The Alfa Romeo Mito has been progressively updated. Are the most recent changes enough to punt it to the top of premium section of the supermini class? Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
The Alfa Romeo Mito ought to be a routine fixture in the top five supermini best sellers, but it hasn't worked out that way. Still, the Milanese brand hasn't given up with it, continually improving the car. The latest updates include minor styling changes, extra technology and the introduction of a more competitive entry-level diesel engine. It should all mean that the Mito's chances have never looked better.
Alfa Romeo is a brand that's never been shy of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Think of all the 'nearly' cars in the marque's history; models that ought to have been brilliant but for one reason or another fell by the wayside. When cars were cheaper to develop, a manufacturer could afford to launch a few duds before it chanced upon a star performer, but the auto industry has changed and Alfa has had to move with it. The Mito, launched back in 2008, looked set to be another of those frustrating Alfa Romeos that never quite made the grade, but with stakes this high, the brand has been forced to invest and invest wisely in this car.
The latest Mito range has been thoroughly revised in recent times, with updates that go way beyond the normal bumpers, grilles and headlights job that most cars are treated to as they enter middle age. The result of all this effort has turned what was already a good design into one that you could buy as an interesting alternative to top versions of mainstream fare like Fiestas and Corsas. Yes, really.
The Mito range comprises five turbo-charged engines; four petrols and a single diesel unit. The key engine change applies to the diesel, the popular entry-level 1.3 JTDM-2 powerplant, which has had its power boosted from 85 to 95bhp. In the petrol range, things are much as they were. At the foot of the line-up, an EU6-compliant 78bhp 1.4-litre petrol engine is offered. This sits below the 0.9 TwinAir Turbo powerplant, a unit that was given a 20bhp shot in the arm back in 2014, boosting peak power to 105bhp, translating to a sprint to 62mph that's 1.1 seconds faster than the previous 85hp version. The 1.4 TB MultiAir 140hp (available only with the Alfa TCT twin dry clutch transmission) and the 1.4 TB MultiAir 170hp QV engine complete the petrol offerings.
As ever, all Mito models get a comprehensive suite of driver aids, such as traction, braking and stability control and these systems, along with steering effort and throttle response, can be adjusted via Alfa Romeo's trademark DNA. three-mode selectable driving mode system. Where fitted, the SDC adaptive suspension and TCT transmission settings are also adjustable via the DNA set-up. It can be set in Normal, Dynamic or All-Weather modes to help drivers get the most out of their vehicle. In Dynamic mode, the throttle is spikier and the steering weights up markedly but the Normal setting takes the edge of the throttle response for more relaxed driving.
Design and Build
The visual changes made to this revised Mito are supposed to bring it into line with the brand's flagship Giulia saloon. Hence the revised front sports grille, the dark-finish headlamp bezels, the smarter rear bumper design and the restyled alloy wheels. Inside, all models get upgraded seat upholsteries, 'Uconnect Live' media services and a smarter finish on the centre console, dashboard and door trims.
The touch points in the car are notably better than they used to be and there's a Uconnect five-inch, touch-screen infotainment system with voice recognition, Bluetooth, steering wheel remote controls, USB/AUX-in ports and optional satellite navigation. The driving position in the Mito remains lower and more sporty than you'll encounter in the majority of superminis but there's a good degree of adjustment in the seat and steering wheel so drivers can adapt it to their own tastes. The boot is fairly modest at 270-litres and there's quite a high lip which means items have to be lowered inside.
Market and Model
The purpose of introducing the 78bhp 1.4-litre petrol engine into the range was to give it a lower price starting point. That means that you can get a Mito for around £13,000 if you go for the standard base trim level with this engine. There's a reasonable level of equipment included too, even for this money. So buyers can expect to find air conditioning, a leather steering wheel and gear shifter and Alfa Romeo's Uconnect five-inch colour touch screen infotainment system with Bluetooth, voice recognition, USB and aux-in inputs, plus steering wheel remote controls. In terms of safety, the base Mito is equipped with Vehicle Dynamic Control (stability, braking and traction control with hill-holder), TPMS (tyre pressure monitoring) and seven airbags, while its visual appeal is enhanced with 15-inch alloy wheels, a rear spoiler and titanium grey headlight and rear light surrounds.
If you really like you Alfas though, the trim level you'll really want is the sporty 'Super' spec. With a Mito Super, you get 17-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights, special upholstery with Eco-Leather side bolstering, aluminium for the sports pedals, footrest and kickplates, plus chrome-effect window sills and satin-effect door handles. Under the bonnet, this variant is powered either by the 0.9-litre TwinAir 105hp turbo petrol engine, the 1.4 MultiAir 140hp petrol unit with ALFA TCT auto transmission or the frugal 1.3-litre JTDM-2 95hp turbo-diesel. The same engines can be found with the even plusher 'Speciale' trim level, while at the top of the range, there's a hot hatch 'Veloce' variant that comes only with the 1.4 MultiAir 170hp petrol engine and ALFA TCT auto transmission.
Cost of Ownership
The entry-level petrol and diesel engines in the revised Alfa Romeo Mito range really do get standout economy and emissions figures, though you don't really see these with the entry-level Euro6-compatible 78bhp 1.4-litre petrol unit. This manages 50.4mpg on the combined cycle and a CO2 showing of 130g/km. A much better reading is managed by the next petrol powerplant up in the range, the 105PS 0.9 TwinAir model. This delivers 67.3mpg and 99g/km. The alternative diesel 1.3 JTDM-2 variant might pack 10PS less, but it feels churlish to grumble when it'll return 83.1mpg and emit just 89g/km of carbon dioxide. These sorts of figures suddenly make the Mito a real option for company car drivers who are looking to bring down their tax bills but don't want to be saddled with a boring car.
Demand for used Mito models has proven strong and the resultant relatively beefy residual values have been a big draw for private buyers, especially when the cost of comparatively mundane rivals such as the Vauxhall Corsa and Ford Fiesta has steadily crept up to match the Mito's asking price. Suddenly the Alfa looks decent value. Small wonder sales are trending upwards.
The Alfa Romeo Mito has come good. While we don't think it'll ever be remembered as a classically charismatic Alfa, perhaps that's not what the company needs right now. The brand has brought us legions of cars that appeal to a hardened niche of buyers, but that strategy isn't going to prove profitable in this day and age. What Alfa needs with the Mito is a car that delivers all the reliability and affordability of a Corsa or a Fiesta but which adds a dash of pizazz. That's pretty much what it has delivered here.
So where's the catch? We're struggling to think of too many. Some buyers may overlook this little Alfa because it's been around for nearly a decade but in doing so, they'd be doing this revised model a real disservice. You could argue that the three-year warranty isn't particularly generous and you'd have a point but beyond that, there's a lot to admire here and the prices look good too. The Mito took its time but it looks as if it's finally come of age.