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. Good practice for when Alfa distilled the 8C's looks for it smaller sibling the 4C.
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. In 2016, Alfa further refined the Mito's DNA by giving some exterior tweaks, including to the rear bumper and grille up front. Inside was also given a new lease of life with 5.0in touchscreen infotainment system and driving modes synonymous of its more expensive siblings.
The Fiat Group’s 1.4-litre Multair engines form the mainstay of the line-up, and are available in 138bhp and 168bhp 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. Heading the range is a naturally aspirated 1.4-litre petrol engine followed by a 103bhp, turbocharged 0.9-litre unit.
Better is the diesel unit, which now ships in 94bhp 1.3-litre capacity. This was a 2016 engine update which gives the Mito more power than its predecessor and produce less emissions than before. It is also an adequate performer - 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?