What’s hot: Beautiful handling, comfortable, rorty engine, slick shift.
What’s not: Patchy interior, pricey, not enough Alfa exhaust-burble.
X-FACTOR: As much fashion accessory as it is sweet-handling, eager little hot-box.
Vehicle style: Light performance-hatch
Price: $30,500 (plus on-road costs)
Engine/transmission: 125kW/250Nm 1.4 litre turbo | 6spd manual (only)
Fuel consumption listed: 6.0 l/100km | tested: 8.7 l/100km
There’s this word panache; it’s to do with style and flash charm. It’s not very useful, except in seduction, but it’s something most of us wish we had more of.
Interestingly, or not, some cars have it - and some haven’t.
A bit tragically however, even some small cars have the panache-bypass. Personality-less, anonymous, not much going on that sets them apart.
This is not the Alfa MiTo. It apes no other car - its individual lines are all its own. And now there’s a new 'QV' in town: the rorty MiTo Quadrifoglio Verde, and it's $4k less than the outgoing model.
The QV comes with a potent 125kW turbo up front and sits on fat 18-inch wheels. It is a beautifully balanced little belter.
Panache? This thing is dripping with it. That’s why it’s so easy to forgive it its shortcomings; and it has a few, but it more than compensates with latin charm and on-road dash.
So, what’s it like, driving around in all this panache?
- Uconnect five-inch touchscreen
- Multimedia system with Bluetooth (and audio streaming), text-message reader and voice control
- High-end audio system with MP3, USB and aux-in connectivity
- Flat-bottomed leather-trimmed sports steering wheel (with white stitching)
- ‘Competizione’ carbon-look dashboard
- Monogrammed floor mats and aluminium kick plate (with Quadrifoglio Verde logos)
- Quadrifoglio Verde fabric-trimmed sports seats, height adjustable (driver) and lumbar adjustment for driver and passenger
- Cruise control, trip-computer and air-con climate control
Real leather, as soft as a Spanish Hush Puppie, and edged with really smart white piping.
They’re great, but a cost option. And we can’t report on the standard fabric seats until we try them (but they’ve always been pretty good in the MiTo).
The impression of the interior though is that it’s a bit patchy.
Not so much for style - it’s sporty and quirky and has some really nice quality touches - but has an inconsistent feel.
The plastics on the doors and centre console seem a tad out-of-date, and there are obvious joins where you don’t expect to see them.
VW’s Polo might be a tad anal-retentive, but it looks crisply modern compared to the MiTo.
Those debits though are countered by the smart carbon-look dash, the neatly trimmed monogrammed carpets and the alloy ‘Alfa-badged’ pedals.
And it all seems snug, well put-together and squeak and rattle-free.
The gearshift is a cracker, it has a beautiful polished chrome-finish knob and a short precise throw. It’s exactly the kind of gearshift you’ll love having under the hand when whipping the MiTo round a mountain road.
Although, that Italian thing of having the arms and legs a bit out of kilter (get the pedals right, and you can’t reach the wheel, and vice-versa) means you’ll do a bit of fiddling before you’ll find the comfortable compromise.
The boot is deep and useful, helped by the absence of a spare. It’s a bottle of goo you’ll be relying on if you pick up an unintended screw (you lucky dog).
So, while it has some nice touches, and is comfortable and tight, the interior is not filled with wondrous panacheness.
It’s the way the MiTo Quadrifoglio Verde looks and drives that makes it so seductive.
ON THE ROAD
- 1.4-litre MultiAir petrol turbo: 125kW/250Nm; six-speed manual transmission
- 0-100km/h in 7.5secs (top speed of 219km/h)
- Four-piston Brembo® brake callipers finished in red
- Alfa Active Suspension
- 18" exclusive Quadrifoglio Verde alloy wheels
- Sports rear bumper with twin chrome tailpipes
This is a mighty car to drive.
Tiny, it is, but so poised when cornering, so responsive at the wheel, and so alert, that it is immense fun rowing through the six-speed box.
The MiTo Quadrifoglio Verde's 1.4-litre turbo engine pumps out a more-than reasonable 125kW and 250Nm, the latter available from a low-ish 2500rpm.
Those numbers will fire the little ‘green clover’ to 100km/h in 7.5 seconds. From there, if you’ve got your own ‘speed-limit-free’ zone (in some distant island paradise), you can keep the pedal in for a claimed 219km/h top speed.
More to the point, it’s a fox-terrier in traffic. Use the slick short-throw lever to full effect, and throttle response from the little turbo (if you’re not trying to fire from just off idle) is really sharp.
Turn-in, as you’d expect from a car with such a ‘square’, short wheelbase, is electric. Try keeping a silly grin off your face while shooting apexes in the MiTo, just try.
The suspension also gets a good wrap. It’s firm, free of body roll, but elastic in its initial movement. So it rides over bumps and imperfections without the hard jarring particular to some.
And you can make it firmer, or soften it.
There’s a switch at the centre console for Alfa’s D.N.A system settings. It acts on the engine management, brakes, steering, and suspension, providing three different dynamic driving modes.
Push it forward, to ‘Dynamic’ or super-sport mode, and you will feel the car instantly ‘tighten’ for battle. This mode frees the engine up and sharpens throttle response. It also sharpens the feel to the steering, brakes and suspension.
There’s also a Normal mode (natch) and an All-weather mode, the latter acting on safety systems like the traction and skid control. You’d use this heading to the snow (or any normal day in Melbourne).
A disappointment, when working things hard, is the missing rasp from the twin-pipe rear. Where has that wonderful signature sound gone, the Alfa ‘brarrp’ of twin-cam models past?
Also NQR is the ‘springy’ feel to the clutch pedal. It has a bit too much travel before doing anything and needs a little more weight and feel.
The brakes though are sensational. Brembos, of course, and completely untroubled in washing speed off the 1145kg MiTo.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Each on this list is a blast to drive, but one, the Fiesta, is something special.
- Renault Clio RS - $29,290
- Volkswagen Polo GTI - $29,540
- Peugeot 208 GTi - $29,990
- Ford Fiesta ST - $25,990
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
A rating of 3.5 stars? The MiTo Quadrifoglio Verde is better than that as a sporting drive, but it’s a relative score.
And the Fiesta is an absolute bargain at $25,990. And because it is nearly $5000 cheaper than nearly all its rivals, it takes a point or half-point off all of them.
But what the MiTo has, besides brilliant handling and a super drive, is panache. It whips the Fiesta for style, and makes the Peugeot and Clio look positively staid.
Big rims, chunky rubber, and cheeky road-hugging lines that set it right apart from the pack - that’s the MiTo Quadrifoglio Verde.
If you value individualism, and a rapid little carriage, you will love this four-leaf clover.