First DriveAlfa fits six-speed TCT transmission to its spritely 'Cloverleaf' version of its ageing supermini
First DriveTwo-cylinder Mito proves occasional good fun when pushed hard, but predictably fails to deliver on the claimed economy front
What is it?
This is the Alfa Romeo Mito 1.6 JTDm, a direct rival to the multitalented Mini Cooper D. And with the 118bhp, 1.6-litre turbodiesel under the bonnet, the Alfa Mito 1.6 JTDm is an attractive package of economy and style, but it lacks the dynamic flair that makes the diesel Mini the enthusiast’s choice.
The Alfa Romeo Mito also gets Alfa’s DNA technology. This is a software package that allows the driver to alter the car’s steering, throttle, suspension and traction control systems between dynamic, normal and all-weather. On this Mito 1.6 JTDm, and the range-topping Mito 1.4 TB155, choosing the dynamic setting also engages a turbo overboost facility.
What’s it like?
Though the JTDm powerplant is a fun engine to keep on the boil, the Alfa Mito 1.6 JTDm can feel laboured on the way up the rev range and requires regular use of the notchy, long-throw gearbox to maintain swift progress.
With the dynamic setting selected the Alfa Mito loses its frustratingly sluggish throttle response and springy steering to become a much more entertaining drive, aided by Alfa Romeo’s Q2 electronic diff system, which does a convincing impression of a mechanical limited-slip diff and significantly helps mid-corner traction.
Unfortunately the ride quality lets the Mito 1.6 JTDm down in most situations; only on the smoothest of surfaces does the ride really settle. While body control is good, the shock absorbers translate the asphalt’s topography into uncomfortable crashing and jarring in the cabin, even at normal town speeds.
At least the ride settles on the motorway and allows the driver to enjoy the Mito 1.6 JTDm’s decent cruising ability. A well insulated cabin, accessible torque band and muted engine makes this Alfa Mito a very usable long-distance car, though more supportive seats would further improve the experience.
There are plenty of other practical selling points, too, like a decent sized boot and enough space in the rear for two adults, though some might find it slightly claustrophobic in the back due to the small, high rear window.
Should I buy one?
We can see the argument for the Alfa Mito. The Mini is a better driver’s car, but if you’re bored by BMW’s take on the British icon, the Alfa is a fun and classy alternative.
In truth the Alfa Romeo Mito 1.6 JTDm will sell on style first, but Alfa deserves credit for creating a likeable car, even if the high-temperature-washing-machine-accident looks are not to your taste.
If the Alfa Mito’s looks are to your taste, and economy is more important than performance, then the 1.6 JTDm is an excellent choice. But if a Mito still appeals and adrenaline ranks higher than money on your priority list, look to the 1.4 turbocharged petrol models for a much more thrilling drive.