Before the Alfa Romeo Mito name was confirmed, Alfa’s new baby went under the codename Junior – a nameplate steeped in Alfa folklore. But at the last minute, Mito was chosen as it represents Milan and Torino where the supermini is designed and built.
Maybe Mito kept the marketing men happy, but Junior would have nicely defined what the Mito is about and what Alfa hopes it will achieve. And it would have satisfied the Alfisti, the legion of Alfa fans which the firm holds dear.
The Mito is Alfa Romeo’s first true supermini since the Alfasud, its 33, 145 and 147 models having been aimed at the larger family hatch market. And along with a new segment, Alfa is gunning for a new type of customer, one younger, hipper and, although cognisant of the Alfa brand, perhaps not so tied up in its history.
Alfa, in short, wants to produce its own Mini – with which any similarity in the name is purely coincidental. Has it achieved it? Up to a point. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but the Mito’s designers have managed to include significant 8C Competizione styling cues in a small package, which is no mean feat.
While the exterior draws generally positive comments, the interior styling is less cohesive, and get closer to the cabin materials and its evident quality is someway off that of the Mini. Or even the latest batch of budget small cars from Korea.
Models produced in late 2013-onwards receive a range of dash panels which vary depending on trim level. Choose the Distinctive grade, and you’ll find a two-tone red and black dash which guarantees to divide opinion.
The Fiat Group’s 1.4-litre Multair engines form the mainstay of the line-up, and are available in 135 and 170bhp states of tune. The turbocharged, four-cylinder unit suitably flexible and refined. The latter is something that is hard to apply to the TwinAir engine. The two-cylinder unit has plenty of character, but sounds thrashy and requires constant gearchanges to get the best from it.
Better are the diesels, which ship in 83bhp 1.3- and 120bhp 1.6-litre capacities, and are adequate performers - in respect of performance, economy and performance – as long as the rev counter doesn’t stretch to the extremities of the rev range.
Ultimately, the Mito’s dynamics are hampered by the standard-fit DNA system which cycles through three drive modes, altering the steering feel and engine outputs. Coupled with an over-firm ride and vague steering, the Mito fails to match the fun demeanour of the Mini.
So the question is, can Alfa Romeo’s flair, character and heritage compensate for a number of obvious shortcomings?