Alfa Romeo MiTo review
Small, stylish and surprisingly fast, the Alfa Romeo MiTo is a desirable supermini - but its firm ride and small cabin won't suit everyone
The Alfa Romeo MiTo is one of the most attractive superminis on the market, and its stylish exterior design makes it a striking alternative to the MINI hatch and Audi A1. Like the MINI, it comes with a wide variety of petrol and diesel engines, including high-performance and low emissions versions. But it's only available in one bodystyle and the three-door layout means it's not the most spacious car in its class by a wide margin. The introduction of the TwinAir two-cylinder turbo engine from the Fiat 500 does mean its very efficient though - even if it lags behind its rivals somewhat dynamically.
Our choice: MiTo 1.4 TB MultiAir 135bhp Distinctive
Alfa Romeo has always made beautiful cars, and the MiTo is no exception. Taking its styling cues from the Alfa 8C Competizione supercar, its wide wheelarches and squat profile will definitely get you noticed more than conservative rivals like the VW Polo, and it's just as distinctive as premium three-door rivals like the Audi A1 and MINI. While entry-level cars make do with steel wheels, top-spec versions come with 17-inch alloys and a rear spoiler as standard for an even sportier look. The interior is less successful though and the cheap dark plastics and poorly fitted panels make it feel like a shoddy product and getting comfortable is not easy thanks to the huge steering wheel and lack of proper seat adjustment.
There's a wide range of engines to choose from, in various different states of tune. The smooth 1.4-litre petrol has been tuned to three power outputs, 78bhp, 105bhp, or 135bhp – the latter is turbocharged, giving strong performance. The 875cc two-cylinder TwinAir engine is efficient and responsive but its noisy engine note doesn't really suit the Mito very well. Two diesels complete the line-up: a 1.6-litre unit with 120bhp and 320Nm of torque, which is noisy and unrefined, and a smaller 85bhp 1.3-litre that emits just 95g/km, making it tax exempt. Light steering means the MiTo is easy to manoeuvre around town, but doesn't inspire much confidence at higher speeds. Models with larger wheels suffer from a jittery, firm ride as well and the gearbox is notchy and imprecise.
In the benchmark Euro NCAP crash test, the MiTo scored an excellent five star rating. Standard safety equipment includes seven airbags, ESP traction control and ISOFIX child seating. Spend a little extra and you can add a tyre pressure monitoring system and bi-xenon headlamps. While the MiTo does seem better built than previous Alfas, the company still has a poor reputation for reliability, which is reflected by its poor showing in our annual Driver Power survey, where it ranked 25th. Not only that but the electrics and interior plastics are likely to cause more trouble than in the equivalent MINI or Audi models.
The Alfa Romeo MiTo's interior layout is simple and easy to use, and the fit and finish has improved over Alfa's of old. All versions are well equipped, with even base models getting air-con, a trip computer, electric windows and stop and start as standard. Like the MINI, the MiTo is only offered as a three-door, and space inside is quite limited. The rear seats are cramped and quite difficult to clamber into, and there isn't much head or legroom. The 270-litre boot is adequate - it's certainly bigger than a MINI's – but the boot opening isn't very wide. 60/40 split folding rear seats - which are standard on most rivals - are an option that costs around £500 too.
One of its biggest strengths is its affordable running costs. The cleanest 1.3-litre diesel engine will return an amazing 78.5mpg combined, and at 95g/km is also road tax and Congestion Charge exempt. Yet even the powerful turbocharged petrol model should manage to return close to 50mpg, thanks to a stop and start system that cuts the engine in stopped traffic, and its cheaper to buy than diesel variants. However buyers should be aware that the 105bhp 1.4-litre has a higher emissions output than quicker models. A variety of service plans are available for the MiTo, and the generous standard kit list means that you're less likely to inflate the list price with costly options - often a problem for MINI owners. However the MINI also has excellent residual values whereas the Alfa is unlikely to keep much of its value after a few years of ownership - so depreciation is a serious issue.