FOR a change in the car world, there’s no daft symbolism about winds, spirits or stallions in the name of Alfa Romeo’s smallest model, the MiTo. ‘Mi’ stands for Milano, ‘To’ for Torino and for the MiTo Alfa relocated production from Milan to Turin.
The MiTo is refreshingly honest in other ways, too, a small sports hatchback in the tradition of the Sud, 33 and 147. A significant upgrade has taken ‘small’ to new limits with the addition of an engine of only two cylinders and 875cc capacity.
The turbocharged TwinAir MiTo engine – shared with the Fiat 500 – pushes out a creditable 77 kiloWatts and 145 Newtonmetres, average consumption of 4.2 litres per 100 kms and CO2 exhaust emissions of just 99 grams per kilometre.
And the price is as skinny as the engine. Less than a year ago, the least expensive MiTo was a 1.4 turbo at $31,990. The importer slashed that to $25,200 in February and now has introduced the range-opening TwinAir for $22,500.
The award-winning engine is the essence of Euro eco-hitech, but enthusiasts may be more tempted the existing MultiAir 1.4 with 99 kW.
Its base model, called Progression, with five-speed manual transmission is now $700 less than in February 2013 – $24,500, or $26,500 is with a six-speed double-clutch unit. (This raises the question whether Alfa Romeo will soon re-position the bigger and more desirable Giulietta 1.4 hatchback, which currently costs $24,550.)
The top-of-the-line MiTo Distinctive 1.4 now costs $28,000, while the QV variant has been dropped.
The first serious upgrade of the MiTo brings very minor exterior changes. The knowledgeable Alfisti will notice brighter surrounds on the traditional heart-shaped grille and headlights and taillights.
Inside, there are new trims, fabrics and colour combinations, but the main enhancement is the addition of an infotainment system called Uconnect. This nicely-designed unit allows touch-screen operation of a wirelessly-connected mobile phone or music player.
The MiTo three-door hatch is one of the prettiest and most characterful superminis available in Australia and now its price is at last at a realistic level.
Whether buyers will accept the little TwinAir engine in return for the smaller price remains to be seen. By definition, Alfas are cars with sporting engines.
My first impressions are that the TwinAir is very smooth and quiet and has surprising mid-range power. However, extra accelerator is needed to get it off the mark quickly and when it runs out of puff at the top of its rev range it tends to do so abruptly, like a diesel.
Familiarity may overcome this. Meanwhile, the new MiTo offers a jaunty alternative to the conventional small car mob.