Alfa's little Mito isn't just fun, it's also efficient and green. Jonathan Crouch checks out the JTDM-2 diesel model
Ten Second Review
Cars that are smaller and more efficient can also be more desirable. Alfa Romeo hopes proof can come in the form of this Mito model, a supermini-sized sporty small hatch. Aimed at the MINI but offering a little more high street wow factor, this Italian alternative is attracting a loyal following. To understand why, we've been taking a look at the now more efficient 1.3-litre JTDM-2 Multijet diesel variant.
It took a long time for the market to see a product that properly competed with BMW's MINI. That car proved that European drivers were prepared to pay quite a premium for something three-door and compact, provided it was stylish, sporty and had the right brand cachet. Step forward Alfa Romeo's Mito. Thirty years ago, enthusiasts on real world budgets dreamed of an Italian car packing all of Alfa's heritage and spirit into a four-metre length - and realised it with the iconic Alfasud. Today, the Mito should satisfy their kids in exactly the same way. The latest Mito range has been thoroughly revised in recent times, with updates that go way beyond the normal bumpers, grilles and headlights job that most cars are treated to as they enter middle age. The result of all this effort has turned what was already a good design into one that you could buy as an interesting alternative to top versions of mainstream fare like Fiestas and Corsas. Yes, really. A key update comes with changes made to the diesel variant we're looking at here.
So, to what an Alfa should be about - the driving experience. Even in this modestly-powered 1.3-litre JTDM-2 diesel version, first impressions are good. You sit lower than you would in the Fiat Punto that shares this car's basic structural and oily bits. But shouldn't an Alfa have its own unique engine? Sadly, in the modern world, that idea makes no sense at this price point but 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. Or at least they have in the Multiair petrol models. There's only so much you can do with a diesel but this 1.3-litre unit is certainly impressive in its own way, meeting the latest Euro 6 emissions legislation, and offering an output now uprated from 85 to 95bhp, which means a 0-62mph acceleration capability of around 12s on the way to 112mph. The Mito's piece de resistance however, is the DNA set-up that's laudably standard on all models for quick driver control of throttle and transmission response, power steering assistance, suspension firmness and stability control. The initials stand for 'Dynamic', 'Normal' and 'All-weather' and these three settings are accessible via this three-position rocker switch that's rather tucked away behind the gear lever. Unlike some systems of this sort, you don't need to be a professional driver to notice the difference it makes.
Design and Build
The visual changes made to this revised Mito are supposed to bring it into line with the brand's flagship Giulia saloon. Hence the revised front sports grille, the dark-finish headlamp bezels, the smarter rear bumper design and the restyled alloy wheels. Inside, all models get upgraded seat upholsteries, 'Uconnect Live' media services and a smarter finish on the centre console, dashboard and door trims. The touch points in the car are notably better than they used to be and there's a Uconnect five-inch, touch-screen infotainment system with voice recognition, Bluetooth, steering wheel remote controls, USB/AUX-in ports and optional satellite navigation. The driving position in the Mito remains lower and more sporty than you'll encounter in the majority of superminis but there's a good degree of adjustment in the seat and steering wheel so drivers can adapt it to their own tastes. The boot is fairly modest at 270-litres and there's quite a high lip which means items have to be lowered inside.
Market and Model
List figures for this diesel variant suggest that you'll be paying somewhere in the £15,000 to £18,000 bracket, depending on the trim level you choose. There are three - 'Mito', 'Super' and 'Speciale'. There's a reasonable level of equipment included too, even for this money. So buyers can expect to find air conditioning, a leather steering wheel and gear shifter and Alfa Romeo's Uconnect five-inch colour touch screen infotainment system with Bluetooth, voice recognition, USB and aux-in inputs, plus steering wheel remote controls. In terms of safety, the base Mito is equipped with Vehicle Dynamic Control (stability, braking and traction control with hill-holder), TPMS (tyre pressure monitoring) and seven airbags, while its visual appeal is enhanced with 15-inch alloy wheels, a rear spoiler and titanium grey headlight and rear light surrounds. If you really like you Alfas though, the trim level you'll really want is the sporty 'Super' spec. With a Mito Super, you get 17-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights, special upholstery with Eco-Leather side bolstering, aluminium for the sports pedals, footrest and kickplates, plus chrome-effect window sills and satin-effect door handles. All Mito variants come with a healthy safety provision that includes seven airbags and anti-whiplash head restraints.
Cost of Ownership
You can see why Mito buyers so often find another couple of thousand to graduate up from the entry-level 1.4-litre petrol model into this 1.3-litre diesel. The petrol unit returns 50.4mpg on the combined cycle and a CO2 showing of 130g/km. In comparison, this 1.3 JTDM-2 variant returns 83.1mpg and will emit just 89g/km of carbon dioxide. These sorts of figures suddenly make the Mito a real option for company car drivers who are looking to bring down their tax bills but don't want to be saddled with a boring car. Demand for used Mito models has proven strong and the resultant relatively beefy residual values have been a big draw for private buyers, especially when the cost of comparatively mundane rivals such as the Vauxhall Corsa and Ford Fiesta has steadily crept up to match the Mito's asking price. Suddenly the Alfa looks decent value. Small wonder sales are trending upwards.
As ideal for those who simply prioritise style and performance in a compact, practical package as it is for dyed-in-the-wool 'Alfisti' enthusiasts, the Mito appears to have the ingredients it needs to succeed. The market for trendy small cars has really taken off in recent years and this baby Alfa looks perfectly placed to capitalise, particularly in this diesel guise. It took the Milanese marque thirty years to produce a car like this. Many will feel that it's been worth the wait.