DNA. Clever stuff. Genetic coding that relates one thing to another. Father to son, mother to daughter. Alfa Romeo 8C supercar to Alfa Romeo MiTo supermini…
No, seriously. From surface-mounted headlights to circular LED taillights, via slender glasshouse and curvaceous hips, this compact hatchback really does capture the spirit of its high-class, high-price Competizione cousin. The interior has suitable wow factor, too – if also some cheap-feeling plastics.
As Alfa Romeo’s debutant showing in the competitive supermini segment, the MiTo makes one hell of a first impression. But DNA is doubly important to this darling.
You can just imagine the meeting where someone figured out those crucial characters could also stand for Dynamic, Normal and All-weather. And therefore represent the three-setting adaptive chassis package that comes standard on every MiTo. It must have been high-fives all round.
Anyway, clearly Alfa is gunning for MINI. Hard. The MiTo’s pricing starts at just £10,745 – £1,600 less than an entry-level MINI One. That cash gets Turismo trim and a 95bhp 1.4-litre 16v petrol – the only engine in the line-up that isn’t turbocharged.
However, we tried the fully-loaded Veloce and the range topping 155bhp 1.4-litre turbo petrol and 120bhp 1.6-litre turbodiesel. A 90bhp diesel and 122bhp petrol are your other choices, plus a mid-range Lusso equipment level.
The 1.6 turbodiesel needs Dynamic mode. In Normal, it’s sluggish – Alfa says relaxed, we say apathetic; All-weather is understandably even worse – and the steering’s strangely spongy.
Flip the switch, though, and you’ve got a proper little performance car. The dampers stiffen, the steering gains welcome weight, and the MiTo surges forward. The more aggressive throttle map meaning you finally feel all 320Nm of torque, and 0-62mph in 9.9 seconds seems pessimistic.
However, if you really want to be entertained, take the top dog turbo petrol. It’s much livelier immediately – the difference between Normal and Dynamic is far less pronounced – and the engine is bursting with zingy, revvy character, complete with low-key whooshing noises as the turbo spools on the boost.
0-62mph? Eight seconds dead, and a top speed of 134mph. The petrol is also lighter on its feet – the engine weighs less, and the MiTo responds with ever-so-slightly sharper reactions.
However, both cover ground with confidence, and regardless of DNA setting the MiTo’s body control is beautifully tight. Impressively, the firmness here is only really uncomfortable on the very worst of British Tarmac – but the MiTo does thump a little over urban surface intrusions.
So, we like. Actually, we like a lot. The entire concept of an Italian car with such complex electronics remains eyebrow raising from a reliability standpoint, but with such a complete package of value, performance, and style, the MiTo is easily MINI’s biggest challenger yet.
by CJ HUBBARD