It’s an exciting, and rather vital time, for Alfa Romeo. Headlines suggesting new cars on the horizon might ‘save’ the brand and bring it back into the public eye might be premature, but there’s no doubt that change is on the horizon. Looking back at my long-dead 156, I’m happy to see a manufacturer being revived, to some extent at least.
With the Giulia, Alfa Romeo’s first car since 2010, and the upcoming Stelvio, the manufacturer are repositioning themselves as serious contenders in the executive sector – challenging the likes of BMW, Mercedes and even Jaguar when it comes to providing exemplary refinement and driving feel. It’s exciting and refreshing to see this kind of quality and behaviour from the Italians, but it’s not all glitz and glamour with new, groundbreaking models. The existing range has had a much needed spring-clean too, and the new Mito was the first Alfa I’ve driven in a while since the brand has gone through a bit of a refresh.
The new Mito is more tweaking and refining that anything else, but subtle changes to the rear and the front grill brings the whole car more in-line with other, more expensive models within the brand. It’s a good looking car, comfortably beating rivals in this area with its cute stance and cues borrowed from the beautiful 8C and its little sister the 4C. It looks like it means business this car – and whether the photos do it justice or not – it’s well proportioned, the badge doubling up as a boot release is a nice feature and the little spoiler at the back adds a little bit to the ‘Alfa experience,’ whatever that might be.
In general, it’s a lovely car to look at, and sits very well in the sector. The interior in my mind however is a little confused, though it does feel solid and well put together. It could do with a touch of Asian practicality however, as it feels a little jumbled, with fiddly, plastic switches that feel out of place. Compared to its rivals, and with the new Kia Rio now on the scene, the Mito should have done better in this department. Rear legroom is unsurprisingly not really available at all, but there’s some boot space that rivals comparative cars and you won’t be too short of space in the front. It’s a solid effort but it lacks refinement and feels flimsy. There isn’t that much rear visibility and there could do with being more steering wheel adjustments, too.
Economy +: Engines and Drive
I tested the new, refined and updated 1.3 diesel, and I was impressed. It get noisy when revved hard, but with an added 10bhp on the previous model it provides a sporty and responsive enough feel twinned with excellent economy figures. Driving to work and back each day, in traffic, saw an average of 55mpg and when I returned the car it still had 380 miles of presumed range left. That’s impressive, especially when you factor in my journey to work is about an hour and it’s in stop start traffic. The engine itself produces 93bhp and its definitely nippy enough.
The drive itself is good enough around town, but lengthen the Alfa’s legs a bit and sadly it doesn’t deliver the same Italian thrills that you might hope for. It’s agile enough, but the DNA system delivers very little, and the delay in steering and throttle feel is really only worsened by the electronic system. For driving experience, there’s a certain amount of Italian style, but the Mini trumps it for little car agility every time.
The best thing about the Alfa is the refined and improved diesel engine. Improved it very much is, too. I was really impressed by the economy figures of the car and the engine I tested is just about refined enough to deliver the kind of performance on the B-roads you’d want it to. Sheer driving experience is probably better found elsewhere in the sector, but the Mito is a lovely car to look at and the new version has some impressive styling cues found elsewhere on the more expensive cars in the range. With some tempting finance offers it’s worth looking at – but stick to the diesel options and have a quick look around the market first – you might be surprised that the Italian flair can be better found in a different guise elsewhere.