Can cars that are smaller and more efficient really also be more desirable? Alfa reckons so.
So, to what an Alfa Romeo should be about – the driving experience. First impressions are good. You sit lower than you would in most rival premium superminis – certainly lower than you would in the Fiat Punto that shares the car’s basic structure and many of its oily bits. There’s a lovely three-spoke leather-trimmed steering wheel to grip and ahead of you lie a lovely set of deeply cowled instruments. It’s a proper driver’s cockpit. Beyond that, you’d hope perhaps, for an Alfa to have its own unique engine. The Milanese engineers have done a good job in tweaking the powerplants that are available to give them some high-revving, sweet-sounding Alfa-like character.
Most cars have some kind of styling brand identity but with an Alfa, the whole design
has a unique look that could belong to no other marque - and it’s one you’ll either love or hate. The front end ought to look a little awkward, the shield-shaped front grille with its serpent-eating-baby badge pushing the numberplate awkwardly to its left. Though, somehow it all just works, with rounded jewel-like front and rear lights perfectly setting off sleek, aerodynamic bodywork derived from 450bhp Alfa’s 8C Competizione supercar.
As before, this remains a three-door-only shape and at first glance, little seems to have changed in comparison to the car we were first presented with back in 2009. True Alfisti who care to peer a little closer though will notice the improvements visited upon the improved model, the small but subtle changes made to the chromed front grille, the titanium grey headlamp and tail lamp surrounds, the tinted rear windows and the sports rear bumper.
The same mantra of careful improvement has also been applied to the cabin with its revised dashboard, smarter steering wheel, more supportive seats and upgraded plastics. The first thing you’ll notice upon entry is the freshly installed 5-inch Uconnect touch screen infotainment system with its voice recognition, Bluetooth and optional sat nav features. This set-up also supports text-to-speech and audio streaming technologies and brings the small Alfa properly into the modern era.
Otherwise, things are much as before. If you’re going to pay premium money for something sized somewhere between a supermini and a family hatchback, then you want it to feel pretty special inside as well as out – and the MiTo doesn’t disappoint. The main dials are hooded in true Alfa-style and the optional carbonfibre-look dashboard covering is part of a variety of racy trim materials employed to impressively up-market effect. It’s a comfortable driving environment too though there is the small caveat of a reduction in headroom when the optional sunroof is specified.
On the back seat, space for heads and legs remains necessarily restricted, but a couple of adults on shorter journeys can be reasonably comfortable and two children will be fine. At a pinch, you could even fit three youngsters in were it not for the fact that there are only two seatbelts. On the plus side, there’s certainly a lot more room than you’ll find in a rival third generation modern era MINI Hatch.
The MiTo must play a fundamental role in keeping its company afloat by appealing to a much broader palate of automotive tastes in the premium supermini segment. Individual enough to keep dyed-in-the-wool ‘Alfisti’ folk happy, it must at the same time be accessible enough for a new generation of drivers simply looking for style and performance in a compact, practical package.
As to the result, well it depends on how emotionally detached you can be when it comes to your decision. But in return, you’d get a cold, clinical piece of compact automotive real estate. And if you think life’s too short for that kind of thing, I’d find it hard to disagree.
Alfa knows the build, the ride and the steering will all need to be better in a second generation MiTo design. Loyal buyers stuck with them because they looked and sounded great and felt more special than anything else of comparable price. Observations which are still true here and qualities emphasised by the much improved post-2013 model with its plusher cabin, smarter looks and pokier TwinAir engine. You could see how someone looking for a dash of extra pizzazz could be really taken with one.
Something with a bit of heart. Something with a bit of style. Something with a bit of latin spirit. The Alfa legend lives on.