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19 Jun 2009

Get over the Mini: Alfa Romeo Mito

The new Alfa Romeo Mito makes “The Mini so 2004.”

Make: Alfa Romeo

Model: Mito

Release Date:  May 2009

Price: S$73,800

Two bejewelled and chrome-encased taillights poke out at the back
Before Audi, Mercedes or anyone else, Alfa has come up with the Mini’s first real challenger - the new Mito - an acronym formed by the first two letters of Milan and Turin, the two cities that gave life to the new Alfa Romeo model.

Fancy the chances of the Italian? The Alfa Romeo Mito derives its mechanical architecture from Fiat Punto Grande, but you would never know from a quick glance. Two bejewelled and chrome-encased taillights poke out at the back: down the sides you’ll find huge flared wheel arches. 

The front design is highlighted by a raised arrowhead bonnet and Alfa’s traditional V-shaped grille, complete with an offset numberplate. In short, the Mito looks like an offspring of the 8C supercar. Compared to the Mini, the newest and smallest Alfa Romeo carries a more aggressive look and the stance is more planted. Perhaps most significantly, it looks refreshing.

While accessorizing the Mito, avoid any of Alfa’s optional decals at all cost, they are tacky at best. It would be advisable to part with some money to upsize the standard 16in alloys, which look rather lost under the generous wheel arches. 

Offspring of the 8C supercar?
Unfortunately, the aggressive looking Mito does carry some flaws in the way it looks. The car is very colour sensitive. From certain angles, the Mito can appear to be carrying too much metal from the sides and around the front nose. Ignore the fancy dressing and you can just make out the silhouette of its more humble cousin, the Fiat Punto Grande, too.

Powering the Mito is a turbocharged 1.4 litre that packs 155 horsepower at 5500 rpm. Peak torque of 206 Nm comes in from a low 2000 rpm. Initial cars come only with a six-speed manual gearbox, which makes for a lovely drivetrain combination. 0-100 km/h takes 8.0 seconds, borderline hot hatch pace but the drama and sounds from the engine and exhaust is truly satisfying.

The turbo-induced performance comes with a prudish appetite for fuel - 6.5 litre per 100km - expected from leading European manufacturers these days. Of praise, would be the low carbon emissions of 153 g/km. Parent company, Fiat still leads the industry for the lowest carbon output in the world, much to do with the Italian manufacturer’s focus on small city cars.

Oxymoronic ‘soft-touch carbonfibre dash
Perhaps of a greater significance, the Alfa Romeo Mito inherits Fiat’s expertise in small fun to drive cars. The Mito is about enjoying the ultra-sharp steering and the instant turn-in. The 4.06 m long hatch rides along on a force-induction wave of torque in almost any gear. Driven within sensible limits, the Mito impresses and solicits a grin from the driver even on a dreary Monday morning.

A first in an Alfa is the new dynamic drive - D.N.A system – allows u to tweak steering, damping and throttle response. Located beside the gearshifter, you can choose between "D" (for Dynamic), "N" (for Neutral) or "A" (for All-weather). The default setting is "N", while "A" for better traction for usage during rainy days.

I left the Mito in “D” most of time to give the steering a much needed tauter feel and a more sonorous exhaust note. The Mito will ultimately end in understeer despite the hard suspension settings, but nonetheless, this is a lively drive and will give the Mini a run of its money for fun derivable.  

D.N.A system – allows u to tweak steering, damping and throttle response
Inside the interior is where the Fiat origins are more apparent: the interior lacks the usual Alfa touches. While handbrakes and steering wheel that are thickly padded and wrapped in hide, local cars come with upholstery seats that are not the typical ribbed leather items found on higher end Alfas. Least the benzina (fuel) and aqua (water) gauges are still onboard. The oxymoronic ‘soft-touch carbonfibre dash is a neat touch too.

In the end, the Alfa Romeo Mito is most certainly a fun ride that comes with some drawbacks that can be easily overlooked when the asking price is thrown into the equation. At S$73,800, it represents a huge savings of S$30,000 over a less powerful Mini Cooper. Being in black is the new black. It's time we stopped being ripped off for our love affairs with small fun cars. Goodbye Mini.

Engine 1,368cc turbocharged 16V
Transmission 6-speed manual
Wheels Driven Front
Max. Power 155 bhp@ 5,500rpm
Max. Torque 230 Nm@ 3000rpm (overboast)
0-100 km/h 8.0 secs
Top speed 215 km/h
Fuel Economy 6.5 litre per 100 km
CO2 Emissions 153 g/km
Dimensions (L x W x H) /Weight
4,065 mm X 1,721 mm X 1,434 mm / 1145 kg
Price with COE* S$73,800

Reader's Comments

1. 2009-06-19 23:39  
10 years down the road, Mini will still be an icon, where will the Mito be? Thats something $30000 cant buy..
Comment edited on 2009-06-19 23:40:59
2. 2009-06-20 09:26  
my love-hate relationship with Alfas.. but unreliable, after having one in the family for 10 years, i think we kinda swear off Alfas for a long time. Maybe i am still living in the boxer-engine-days Alfas. I initially liked the Mito, but after checking it out, look too much like a Fiat, and less Alfa-ish.

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