Alfa Romeo MiTo now comes with the option of a two-cylinder turbo-petrol engine that’s ideal for city commuters

Alfa Romeo MiTo now comes with the option of a two-cylinder turbo-petrol engine that’s ideal for city commuters

Alfa Romeo has released a Series 2 version of its MiTo three-door hatch with the biggest news being the addition of its smallest engine, a brilliant little two-cylinder 875 cc turbo-petrol unit.

Much to the frustration of Australian Alfisti their beloved Italian marque all but disappeared from the local scene during the years it was brought in by a private importer. Alfa Romeo is now part of the giant Fiat-Chrysler Group (FCG) with local operations now being managed directly by the factory.

An increase in Alfa Romeo models, as well as significant price cuts has led to a big increase in sales.

Marketing of the MiTo is heavily based on the fact that it’s Italian: “It’s not a car. It’s an Alfa Romeo” is the slogan and even the name merges the names of two major Italian cities, using the first two letters of Alfa’s base (Milan) and those of Fiat’s home town (Torino).

There’s no mistaking that the little car is an Alfa. In a period where car designers seem to be following each other with variations of the ‘widemouth’ grille the traditional triangular Alfa Romeo ‘shield’ certainly stands out.

We liked the looks of the original MiTo and so are pleased that styling changes in the Series 2 are minimal. The body is still dominated by big round lights at front and rear, a domed roof and rising waistline that combine to give a neat, sporting look. The grille now gets a chrome-plated frame, head and tail lights have a new design and there are three different designs for the three sizes of alloy wheels.

There’s good space for front seat occupants but the back is best left to children or compact adults. The boot is short but deep thanks to a space-saver under the floor.

Despite its low capacity the 0.9-litre TwinAir engine manages to generate 77 kW of power and torque of 145 Nm. Fuel consumption is listed at 4.2 litres per 100 kilometres. At 99 grams per kilometre it puts out the lowest CO2 emissions of any mass-produced petrol engine in the world.

Alfa_Romeo_MiTo_4The 1.4-litre Multi Air engine, also a turbo-petrol, carries over from the first generation MiTo with power and torque unchanged at 99 kW and 206 respectively.

The TwinAir only comes with a six-speed manual gearbox while the MultiAir gets the choice of five-speed manual or six-speed TCT dual-clutch automatic with the MiTo Progression, but just the TCT in the flagship MiTo Distinctive model.

Alfa Romeo’s clever DNA drive system is continued. This provides three different modes to cater for specific driving styles and driver desires. The modes are Dynamic, Normal and All-weather (hence the name). Electronic changes to the throttle, steering and suspension systems give the MiTo quite a different feel on the road. The system does work well and you can feel the MiTo become more, or less, sprightly as you switch between the different options.

We were able to drive each of the Alfa Romeo Series 2 MiTo models during the car’s press launch in and around Melbourne.

The first leg of our drive route was in the TwinAir from Melbourne airport to Portsea, a 140-km trip mainly at motorway speeds. That trip clearly established that this is essentially a city car while the MultiAir in which we made the return journey is much more at home on the open road.

Under hard acceleration the two-cylinder TwinAir’s rev limiter cuts in disconcertingly at around 6000 rpm and needs regular attention to gear changing to avoid sudden drops in power.

Alfa_Romeo_MiTo_3The high revs needed for cruising on the highway led to fuel consumption of around 6.2 Litres per 100 kilometres, well above the official 3.8 L/100 km extra-urban figure which is one of the TwinAir’s selling points.

Very little of our TwinAir test encompassed the inner city conditions for which the car was designed. We found the manual shift in the TwinAir to be a bit spongy but that could be specific to our car. We’ll get a better feel for the car when he carry out our extended test in our home area.

One annoying aspect was the limited maximum angle at which the driver’s door mirror could be set, meaning we always had the side of the car in view. This is possibly due to the mirror being set up for left-hand-drive cars. So is a cost saving measure as Alfa hasn’t designed a different mirror for right-drive countries. Although the problem is partly offset by the outer 20 per cent of the mirror being a convex section we feel it could still affect safety.

All models come with seven airbags (front, side, curtain and driver’s knee); ABS brakes with Brake Assist and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution; collapsible steering wheel; hill hold; LED rear lights; high and reach steering wheel adjustment; and cruise control. Rear parking sensors are optional on the TwinAir and standard on the MultiAir.

Alloy wheels are standard, 15-inch on the TwinAir, 16-inch on Multi Air Progression and 17-inch on the MultiAir Distinctive. The Distinctive also gets dual-zone climate control air; higher quality cloth seats; and leather-wrapped steering wheel.

Options include premier paint; powered sunroof ; and leather seats and a premium sound system (Distinctive only)

New to both MiTo models is the Alfa Romeo Uconnect multimedia system. Using a neat and compact five-inch colour touch screen monitor it provides access to radio, Bluetooth telephone including text-to-speech technology for inward SMS message, audio streaming and trip information.

The added cost of Uconnect has been offset by the unavailability of satellite navigation although the combination of Bluetooth audio streaming and a smartphone-based navigation app allows route instructions to be broadcast through the audio system, a featured that worked perfectly during our test.

Alfa Romeo sales more than doubled in 2013 and while that was from a low base it does indicate that the iconic Italian marque still appeals to those looking for cars that are just a little bit different. The new MiTo broadens that appeal in that it effectively offers two different cars, one for the city and one for both the ‘burbs and the wide open road.

Price cuts add to MiTo’s appeal with the Series 2 Distinctive and Progression models now around $7000 cheaper than before.

The complete Series 2 Alfa Romeo MiTo range is:
TwinAir 0.9-litre turbo-petrol three-door hatch: $22,500 (six-speed manual)
MulitAir Progression 1.4-litre turbo-petrol three-door hatch: $24,500 (five-speed manual), $26,500 (six-speed TCT automatic)
MultiAir Distinctive 1.4-litre turbo-petrol three-door hatch: $28,000 (six-speed TCT automatic)
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Alfa Romeo dealer for driveaway prices.

About Alistair Kennedy

Alistair Kennedy is Automotive News Service and Marque Publishing's business manager and the company's jack-of-all-trades. An accountant by profession, he designs the Marque range of motoring book titles, operates the company's motoring bookshop on the NSW Central Coast and the associated web site, as well as its huge digital and hard copy database. Whenever we can escape from the office he does so to cover new vehicle releases and contributes news stories. Alistair's other interests include cricket and family history on which he has written three books.
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