But on the flip side of the coin are the less attractive connotations – reliability woes and trouble-prone electrics are reputations dealers are still struggling to overcome.
With that in mind, news of the most complicated engine ever to grace an automobile being fitted to the latest MiTo might send a shudder down the spine of some retailers. But the new MultiAir powerplant isn’t something to be feared.
Yes, it might be more complicated than quantum physics, and the last thing you EVER want to do is get involved in a full-blown conversation about how it works with a buyer, but the fact remains it is still a dramatic leap forward.
All buyers really need to know are three key facts: MultiAir is more fuel efficient, it’s greener and, most importantly, more powerful than a standard engine. It does all this in an extremely clever way too.
It’s something to do with pistons, valves and springs. Or something. However it works, it’s seriously complicated and impossible to explain here without sending you to sleep, so I won’t bother. Google it if you’re interested.
What’s far more important – and what will really sell this car to buyers – is how it drives. And boy does it excel here. The MultiAir 1.4-litre, turbo-charged engine is available with two power outputs: 135bhp and 170bhp. The latter is the most exciting of the duo, hitting 60mph in 7.5s, topping 135mph and it’s got that evocative Cloverleaf badge of days gone by too.
On the road, turbo-lag has been all but eliminated producing a driving experience that really stirs the soul. Power is almost instantaneous and the MiTo feels beefy, belieing its size. This is, after all, the Italian’s rival to the Mini and with this unit under the bonnet will be a true contender for honours against a Cooper S.
The MiTo MultiAir also features a host of other tech for the car maker including active suspension, fuel saving stop-start and DNA. That last one is utterly superb – it’s an electronic system (don’t grimace) that communicates with the engine, braking, steering, suspension and transmission to alter the ‘feel’ of the car, depending on circumstances.
Derived from racing, it’s dramatic in the way it alters the MiTo and with the ‘Dynamic’ setting engaged, makes it feel positively sporting. The throttle response is crisper, steering sharper and the car hunkers down, gripping harder in bends. The other two settings stand for ‘Normal’ and ‘All weather’, which again alter the car’s feel accordingly, but are rather less exciting.
Another debut in this Mito is the six-speed gearbox. This has been developed in-house by Fiat and offers a swift, direct shift. It’s not as good as some rivals, but is a huge improvement over the five-speed found in the 135bhp variant of the MultiAir.
By now buyers are probably used to the MiTo’s cute looks. It’s certainly different enough to stand out from its rivals. Alfa Romeo told us some 86 per cent of buyers are male and under 40. They’re usually gadget freaks, high internet users and love technology – and that buyer profile will result in a marketing campaign heavily biased towards the web.
Specification for the MultiAir is reasonable. It comes in three trims – Lusso, Veloce and Cloverleaf – with the base model featuring 16-inch alloys, electric windows, air conditioning, that all-important DNA switch and a CD player. That costs from £15,165.
But the biggest talking point really has to be that ground-breaking engine. MultiAir is a dramatic step on for the brand. You only have to look at the figures to see that: CO2 is reduced by 10 per cent, fuel consumption cut by the same amount – while power is boosted 12.5 per cent. For those buyers forced into downsizing to save money, but not wanting to lose any performance, the MultiAir offers a unique opportunity. And no matter how complicated, that’s something Alfa Romeo dealers will be able to really sell.
by JAMES BAGGOTT