1.9.2011 Alfa Romeo MiTo review
Great looks and a fun drive make the Alfa Romeo MiTo 1.3 JTDM Sprint a winner in the compact, sporty hatchback category. Only restricted boot space and awkward access to rear seats mar the car's practicality.
Communication features including Blue&Me make the MiTo as desirable as the Mini and pretty good to drive too. Previous versions have held value well, reducing overall running costs by lessening the financial killer of depreciation.
Review by Russell Bray for nextgreencar.com
The new congestion charge and tax busting 1.3 litre JTDM-2 four-cylinder common rail turbo diesel engine developing 85 bhp replaces the 1.3 litre 16 valve 95 bhp. The engine, which produces just 95g/km of CO2, is quite loud from the outside on start-up but quietens down as it warms up and isn't an issue from inside the car. Performance is never going to be exciting with only 85 bhp, delivered at 3500 rpm, and it gains a second on the 0-62 mph time to 12.9 seconds. Make the most of the five-speed gear change and 148 lbs/ft of torque from 1500rpm (effectively unchanged from the previous engine) and you can row the MiTo along quite nicely. Top speed is 108mph.
Part of the fun of driving relatively low powered cars is keeping up time on cross-country routes by tackling advantage of road holding and handling, and judging cornering speeds so precisely you rarely need to use the brakes. It's great for the concentration too which aids safer driving. This version of the MiTo has a DNA switch which alters the engine, steering and suspension settings. 'D' for dynamic reduces power assistance to the steering for more driver feel and stiffens the suspension. 'N' is normal, while 'A' for all-weather increases the sensitivity of the traction control to reduce the chances of losing control on wet or icy roads.
From that offset front number plate to the lights and body styling touches borrowed from the exotic Alfa 8C Competizione model, the MiTo is one of the prettiest and most distinctive cars on the street. The downside of such a curvaceous shape is that boot space is rather limited (270 litres) with the rear seat backs up. Head and legroom is tight in the back if over 6ft tall but seats are well shaped. Despite large doors, access to the rear seats is easiest for children, but fixing them in child seats would be a chore I suspect. Length is 4063 mm and width is 1720 mm.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
Alfa Romeo's designers didn't give up on the style when it came to the cabin. It has a real sense of occasion and a good quality feel. It's rather endearing how the car 'wakes up' when you turn the ignition key with a graphic of the car coming towards you on the information display. It drives away when you switch off.
Manual climate control keeps you chilled and the fuel-saving start-stop system operated faultlessly. Though I am tall, I found the driving position comfortable with none of the old classic 'Italian ape' posture requiring long arms and short legs. Cruise control was easy to operate.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
Official fuel consumption figures are 61.4 mpg urban and I was feeling pleased getting 44 mpg round town and a best on gentle country motoring of 63 mpg, though the official combined figure is 78.5 mpg. CO2 emissions of only 95 g/km put the MiTo 1.3 JTDM Sprint in tax band A with no first year or annual road tax. Warranty is three years/ unlimited mileage and it falls into insurance group 11. Service intervals are at 21,000 miles but I would strongly recommend oil changes before that, especially if the car is mainly used around town and doesn't get a decent run.
No-one but no-one believed me when I told them the racy looking MiTo is so 'green' it doesn't attract any road tax and could venture into central London without incurring the congestion charge. The resulting "I'm being green but I don't look it" is going to appeal to a lot of people who don't want to wear their environmental credentials visibly. Early gear change up light and trip computer fuel read-out encourage squeezing the most out of every litre of the black gold. Automatic start-stop saves fuel in traffic and was not irritating to live with. Bags of low down torque from gutsy engine mean fewer gear changes. A diesel particulate filter takes care of sooty emissions, which gives the tested model a Next Green Car Rating of 28 – the tested model has also qualifies for Next Green Car's Approved List.
The range has been streamlined from 17 versions to nine with both Turismo and Lusso trim levels now replaced with Sprint trim. Standard fittings include 16 inch alloy wheels, DNA car dynamic control system, Bluetooth phone hands-free system with voice recognition, media player with USB connection, radio with CD and MP3 player, manual climate control, cruise control, engine automatic start-stop system and a puncture repair kit in place of a spare wheel. A split/fold rear seat is £450, rear parking sensors £200 and leather upholstery £900.
Model tested: Alfa Romeo MiTo 1.3 JTDM-2 Sprint
Body-style: Compact three-door hatchback
Engine/CO2: 85bhp 1248cc turbo diesel / 95 gCO2/km
Trim grades: Progression, Sprint, Distinctive and Quadrifoglio
On-road price: £14,450
Warranty: Three years / unlimited miles
In the showroom: Available now
Review rating: 4.0 STARS
Next Green Car Rating: 28
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