I was a raw young hack back in the early ‘70s when the revolutionary Alfasud was new. But I can vividly remember the excitement and speculation it caused. It was entirely new territory for Alfa, which until then had specialised in elegant-but-expensive rear-driven saloons and roadsters.
The ‘Sud was made in a new factory near Naples, an area with no history of car-building, and it featured a flat-four engine turning the front wheels – a powertrain with absolutely no relationship with any other Alfa. It also ditched all others norms in the small front-drive class, and everyone knew it was a mighty risk. They made 560,000 cars between 1972 and 1982, but never made a cent of profit.
This new Alfa Mito supermini, just announced, holds the same kind of excitement for me, but for entirely different reasons. This time, we know the car will work. It uses modern and well proven underpinnings, but its ‘Alfaness’ is in the hands of a newly invigorated team that know it has to make this baby Alfa very different from a Fiat or a Lancia (or a Vauxhall Corsa, which also uses many elements of its chassis).
I trust the Italians to know how to do this. They have already made the Fiat 500 from the Panda, and the Lancia Delta from the Fiat Bravo. Everyone connected with ‘The Cross and Serpent’ — and this includes the UK guys who will sell right-handers here — knows this is Alfa’s best chance at attain sensible sales volume here for at least 20 years, and if they blow it there won’t be another chance.