’ve experienced of a twin-clutch unit, and acceleration off the line is lethargic - even if you give it a shoefull. A genuine concern if you find yourself needing to pull into fast-moving traffic.
Ride quality is also an issue. The Progression rides on 16-inch alloys, the Distinctive on 17-inch; both transmit far more bumps into the cabin than the base model’s 15-inch wheels.
All models bar the base MiTo also come with the Alfa Adaptive Suspension as standard, and its firmer set up doesn’t help ride comfort either.
Happily, the handling is pretty sharp in the up-spec models and the steering is alert - it will tuck the nose in rapidly at speed - and nicely weighted.
- 0.875cc two-cylinder turbo, 77kW/145Nm
- 1.4 litre four-cylinder turbo, 99kW/206Nm
- Six-speed manual (two-cylinder only), five-speed manual (1.4 litre only) or six-speed twin-clutch automatic (1.4 litre only).
- Front-wheel drive
- MacPherson strut front, torsion beam rear suspension
- 257mm disc brakes at front, 251mm disc brakes at rear
ANCAP rating: 5/5 Stars - this model scored 36.1 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: Stability control, traction control, ABS, EBD, hill hold assist, cornering brake control, seven airbags (dual front, front side, curtain and driver’s knee).
FIRST DRIVE VERDICT
As far as the MiTo range is concerned, it’s the $22,500 base model that’s the most appealing. By far.
Not only is it the most affordable way to get a brand-new Alfa Romeo in your driveway, it also rides best and is blessed with the highly-likeable TwinAir engine.
Its $22k price tag also helps quell any complaints about interior quality. At this price, the materials and interior feel matches the asking - not the case for the more expensive $28,000 MiTo Distinctive.
You might miss out on mod-cons like auto-on headlamps and wipers, but for its better ride comfort, six-speed manual and more affordable price, we’d say the new base model MiTo is the way to go.
Pricing (excludes on-road costs)
- MiTo manual: $22,500
- MiTo Progression manual: $24,500
- MiTo Progression TCT automatic: $26,500
- MiTo Distinctive TCT automatic: $28,000