£13,125 - £21,680 Price range
47 - 83 MPG
The baby of Alfa Romeo’s tiny range, the MiTo really does provide a tempting way of owning an Italian beauty for relatively little money.
However, despite a facelift and engine spruce-up, age has begun to catch up with the smallest Alfa and its faults are becoming harder to overlook.
That said, it is still a rather pretty thing, so why shouldn’t you consider it?
Alfa has done a good job of funking up the cabin over the Fiat Punto it’s based on, and range re-jig in late 2013 upped the quality and thrown in some more interesting trim materials. Unfortunately, several reviewers find it lacks cohesion and feels a bit cheap next to the newest alternatives. It does have a sense of occasion, though.
Space leaves a little to be desired, too – room in the front is plentiful, but rear passengers with struggle both in the head and leg room departments. The boot is of a generous size, but the load lip is high, making lifting heavy items into it a bit of a chore.
For its class though, space is reasonable. Introduced in late 2013, the new colour touchscreen for the dash is also easy to use. Rear visibility is questionable, so make sure you check it out.
The MiTo’s handling gets mixed reviews. Some praise the way it drives, describing it as fun yet comfortable, while others suggest a distinct lack of steering and ride precision for a car of this class. It’s the ride quality that’s most disputed – one or two testers say it’s unacceptably firm, the car “thumping and crashing” over speed bumps.
There are also mixed thoughts on the steering. Most agree it’s at its best with Alfa’s ‘DNA’ switch left in ‘D’, for Dynamic – with better weighting and feel. The other two modes really aren’t worth using, but some reckon the steering isn’t good enough anyway – it’s quick to respond, but lacks feedback. More than once, the word “vague” is used.
For a small car there’s a surprisingly large range of engines on offer in the MiTo. Kicking off the range is the increasingly ubiquitous twin-cylinder TwinAir engine, now developing 103hp after 2013′s range refresh. It’s a “characterful” unit, but noisy, and difficult to extract good economy figures from – you’re lucky to hit 40 mpg, let alone the official 67.3 mpg.
The 1.3-litre JTDM-2 diesel emits just 90 g/km of CO2 and over 80 mpg. The larger 1.6 JTDM-2 diesel is better-liked by reviewers for its extra shove. Both are refined, but the larger unit shaves a good three seconds from the 0-60 sprint, a worthwhile decrease.
Two further petrol units are available, both based on Alfa’s 1.4-litre TB MultiAir engine. One develops 133hp, and in Cloverleaf form you’ll get 168hp. The latter is the one to go for, with 7.5-seconds-to-60 performance and a better suspension setup, making the car more fun. At 50 mpg, it’s respectably economical too. The presence of stop-start system helps keep fuel bills low too.
The TwinAir is notoriously hard to extract economy from and rare is it that testers get more than mid-40s - so bear this in mind if you're looking at one. Several testers are fond of the "interesting" and "thrummy" engine but do say it's quite noisy - nowhere near as refined as some rivals.
A spruce-up in 2013 brought more power to the unit, bumping it up to 105 PS. And as before, the TwinAir remains a free vehicle to tax, thanks to a 99 g/km CO2 rating.
The shame is that it doesn’t appear too brilliant to drive. The 1.3 only makes 85 horsepower, which is a little behind its immediate rivals, such as the Citroen DS3 and Audi A1 - both of which it loses to in the Auto Express test.
Testers find it hard to make smooth progress thanks to turbo lag, and the stop-start system isn’t the quickest. On the plus side, the engine is refined. The general view is that the petrol engines are still the better options in the MiTo range.
The Cloverleaf tag has long marked out the sportier Alfa Romeo models, and once appeared on the marque's racing cars. The 170 PS 1.4 MultiAir unit under the bonnet doesn't make it a racer, but it's probably the best engine in the MiTo range.
It's essentially the same engine as you'll find in the MultiAir 135, but tuned to produce a little more shove. Like the 135, the 170 still provides an excellent balance of power and efficiency, but trades a little fuel economy for some additional performance - 47.1 mpg, with a 7.5-second 0-60 sprint and 136 mph top speed.
Reviews are generally favourable towards the Cloverleaf, stating that it's surprisingly refined, responsive and very flexible. One reviewer even compares it and its gearbox positively to the Mini Cooper S.
This 135 bhp 1.4 is part of a family of Mito engines branded ‘MultiAir’ and all promising useful combinations of performance and fuel economy. These promises don’t go unfulfilled, either - the MultiAir 135 offers low CO2 and more than respectable economy ratings, at 129 g/km and 50.4 mpg.
Critics are similarly impressed by the way the MultiAir performs. They rate both the 135 and the more powerful 170 (the latter of which you'll find in the drop-down menu under the sporty "Cloverleaf" tag), stating that they’re responsive and offer impressive levels of refinement both in town and on the motorway. One reviewer even describes the pair as having class-leading flexibility!
Many reviews describe the 135 as being great fun as it is, but if you’re after something a little more powerful, the more expensive 1.4 MultiAir 170 is definitely worth a look too.
The 1.6 JTDM-2 is the larger of the two diesels available in the MiTo, producing an additional 30 bhp over the smaller 1.3 JTDM-2 and improving the 0-60 time from a tardy 12.9 seconds to a more respectable 9.9. This has affected the economy figures though, with the 1.6 achieving 64.2 mpg against the 1.3’s 80.7. Similarly, CO2 emissions have been increased, placing the 1.6 JTDM in a £30/year road tax bracket where the 1.3 is free.However, critics seem to appreciate the extra bump in power, describing the 1.6 as quiet, punchy and refined at motorway speeds. Some even use the word ‘fun’ - rather unusual for a diesel engine! One does suggest - perhaps a little unsurprisingly - that the 1.4 TB MultiAir is more enjoyable, but suggests that if you’re more concerned with economy then the 1.6 JTDM-2 is definitely worth a look.
Safety is another area where the Alfa Romeo Mito scores good marks, and why shouldn’t it! A total of seven airbags (including one for the driver’s knee), traction control, and Isofix child seat mounts come as standard, helping the car achieve a five star rating in Euro NCAP crash tests.
Child protection was a three-star affair, while the pedestrian protection offered by the Mito was rated a low two stars.
The MiTo’s semi-premium pricing means it’s more at the Mini Cooper and Citroen DS3 end of the supermini market than the Ford Fiesta end, and that’s a little bit of a problem for a car struggling to challenge the class best in several areas.
The cheapest diesel just cuts under the £15,000 barrier and TwinAir petrols start at around £600 more. To get your hands on the Cloverleaf you’re looking at nearly £19,000, though this is ballpark for most junior hot hatchbacks these days. On-paper running costs look good on all MiTos, but the TwinAir is likely to fall furthest from the mark, so get a diesel if you want proper economy.
Make no mistake – the MiTo is a very interesting prospect. For diehard Alfisti it’s always going to be a more appealing product than the equivalent Citroen or Mini, but for everyone else you’ll find much more talent – and refinement, and better real-world economy, and comfort – elsewhere.
If you have to buy a MiTo, make it one of the 1.4 TB MultiAir models – preferably the Cloverleaf. But most critics would recommend you look elsewhere.
The diesels are efficient, and while they aren’t as fun to drive as the petrol engines, the greater value for money will help justify the decision. The Mito is keen to be driven enthusiastically but vague steering spoils the fun, unlike in the Mini.