MiTo 1.6 JTDm Lusso
damn quick, sporty and
nonchalantly stylish, looks fantastic
and unmistakably an Alfa
what we said last time we got behind
the wheel of a MiTo. Since then
happened to change our
opinion. But something has changed:
the MiTo now sports a 1.6 JTDm
EXTERNALLY IT'S ALL MUCH THE SAME with the 'couldn't
be anything else' Alfa shield-styled grille fronting the MiTo's
Alfa 8C Competizione supercar-inspired nose, bulging wheel arches and purposeful,
wide stance. At the tail it's also business as usual with the same bold
Ferrari-esque LED rear lights.
Naturally, the diesel drinks far less fuel. Officially: 58.9mpg on the combined
cycle; 47.9 in town; and 68.9mpg on extra-urban runs. Given we were working
our MiTo pretty hard, our week-long test average came out to a not-to-be-sniffed-at
In the real-world, torque talks. And the MiTo's diesel packs a whopping 236lb
ft of torque for comparison purposes, the nearest petrol-engined MiTo
to it is the new turbocharged 1.4 MultiAir Cloverleaf and that only musters
184lb ft. On the road this makes the 120bhp 1.6 JTDm's punchy performance (0-62mph
in 9.9 seconds, top speed 123mph) easy to access for on-demand overtaking and
also contributes to its unruffled motorway cruising. The six-speed manual 'box
has a slick action, slotting smoothly through the gate for the times you want
to keep the willing turbodiesel on the boil.
Like other MiTos, the inviting cabin is stylishly designed and fitted out with
good quality materials and impressive build quality shut a door and it
closes with a satisfying 'thunk'. The curvaceous, flowing carbon-fibre-look
Competizione fascia adds a sense of occasion with the right hint of sportiness
and it feels marvellous to the touch as do the optional Frau leather
seats which are also well matched to the MiTo's sporting character. The dash
is very 'Alfa' with plenty of elegant detailing including red illumination and
eye-catching silver-edged red needles for the analogue instruments.
Front seats are well bolstered (both back and base) but not to the point of
being intrusive and feature ribbed and perforated leather centre panels along
with manually adjustable lumbar support. Under-thigh support is also good
something that is often overlooked by many car manufacturers yet it's crucial
to comfort, particularly on long journeys.
Keen drivers will quickly feel at home behind the three-spoke wheel with its
perforated leather work areas and comfortable thumb-rest cut-outs; the driving
position is fine and along with ample seat adjustment there's also decent reach
and rake adjustment for the wheel. You also sit low enough down to feel an integral
part of the car. A smart yet nicely subtle touch is the black Alfa logo embossed
on the seat backrests. On a practical note, there's an ample sufficiency of
storage space throughout the cabin.
terms of size and space, the compact MiTo is longer (and certainly more accommodating)
than BMW's MINI hatch. Even rear seat passengers a maximum of two
get decent shoulder, leg and foot room as well as an individual seat each. However,
rear cabin headroom means sub-six footers only in the back. For the record,
two near six-footers can travel comfortably behind two near six-footers. Access
to the rear cabin is easy thanks to tilt-and-slide front seats that easily return
to their original positions.
space all 270 litres of it and accessed by pressing the bootlid badge
is not bad bearing in mind this is a four-seat three-door compact hatch.
On the odd occasion that you might need to transport something inanimate that
can't be belted up in one of the seats you can flip the rear seat base forward
then fold the one-piece rear seat backrest down to extend the load floor. And
although you do end up with a split-level load-bay floor, it's still very useful.
almost feels a different
car with grip, engine
weighting and handling
tautness all instantly
The MiTo's high-opening tailgate ensures loading is easy. More space? It's not
a lot, but the extra storage bins beneath the boot floor do come in handy. Hopefully
you'll never need to use the Fix 'n' Go tyre repair kit that also lives under
Visibility out is good although the kicked-up rear side windows mean that the
smart money ticks the options box for the reversing sensors (£200). Good size
door mirrors help as do the rear headrests which drop down low to maximise rearward
visibility when there are no rear passengers.
The cabin is well-specced with all the right essentials including air conditioning,
power windows (with one-touch: passenger down only; driver up/down), trip computer
with multifunction display, remote audio controls on the leather steering wheel,
radio/CD and MP3 reader, electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors, a
five-star EuroNCAP rating, seven airbags (driver, passenger, front side, window
and driver's knee), electric power-assisted steering and Alfa's DNA vehicle
Talking of which, you'll find the MiTo's DNA switch sited just ahead of the
gearlever. Basically this lets the driver alter the engine, steering, suspension
and gearbox settings to deliver the driving dynamics best suited to the weather/road
conditions or his/her driving mood. Short for 'Dynamic, Normal and All Weather',
these three modes are quickly selected at any time by flicking the switch.
Select Normal and you get the tamed MiTo, its engine tuned for city agility.
Flick to Dynamic mode and you'll see another side of the MiTo as the power-steering
assistance is reduced, the suspension firmed up for sharper handling and 'nannying'
from the Electronic Stability Control and Anti-Slip Regulation systems reduced
in other words, a palpably more entertaining driving experience.
In fact the change is really quite remarkable and immediately tangible: in Dynamic
mode the MiTo almost feels a different car with grip, engine eagerness, steering
weighting and handling tautness all instantly upgraded. You'll also have a bit
more power to play with because in the Dynamic setting the turbo's overboost
comes into play, getting you to the 4,500rpm red-line even quicker.
Driving the MiTo enthusiastically is rewarding. Our test car was running on
a set of the optional 17-inch 5-hole alloys shod with 215/45 Pirelli P Zero
rubber. Grip is good as is body control and the electric steering is at its
best running in 'Dynamic' where it feels most alert and turns-in sharply. The
MiTo looks sporty and it handles like it looks; carving round corners without
losing mid-corner traction, helped by the standard-fit Q2 electronic differential.
At heart the MiTo's a sporty little number and, as you'd expect, it feels firmly
suspended but even so, and even on the large alloys and low-profile tyres, the
ride comfort offers a fair compromise between being fit for hard-charging point-to-point
progress while retaining enough suppleness to run fairly smoothly over the UK's
patched and potholed roads. Overall, it's well above the norm for its class.
It's hard not to like the MiTo from its Italianate looks to its wieldy
character and the economical turbodiesel powerplant that hasn't in any way harmed
its driveability. And, as nimble as it is, its well insulated cabin also makes
this 'baby' Alfa a satisfyingly usable long-distance driving machine.
Alfa Romeo MiTo 1.6 JTDm Lusso | £14,745
Maximum speed: 123mph | 0-62mph: 9.9 seconds | Overall test MPG: 48.7mpg
Power: 120bhp | Torque: 236lb ft | CO2 126g/km