Alfa Romeo MiTo TwinAir review
Sub 100 g/km cars are rare in the premium car class and Alfa Romeo has achieved it by fitting Fiat Group's award winning 875cc twin-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine into its stylish MiTo. It gives a great looking car excellent potential economy but drivers will need skill and patience to achieve it. Small turbo engines can be winners if you have a light foot and short-shift by changing up gears early.
The MiTo is still unique in class for having driver selectable engine modes (DNA system). Low benefit in kind tax for company car users can't be matched by Audi's A1, equivalent Minis, Citroen DS3s or Volkswagen Polos – which only have five-speed gearboxes compares to the Alfa's six. Alfa Romeo MiTos bought before 30 September 2012 benefit from a five year warranty rather than the present three-year one.
Review by Russell Bray for nextgreencar.com
Award winning, twin-cylinder, 875cc turbocharged engine delivers 78 bhp and 77 lbs ft of torque or 84 bhp and 107 lbs ft, depending whether the driver has selected Dynamic or Natural (used to be normal) on the DNA driving mode system. Fears this engine, already in the Fiat 500, might struggle in the larger MiTo are dispelled quickly as it pulls strongly to a top speed of 108 mph. Acceleration to 62 mph takes 12.5 seconds but 'feels' quicker because of the distinctive engine note which also makes people look round to see what it is!
Dynamic mode, with more power and weightier steering is best for out of town and encourages a spirited, but not very economical driving style. Body roll is well managed and the powered front wheels don't start to 'push' off your chosen cornering line until you are driving quite hard. This is helped by the lower front end weight due to the smaller engine. An impression of not much feel through the powered steering was reduced after charging round Thruxton race circuit's twisty kart track – well it is an Alfa! In All Weather mode (A), like Normal a low power setting, the safety systems intervene too soon to enjoy the car's adjustability but would be welcome on an icy road.
The styling of the MiTo, with its hints to the sensational Alfa 8C Competizione, particularly when viewed from the rear; make other superminis like the Honda Jazz or even Audi's A1 look like wallflowers in comparison. New metallic body colour, Ametista Black, which has a purple hue, really shows off the MiTo's shape. The downsides of such a curvy shape are poor rear window vision and rather claustrophobic rear seats. Access to the rear seats is tricky being only a three-door car and the big doors need extra care in car parks. Boot space is okay at 270 litres but bags have to be lifted over the high sill. It is 4063 mm long and 1720 mm wide.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
Ride comfort was a little better than I remembered, though it still jitters over broken surfaces. Perhaps Alfa has learned something about UK roads since the MiTo was launched in 2009. Front sports seats grip you well and the seats are available in full leather (on the test car) for an extra £900.
The faux carbon fibre effect to the dashboard helps the classy appeal of the cabin. Controls in the main are logical and easy to figure out. Having stepped from Toyota's GT86 sports car the Alfa's six-speed gear change felt vague; a pity as you need to use it a lot to make the most of the economy or performance available.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
Even though these were low mileage press cars I sense you will struggle to get near the official combined cycle fuel economy of 67.3 mpg. On a test route where most averaged about 40 mph the real world fuel consumption was between 29 and 42 mpg. CO2 emissions of just 98 g/km mean a zero road tax rating, no London congestion charge to pay and just 10% benefit in kind tax for company car users. Company car drivers also save the 3% premium they would pay for an equivalent sub 100 g/km diesel. Companies can also write off the MiTo's whole cost in the first year, as opposed to 20% per year, bringing down corporation tax liability. Insurance is group nine.
To complement this ingenious engine's built-in potential economy, there is an automatic engine stop and re-start system to save fuel in stop-start traffic and 'intelligent' alternator to capture and use energy that would otherwise be lost during braking to charge the battery. It is estimated to save about two to three per cent in CO2. In natural mode for more economical driving, but only really suitable in traffic, power and torque are reduced and a gear change indicator advises when changing up would save fuel. Rather than run on specially low rolling resistance tyres, which can have reduced grip, Alfa says it fits conventional tyres which deliver the best consumption. The MiTo TwinAir has been awarded a Next Green Car Rating of 29.
Standard specification on the Spring trim level includes 16 inch alloy wheels, cruise control, front fog lights, manual climate control, DNA driving mode selector and Blue&Me system with Bluetooth hands-free connectivity and USB media system. Distinctive trim models get 17 inch sports alloy wheels, red painted Brembo brake calipers, rear parking sensors, chrome and aluminium interior trim, aluminium sports pedals, front armrest with storage compartment, aluminium kick plates, sports dials with white illumination, sports rear bumper, driver and passenger lumbar adjustment, space saver spare wheel and chrome exhaust tail pipe.
Model tested: Alfa Romeo MiTo TwinAir Distinctive
Body-style: Five-seater premium supermini
Engine/CO2: 84hp 875cc 2-cylinder turbocharged petrol/98g/km
Trim grades: Sprint and Distinctive
On-road price: TwinAir Sprint from £14,150. Test car £17,085
Warranty: Five years
In the showroom: From July 28th 2012
Review rating: 3.5 STARS