Talk about making life difficult for yourself. From summer 2014, the new Alfa Romeo MiTo Quadrifoglio Verde (which replaces the old 168bhp Alfa Romeo MiTo Cloverleaf with a more exotic-sounding name) will be fitted exclusively with a six-speed, dual-clutch paddleshift transmission. It’s a strategy that’s hasn’t gone down well on the new Renault Clio RS, so can it work for Alfa?
It’s exactly the same gearbox that lives in the back of the Alfa Romeo 4C supercar, which has also migrated into the 2014 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Quadrofoglio Verde (albeit both with different software maps). Efficiency has seen a welcome increase for the 2014 MiTo QV: claimed economy has leapt from 47.1mpg to 52.3mpg, and CO2 emissions fall from 139g/km to 124g/km.
Unlike the bigger Giulietta, here’s no launch-control function in the 167bhp MiTo, and its 1.4-litre engine is down on power compared to the 179bhp Ford Fiesta ST, and 197bhp Peugeot 208 GTI and Renault Clio RS. The MiTo QV scampers from 0-62mph in 7.3 seconds: brisk, sure, but we’re more used to hatchbacks dipping into the sixes by now, and the MiTo isn’t all that exciting when you push its alloy pedal into the carpet.
The new gearbox is part of the problem, not a solution. It simply doesn’t feel as if Alfa Romeo has managed to successfully calibrate its software to work with the little powerplant in the MiTo - it hesitates when maximum acceleration is asked from medium speeds in a high gear, such as leaving a town for an A-road, or pulling onto a motorway sliproad.
Dual-clutch gearboxes are supposed to deliver seamless torque to the wheels, but this one is not at all at home in the MiTo. Manual changes are better, but it’s still not as crisp as those found on the Clio RS when it's in Race mode, and we’d still take a decent manual shift, as on the Ford Fiesta ST and MINI Cooper S, all day long.
With no chassis revisions for this revised hot MiTo, the old car’s lack of handling polish is carried over, although fitted with 18-inch wheels, the MiTo majors on grip above playfulness.
At £20,120 as standard, the MiTo QV is eye-wateringly pricey, pitched well above class-leading Fiesta ST territory and heading towards well-specced MINI Cooper S and Clio RS country.
Unfortunately, all those rivals are both more fun and more refined than the disappointing Alfa.