Do you fancy adding a little Italian pizazz to your everyday city car but don't want the bubblegum image of the Fiat 500? If the answer is yes, Alfa Romeo might just have the perfect runaround for you and your family in the stylish MiTo. Choosing an engine is a fairly simple affair as the line-up consists of two petrol units – the plucky 0.9-litre TwinAir unit made popular by the Fiat 500 and a 1.4- litre TB MultiAir number that develops either 135bhp or 170bhp in the high-performance Quadrifoglio Verde model. Two diesel lumps producing either 85bhp or 120bhp are also available for those planning to rack up the miles.
What is it?
A good-looking supermini that offers the prestige Alfa Romeo badge on a car in the compact segment. There aren't many rivals that offer a similar premium package in this segment – only Audi and Citroen with its DS line can truly compete – but the argument against the Alfa has always been one of build quality and refinement. The Italian marque has just revised its entire line-up for 2014 in a bid to answer some of its critics but has it been enough? We're not convinced.
What's it like to drive?
The TwinAir engine generates a generous amount of power from its tiny 0.9-litre displacement
Anyone who religiously watches Top Gear will have heard Clarkson prattle on about 'true' petrolheads owning Alfa Romeos, and in a way, he is right. Chassis composure and handling have always been strong points for the marque and the little MiTo is no exception. The suspension set-up can only really be described as firm – great for throwing it into hairpin bends but not so fun on the morning commute – but the steering is light and doesn't offer a lot of feel. It is a strange combination in which the steering doesn't inspire a lot of confidence on demanding roads yet the suspension jars around town at slower speeds. The little TwinAir engine that worked so well in the Fiat 500 also struggles in the MiTo. You really have to thrash the pants off it in order to squeeze every last drop of performance and it only really makes sense around town. Those wanting a more dexterous drive should opt for the larger diesels.
What's it like inside?
The MiTo is a pretty simple and practical affair inside. An abundance of plastic covers most surfaces of the cheaper cars but, because this is an Alfa, customers can specify an array of leather for the seats and selected trim pieces. Going mad with the options list does make things very expensive but basic specification levels aren't fantastic. The new Uconnect entertainment system is also a bit disappointing – offering up a TomTom navigation display that looks distinctly out of date and very basic radio, Bluetooth and entertainment connectivity. A larger, leather-wrapped steering wheel is on offer in 2014 but it's front grille-aping design isn't particularly beautiful.
Is it practical?
The TwinAir Sportiva model starts from £16,300
Alfa has designed this car to squeeze into tight parking spaces, not offer the interior roominess of a people carrier. For that reason, space in the rear is limited and larger adults will be uncomfortable over longer journeys. Front passengers get more room but a bulky transmission tunnel encroaches on driver legroom considerably. Boot space is 270-litres and the rear seats can be folded flat but it will cost – in fact it's a £500 option. Ouch. Safety levels are impressively high, though, with ISOFIX points fitted as standard throughout the cabin, as well as traction control and a tyre pressure monitoring system.
Should I buy one?
The interior and exterior revisions for 2014 aren't anything to shout about and to obtain a model that has real premium feel it will cost upwards of £18,000. The MiTo is a fun drive and is certainly more spirited than its French rivals but it is also expensive and not particularly plush inside. The Audi A1 remains the class leader in this respect and it would be very difficult to recommend investing your cash in anything but the Four Rings.
You can search for a used Alfa Romeo MiTo here
Model: Alfa MiTo TB TwinAir Sportiva
Price: From £16,300
Engine: 0.9-litre TwinAir petrol
Max speed: 114mph
0-60mph: 11.4 seconds
MPG: 67.2 (combined)
Emissions: 99g/km CO2
Euro NCAP rating: 5 stars