Alfa Romeo MiTo (named for the two Italian cities, Milan, where it was designed and Torino, where was made) is a small three-door hatch that’s big fun to drive. Even everyday trips are likely to bring a smile to the face thanks to the chassis dynamics and engine performance.
Then there’s the gorgeous styling, one of the best shapes from the Italian marque renowned for beautiful bodies. Inside, there’s plenty of visually oomph in the shapes and colours offered. Okay, so this may sound predictable, but our favourite is hot red with tan trim.
However, Alfa MiTo was overpriced and still suffering from the reputation of being Italian and therefore potentially unreliable. Build quality was certainly better by the time the little hatch was launched, though not to the high standards Aussies had become accustomed to in Japanese cars.
Prices were trimmed a little over the years, but were still higher than many were willing to pay and MiTo never had the sales success it deserved. It was quietly withdrawn from the Australian import at the start of 2016.
Legroom is fine in the Alfa Mito’s front seats though some find headroom tight. The back seat is very limited for legroom and compromised on head space. Though kids are able to fit back there, the gorgeous upsweep of the body means the junior’s view to the outside is likely to be seriously restricted. Boot space is isn’t too bad and the rear seats have a 60/40 split-fold.
When the Alfa Romeo MiTo first arrived in Australia in July 2009 it was powered by a 1.4-litre turbo-petrol engine in two stages of tune, producing 88 kW in the standard version, and 114 kW in the Sport. In July 2010 the standard MiTo got the 114 kW unit previously used in the Sport was offered as an option. The basic engine was improved to 99 kW late in 2010.
A more powerful engine, in models called Quadrifoglio and later Quadrifoglio Verde (QV,) has Alfa Romeo’s clever MulitAir design. Arriving as part of the July 2010 makeover the 1.4-litre MultiAir has 125 kW and sprints to 100 km/h in just 7.5 seconds. The ability to boost torque to 250 Nm (up from the usual 230 Nm) by using the `Dynamic’ mode switch makes the engine the most sought after by used-car buyers.
A fascinating feature of the MiTo is the DNA (great acronym!) driving-mode system. It stands for Dynamic, Normal, All-weather; electronic changes to the throttle, steering and suspension systems give the baby Alfa quite a different feel on the road depending on the driver’s mood.
Fiat’s brilliant little TwinAir two-cylinder 0.9-litre engine was offered in the MiTo in 2014 but wasn’t appreciated and not many changed hands.
Five-speed manual gearboxes were sold with the standard model MiTo in the early days. Six-speed units were used on all others. Best left alone is the TCT six-speed dual-clutch transmission offered in some cars. Seems that Italian engineers aren’t keen on their cars having self shifters and couldn’t put their heart into the TCT’s design.
Alfa Romeo has gone through hard times in Australia over the years, but is now in the hands of a team that is finally giving the sporting Italian marque the attention it deserves. The number of dealers has significantly increased, naturally these are generally focussed in major metro areas, but in conjunction with Fiat you will find Alfa experts in quite a few other places.
We have heard of no major problems with spare parts availability. Prices tend to be relatively high.
Insurance costs are a little higher than average, hardly a surprise considering the adventurous nature of some of the drivers!
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Make sure the service books are up to date, remembering that time is just as important as distance.
In particular make sure the camshaft timing belt has been replaced. It has a shorter than average life of just – 60,000 or three years, whichever comes first.
Have the front wheel alignment checked as thumps against kerbs can rearrange it. Uneven tyre wear is a sign, but some cunning sellers may have fitted different tyres before putting the car on sale.
Look for signs of crash repairs. Uneven paint colours, overspray on glass and badges and ripples in the panels are clues. If there’s any doubt have a professional do a full inspection, including a test of chassis alignment.
Do some fast gearchanges and listen for protesting rasps from the gearbox.
Make sure the engine starts easily and idles reasonably smoothly, even when cold.
Expect prices to range from $8000 to $12,000 for a 2009 Alfa Romeo MiTo; $11,000 to $16,000 for a 2010 Sport; $13,000 to $18,000 for a 2014 Progression Series 2: $14,000 to $19,000 for a 2011 Quadrifoglio; $15,000 to $21,000 for a 2012 Sport or Quadrifoglio; and $16,000 to $23,000 for a 2014 Distinctive Series 2 or Quadrifoglio.
CAR BUYING TIP
Many so-called sports machines aren’t driven by sporting drivers, Alfa Romeo owners do tend to be an exception…