Motor Mouth: The Alfa Romeo MiTo

It's hyped as the sportiest compact on the market, but Sathnam Sanghera struggles to find the fun in it.

by
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

The longer I write this column, the more it feels like having an extra-marital affair. Not because of the sexual tension that hangs between me and my MT colleagues, but because I'm forever telling myself, like a guilt-ridden, unfaithful husband, that I'm going to give it up soon.

The cars are becoming impractical. I've moved to a flat with no parking space, which means my fees go straight to Camden Council in fines. Also, I'm not a very good driver, and although I've never had an accident, it's a numbers game, isn't it? There have been near-misses - I still have nightmares about the Bentley I nearly drove head-on into a VW Golf on a country lane - and I should quit while I'm ahead.

This feeling has never been more intense than in the week I spent with the Alfa Romeo MiTo. When I wasn't removing yellow tickets from underneath the wipers, I was veering dangerously out of lanes, turning blindly into blind corners, and generally causing other motorists to beep and gesticulate. It was like the Wacky Races.

I'm not sure why I couldn't settle into it. It's a perfectly acceptable car. It's not as pretty as the Mini, its main competitor, but it looks OK. It's surprisingly rapid when you put the car's DNA (dynamic, normal, all weather) switch (which covers the power steering, accelerator response, turbo boost pressure, suspension firmness, electronic stability and traction control) into the 'D' (dynamic) mode. Fuel consumption is excellent. But I didn't feel comfortable.

It may, in part, have been the cabin. The 'unique carbon fibre-look dashboard' and sport-hooded dials look lovely, but the suspension felt over-firm, and the wrap-around sports seats did my back in; it was an uncomfortable place to sit.

Also, there's something not right about the proportions. It's a strange thing to say of a small car, but, behind the wheel, it felt too tall - at least, for its width. Driving it on the motorway felt peculiarly like driving a Transit van.

But more than anything else, I think my unease was a symptom of the hype not living up to the reality. The three-door hatchback is being marketed as a sporty alternative to the Mini. We're told that it has been inspired by the Alfa 8C Competizione supercar and that it is 'the sportiest compact car on the market today', yet it doesn't drive half as well as many non-sporty compacts. In short, the MiTo promises a sizzling love affair but delivers a night in, watching MasterChef with an elderly aunt.

I'LL TAKE ONE ...
- Fast enough.
- Frugal enough.
- Pretty enough.

THANKS BUT NO THANKS ...
- Feels more Fiat Panda than Alfa Romeo Spider.

SPECIFICATION
Alfa Romeo Mito Turismo: £11,495
Engine: 1.4 litre, 16V
Combined power: 95 bhp
Torque: 129 Nm
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Fuel: 47.9 mpg (combined cycle)
CO2: 138 g/km
0-62 mph: 11.2 secs
Top speed: 112 mph

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