The new Alfa Romeo Mito is a luxury car in a small package
Alfa Romeo is downsizing its range, but not in terms of character or cost. The new Mito therefore competes head to head with Mini, its dash of Italian derring-do a contrast to Mini's cool Brit persona.
The Mito Sport is NZ's only option, for cheaper cars compete with up-market grey imports. But this top-dollar Mito brings all the fruit you expect from a luxury car, crammed into a small package.
Alfa's gambling that some buyers will be downsizing their cars, but not their price tag or expectations. In that case, Mito should not disappoint.
Sure, the three-door body isn't big. It'll suit singles and couples, though its rear seats are more accommodating than expected and you can carry two adults back there, provided they're not claustrophobic.
The engine isn't big either, though the 1.4-litre turbo packs a mightier punch than scoffers might expect, the 114kW and 230Nm making short work of the 1144kg weight. Better still there's pull from relatively low revs with very little discernable turbo lag. Claimed fuel economy is reasonable too, at 8.5l/100km round town and 6.5 overall.
We saw higher than that, but then we were as lead-footed as conditions allowed. Our Australian launch drive was largely conducted on wet swervery, and we'll await a local drive in drier conditions to confirm our first impressions. But Mito appears keen to rev, and equally nimble without exhibiting the choppiness so common in smaller cars at speed.
It's fitted with what Alfa calls DNA, which moderates throttle and steering response, and its Electronic Q2 System which mimics the effect of a self-locking diff.
The car gets along briskly enough in 'all weather' and 'normal' mode. We mainly opted for the latter, for Dynamic lifted throttle response enough to get interesting on wet and mossy tarmac - and modifies stability control, which we wanted in the wings if things turned pear-shaped.
Fortunately the MacPherson front and semi independent rear suspension work well, though ride is still firm despite recent tuning after post-European launch complaints. Too stiff? You don't buy a performance-oriented car, however small, without making some compromise, and this is it.
Otherwise the cabin is well laid out, a tad busy but hey, that just reminds you how many goodies you're getting. Though some of the plastics are a little, well, plasticky, those areas you touch most often feel good, particularly the weave-textured dash.
Is Mito overpriced at 44,990? Possibly not. Like Mini, it competes for a discerning market still willing to pay for its designer toys. But unlike Mini, the distributor says there won't be a range of more affordable variants to dilute the exclusive appeal.
Then there's what you get for the money - the 17-inch alloys look massive on such a small car. There's the full suite of electronic safety aids plus seven airbags, climate air, Brembo brakes, and Blue&Me telematics with a USB connection and Bluetooth - voice controlled, too.
Mito might be pricey for its size, but these days a pocket-sized executive toy could be just what the market ordered.