What is it?
We’ve already driven several versions of the tweaked-for-2014 Mito, and it’s fair to say that Alfa’s elderly supermini hasn’t exactly set our trousers alight. Thankfully, this time round it’s the turn of the Quadrifoglio Verde, which, in its former life as the Cloverleaf, was by far our favourite version.
That’s good news for Alfa, because in keeping with its current theme of incredibly gentle facelifts, there isn’t much actual facelifting to report. As with the Alfa Romeo Giulietta QV, the most noticeable alteration comes in the shape of the six-speed TCT transmission – fitted to the spriteliest Mito for the first time.
The 1.4-litre MultiAir engine it’s mated with is unchanged, which means you get 168bhp from 5500rpm and 184lb ft of torque at less than half that. Because the gearbox is heavier than its predecessor and there’s no launch control to aid a standing start, the Cloverleaf’s 0-62mph time is only bested by a negligible 0.2 seconds – despite quicker shift times.
Instead, the more prominent improvement comes in the form of running cost gains, where Alfa Romeo claims a 10 per cent improvement in economy, to 52.3mpg, and an 11 per cent drop in emissions, to 124g/km – placing it shoulder-to-shoulder with the automatic version of the latest Mini Cooper S (at 54.3mpg and 122g/km, respectively).
That comparison can’t have escaped Turin; at £20,210, the new Mito QV is a very direct rival to Oxford’s most famous son. For that outlay you get a new flat-bottomed steering wheel, revised instrument dials, 18-inch wheels, a carbonfibre-effect dashboard and a five-inch touchscreen infotainment system which includes sat-nav.
What's it like?
As with the recently tested Giulietta QV, much is as it was before; however, that’s less of the problem in the Mito’s case because it remained modestly likeable. Severing a warmed-up supermini from a manual gearbox has, thus far, not been a tremendous recipe for success with any manufacturer - and although a better car has hardly emerged here, Alfa has managed the transition without totally mangling the QV’s spirit.
In a strange sort of way it is probably to the model’s benefit that it has never been considered especially quick, and therefore had less to lose in contrast (also, by launching back to back with the lacklustre Giulietta, the Mito actually seems rather lively). Reasonable biddability comes with the same proviso as before though; the full 184lb ft of tug is only available in the Dynamic setting of the QV’s DNA drive select – making it frustrating to switch into the fuel-sipping Normal mode.
Either way you won’t be bothering Ford Fiesta ST drivers much: the Alfa may only be 10bhp or so and a few tenths shy of the brilliant Ford on paper, but the MultiAir has none of its rival’s high-rev vitality. It also can’t carry the same speed through corners, being hampered with duller steering, a higher degree of body roll and certainly a less adjustable chassis.
Nevertheless, there’s still plenty of nimbleness to appreciate and enough underlying linear grip to make briskness easy to accomplish. It does this without rattling your fillings either; Alfa’s sympathetic attitude to hot hatch suspension tuning once again ensuring that even its sportiest Mito can be relied upon to make a decent fist of a notchy road.
Should I buy one?
It’s very tempting to suggest that if the Mito is the supermini for you, it would be cheaper and probably more fulfilling to buy the outgoing model with its manual six-speed 'box. There’s a measure of convenience to the TCT version of course, but its ponderous paddle shifts don’t replace the satisfaction of a working clutch pedal.
If that avenue isn’t open to you, the alternative options must be considered long and hard. Truthfully, the Mito is harmed less by a dearth in talent and more by its price tag. Because the tweaks are all but unrecognisable, there’s no real getting away from the fact that this is a six-year-old model – and the interior, with far too much hard cheap plastic on display, couldn’t be further from the industry’s current idea of an upmarket supermini.
Consequently, the QV isn’t at the sky-high standard of the latest Mini – just as it isn’t within touching distance of the dynamic benchmark laid down by the Fiesta. There is a middle ground between the two; unfortunately for Alfa, that’s inhabited by everything else small and fast – including the Peugeot 208 GTI, Renault Clio RS and Suzuki Swift Sport – all cheaper and, it must be said, better.
Alfa Romeo Mito Quadrifoglio Verde
Price £20,210 0-62mph 7.3 seconds Top speed 136mph Economy 52.3mpg CO2 124g/km Kerbweight 1170kg Engine four-cylinder, petrol, turbo Power 168bhp at 5500rpm Torque 184lb ft at 2500rpm Gearbox six-speed dual-clutch