"The Alfa MiTo offers bundles of style and economical engines, but can’t match MINI Cooper for interior quality or driving fun."
There's a reason why the MiTo is the best-selling car in Alfa Romeo's range. Not only is it the most stylish supermini on the UK market, but it also offers a wide selection of efficient engines and a lengthy list of options to personalise the car. There's even a decent amount of space on the inside, which can just about fit four adults. On the downside, it's not as comfortable as the likes of the MINI or Audi A1 and certainly lacks their level of overall quality – some of the plastics and panels used in the interior do look a bit cheap. But the engines offer great economy, though, which go some way to balances out the MiTo's admittedly high price. In particular, the MultiAir petrol engines impress with their smoothness and performance.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
Even if the list price a bit expensive, the MiTo does make up for it with low running costs. Even the thirstiest 170bhp petrol Cloverleaf still returns 47.1mpg in fuel economy, and the 1.3-litre diesel does an outstanding 78.5mpg – with the MINI Cooper D claiming to an inferior 72.4mpg. And with its CO2 emissions of 95g/km, it also bypasses road tax. The best engine is the 135bhp MultiAir petrol, which returns a healthy 50.4mpg and gives a good turn of pace, too. All engines have stop-start that cuts power when the car's at a standstill to save fuel. Hopefully this means that depreciation is less of an issue for the MiTo than for Alfas of old, too.
Interior & comfort
Comfort is not the MiTo's strength, but that's not what draws most drivers to an Alfa Romeo anyway. It is easy to find a good driving position, but rear visibility is pretty poor thanks to the very shallow back windows – you don’t get such nice design without affecting practicality. There's a lot of wind and tyre noise inside, especially in the sportier Veloce and Cloverleaf models with their bigger 17-inch alloy wheels. The Cloverleaf does add adaptive dampers to the suspension, which are controlled through the DNA switch, and when you put this top-of-the-range model into Normal it easily becomes the most comfortable car in the range. Unless you’re an adult sitting in the back, in which case no amount of suspension adjustment is going to make that tight squeeze any more comfortable.
Practicality & boot space
Even though the MiTo is a small, three-door Alfa Romeo, you can use the rear seats. It may be awkward to actually get in the back and it's only advisable for short journeys, but that's an improvement over Alfas of the past. The boot offers 270 litres of space – or enough to comfortably carry a week's shopping for most owners, provided you don’t mind that the low boot floor that makes loading things over the high lip a bit awkward at times. Also, if you want 60:40 split-folding rear seats, they’ll cost you about £500 – a bit much considering they’re standard on most new cars these days. Even with that option, the MiTo still isn’t very practical inside, with very few storage spaces and a glovebox just about big enough for a few CDs and an MP3 player. If you want to run that player through the stereo, however, it will cost you a further £300 for an optional connection. That said, even entry-level models do get air-conditioning, a trip computer, electric windows and stop-start as standard.
Reliability & safety
Safety is something the MiTo can really shout about. It secured the maximum five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, with all models coming fitted with seven airbags, ISOFIX child-seat anchor points, anti-whiplash head restraints and electronic stability control as standard. Alfa Romeo does have a slightly bad reputation for reliability, but the MiTo seems trouble-free so far, with no major problems reported. In fact, Alfa has climbed six places in the 2013 Driver Power survey, reflecting its determination to improve on this front. However, the MiTo only placed 129th in the top 100 cars, so there's still plenty of room for improvement. The interior quality is okay, with decent soft-touch materials across most of the dashboard, but the plastics used elsewhere so look and feel cheap and really let the car down.
Engines, drive & performance
All MiTos come equipped with Alfa Romeo's DNA system, which has three modes – Dynamic, Normal and All-Weather – that adjust the power and steering settings. And it works – to a degree. Dynamic is sporty, making the steering heavier and the accelerator more reactive, but that actually makes the MiTo more of an effort to drive. If you stick with the Normal setting, the steering is light and the car is easy to drive around town. The engine range is spot-on, though: the 78bhp 1.4-litre petrol and 95bhp 1.3-litre diesel engines are a bit underpowered, but other versions are quiet, smooth and speedy. The 135bhp MultiAir version of the 1.4-litre petrol, meanwhile, offers effortless acceleration and the 875cc TwinAir engine (nabbed from the Fiat 500) is very efficient if a tad noisy for such a stylish car.
Price, value for money & options
Prices for the MiTo aren’t cheap, but the supermini is well equipped and looks great. With even base cars getting manual air-conditioning, electric windows and remote central locking, the four other specs – Turismo, Lusso, Veloce and Cloverleaf – get sportier as they go up in price, with alloy wheels, climate control and design tweaks inside and out being added. Buyers can also choose from a host of personalisation options, like body kits, stickers and colour-coded exterior trims. One worry, however, is resale value, with Alfas suffering pretty severe depreciation on the used car market. Unlike a MINI, which holds most of its value after a few years, you can expect the MiTo, even with its high equipment levels, to drop in price when you come to make a deal. There is a range of service plans but nothing that matches the warranties of many of its rivals.