It’s one of the big questions of the year: is the new baby Alfa capable of turning around the brand’s fortunes?

YT8Q0878a After most of a day spent driving the full-house, 155bhp Veloce version on crowded, usually badly surfaced roads north of Milan, I’d have to say it most definitely is.

Instant impression: it’s good enough, good-looking enough and well enough priced to be an instant hit. Drives well, too. It’ll crack 135 mph, and can sprint from 0-60 mph in under 8.0 seconds. Better, its level of standard equipment beats its rivals, including the Mini.

This, however, is not the end of the story. Great Alfas have to be special. Knowing this, the car’s creators have surrounded Mito with loads of Alfa heritage, even launching it in Milan at the very same castle that inspired the designer of the famous cross-and-serpent emblem 100 years ago.

They have also artfully linked its styling directly to that of the 8C supercar, a dead concept until revived by Fiat group boss Sergio Marchionne to become the design inspiration for two vital hatchbacks to come — Mito for 2008-9 and 149 for 2009-10.

This pair is scheduled do most of what it will take to lift annual Alfa volume from today’s 150,000 to 300,000 in a couple of years’ time.

We drove for long enough, and on road bad enough, to discover a couple of bad Mito points among all the good. Our test car’s steering was rather woolly at the straight-ahead, and it seemed to lack front suspension travel and was inclined to crash into ruts, neither characteristic brilliant for the UK’s demanding roads

Secondary impression (after a few hours’ driving): still good. It’s quick and it looks great, but it might not be quite the hit the Fiat 500 has been. All that heritage threatens to overload a simple, good-looking, well-equipped, and competitively-priced car.

My suggestion to the company brass? Go easy on the heritage and spend a bit more time on the steering.