A Fiat engine – but still an Alfa

 
Ryan Borroff
ALFA ROMEO is a brand based in sports cars and motor racing heritage. Its Mito has always been a looker since its introduction in 2008 and the new model is no exception. Its styling was inspired by the design of the 8C Competizione supercar, and it still looks fresh and uniquely characterful in a sporty, muscular, even elegant way.

But the most interesting change to the new Mito goes on under the hood, in the shape of Fiat’s award-winning TwinAir two-cylinder engine, which made a splash when it went on sale in the Fiat 500 (largely because the original Nuova 500 – so loved in the fifties and sixties – had a two-cylinder engine as well). Now the 85bhp, 875cc turbocharged two-pot engine is being offered in the new Mito – Alfa’s rival to the Audi A1 and BMW Mini – so the sporty little compact can also benefit from the engine’s unusual character. But is this little engine sporty enough for the Mito?

Well, yes – it is something of a marvel. Fiat claims its TwinAir engine is the cleanest and greenest petrol engine in the world. If you are careful about how you drive it, it should sip fuel, but that is to tell only part of the story. Switch it on and it makes a quite discordant clattering sound like a vintage motorbike that’s about to stall, which is actually quite charming. Best of all, under heavy acceleration it sounds absolutely great, which is one reason why so many people love it. The other is that the engine comes in with a CO2 emission figure of just 98g/km – under the magical tax and London Congestion Charge-beating sub-100g/km threshold. So the new Mito promises to be an economical City commuter car; clean and green but peppy enough to be fun too.

Inside the Mito is genuinely stylish, with tasteful red interior illumination and comfortable seats. There’s room in the back for a child seat, though rear access is tricky, but then it’s a three-door hatch so this isn’t a car targeted at young families.

But we found the TwinAir engine suits the car very well. Despite not being particularly fast, 0-100km/h is reached in 12.5 seconds, it often feels like you’re travelling faster than you are. It corners well enough too, though the ride can be bumpy, depending on the roads you drive on. It seemed to particularly dislike some of north London’s speed bumps. But travelling more quickly, once you’re out on the A406, that lovely engine noise takes over and driving this little Alfa becomes a good deal more fun. There’s a switch to change the car’s setup, depending on your mood or the weather you’re driving in. Three different DNA driving modes – Dynamic, Natural and All-weather – change the steering response and power output to allow more spirited, comfortable or safe driving. Unsurprisingly I liked Dynamic best: the steering weights up, the engine noise gets even louder and its full 85hp power and torque is made available.

The laws of psychics means fuel economy and heavy acceleration don’t mix. So if you want to hear that engine note in all its glory, you’ll need to forgo that absolute best-case 67.3mpg fuel economy.

Of course, if you have the monk-like discipline to go easy on the throttle and drive everywhere in Natural mode, you might just get close to those official economy figures. But I say to hell with it, this is an Alfa Romeo and it has been built to be enjoyed. Drive it flat out and it’ll be more fun than Christmas was. So come on feel the noise.

THE FACTS: Alfa Romeo Mito TwinAir
PRICE: £15,350
0-62MPH: 12.5 secs
TOP SPEED: 108mph
CO2 G/KM: 98g/km
MPG COMBINED: 67.3mpg

THE VERDICT:
DESIGN ****
PERFORMANCE ****
PRACTICALITY ***
VALUE FOR MONEY ****