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It's all a load of bollocks, quite frankly

>Road Test Number 2 – The complete Alfa Mito Range

>The Alfa Romeo Mito. It’s pronounced Me Toe, don’t you know. The name is conjured up between two place names – the Mi for Milan (used to be Alfa’s HQ) and To for Torino (where it’s built). Since its launch around 18 months ago, I’ve driven just about all different variations of Mito, some are good, two are excellent and two are aboslutely terrible and would never advise ever driving.

So, what is the Mito? Well, obviously, it’s a car. And it’s built by Alfa Romeo, only it’s not. The Mito is actually built by Fiat in Turin alongside the Grande Punto / Punto Evo as essentially it is the same car. Peel away the fancy bodywork and it’s all Fiat. The chassis, engines, the lot.

So, what’s available? In the current range there’s 4 choices of petrol engine, all 1.4 – two of which are normally aspirated with 77bhp or 95bhp. The other two are the Fiat Group’s new MultiAir efforts which develop 135bhp or 170bhp in Cloverleaf guise. There’s also 2 diesels – a 1.3 and a 1.6.

I’m not really going to go into trim levels because I’m not interested in that, I want to know what it drives like. Is it any good? Where am I? And why am I asking questions all the time? Do you know?

It’s a fine little car to drive really if you steer clear of the 78 Junior which is about as Alfa-like as a Ford Orion. I’d also steer clear of the 1.6 diesel because as a package, it fails spectacularly. The economy can be match by its petrol counterparts, it’s a lot dearer, it isn’t as good as the 1.3 diesel, it’s noisy, unrefined and the gearchange is apalling.

All models save for Junior have Alfa’s DNA (geddit?) system which offers three different styles of driving. D is for Dynamic, N for Normal and A for All Weather. When Dynamic is activated, assistance to the steering is reduced, torque is increased and the throttle response is much crisper and sweeter (In the Cloverleaf, it D mode also changes the suspension settings as it has an adaptive suspension setup). That said it needs to be because driving in Normal afterwards is dreadful. All Weather is pointless in the UK as the one week we have snow we’re all locked away at home in a complete panic because the world is about to end. So, just keep it in D to get the best out of the little Alfa.

Throughout the Mito range including the hot Cloverleaf version the main problem is the ride and the steering. The steering has quite an artificial feel about it and feels over-assisted in Normal mode. It’s better in Dynamic mode but there’s a lot of fidget and a lot of over-correction is needed. The ride is something you need to get used to. If you want to end up with your spine in kit form, the Mito is the car for you. If you choose ride comfort over anything else, choose the Punto.

Once you get used to the steering, the chassis is very good. It corners flat, turns in well and is coupled to a selection of slick, nicely shifting 5 and 6 speed manual gearboxes (except for the 1600 diesel). All the petrol engines are eager little things. Of all I’ve driven, I take a preference to the lowly normally aspirated 1.4 as it’s such an eager, rev-happy unit and, although not very quick or powerful (95bhp), it’s entertaining to drive it to within an inch of its life. The rest are turbo charged and when Mito was first introduced, 120 and 155 bhp turbo petrols were available, both absolute peaches. However, these have both been replaced by the new range of Multiair engines, rated at 135bhp and 170bhp in the range topping Cloverleaf. Which is my other favourite engine in the range. I really can’t be bothered to go into all the technical speak of the Multiair engine but in the 170 at least, it’s smooth, responsive and almost free of turbo lag.

The interior is well laid out and seems solidly built and a good driving position is easily found. Bluetooth connectivity comes on top end models and an MP3 compatible stereo comes on all models. Air con is standard throughout the range as are electric windows and mirrors.

However, if I am nitpicking with the car, I’m still not quite used to the frontal styling. It also annoys me that the speedometer view is partially blocked by the steering wheel. Rear seat space is so much at a premium that really all you can fit there are guitar plectrums. And the boot has a high sill. However the way it drives, the engines and the way the side and back end look, it’s a hit.

It will just be interesting to see what reliability and durability will be like.

So, what’s on the old score board Miss Ford?

Styling: 15/20
Performance: 18/20
Handling 15/20
Ride: 9/20
Comfort: 13/20

So, the Alfa scores 70 out of 100. Better than the subject of my first written road test, the VW Beetle. True, the Mito has some shortcomings and flaws – it’s steering is numb, the ride is hard, the 1.6 Diesel is rubbish, the front end styling is, in politeness, polarised, and the DNA is a gimmick. But it has other talents which are hard to ignore. It’s also cheaper than a Fiesta.

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September 3, 2010 - Posted by | Motoring

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