RE: PH Carbituary: Alfa Romeo Mito

RE: PH Carbituary: Alfa Romeo Mito

Tuesday 12th March

PH Carbituary: Alfa Romeo Mito

The upmarket Italian supermini lived long, but didn't prosper



We mourn some cars like fallen heroes and bust out our finest moves on the graves of others. But there’s a third class – those we don’t miss at all. News that the Alfa Mito has fallen off its perch is likely to be met with the sort of shrug that would mark the passing of a distant relative who made it to an unexpectedly ripe old age. The biggest surprise is likely to be learning that, until recently, the baby Alfa was still alive at all.

Okay, so the final Mitos were actually produced mid-way through last year, but the car is still listed on Alfa UK’s website and the presence of at least one still-unregistered example in the PH classifieds proves it’s not too late to realise the dream of owning Alfa’s supermini. Yet, while the Mito certainly wasn’t a great car – and definitely outstayed its welcome – nor was it anything like as bad as some of the snippier reviews suggested.

Alfa was in the depths of one of its periodic funks in the mid-noughties. The 156 had driven the brand to unprecedented success at the turn of the millennium, something the heavier, frumpier 159 hadn’t been able to continue. Annual sales of the pudgy saloon and estate peaked at barely more than half the 100,000-odd that the 156 had managed. The handsome 147 hatchback stayed popular for longer, but – having been introduced in 2000 on a cut-down 156 platform – was expensive to produce compared to similarly sized rivals. The Brera, Spider and GT added some sparkle – a very modest amount in the case of the GT – but sold in volumes that would be regarded as rounding errors by the Germans.


Which is why Alfa took the decision to boldly enter an entirely new part of the market in search of some much-needed volume, spinning a car from the same platform that underpinned the Fiat Grande Punto and – at a more distant remove – the tubby abomination which was the 2006 Corsa. You can argue about whether the Mito was the right answer, but Alfa was certainly asking a sensible question.

In engineering terms the Mito was almost entirely unremarkable, but Alfa managed to turn the process of naming its new baby into a soap opera. Whist being developed it was known as the Junior, a name with strong reference to the brand’s past, but using it would be too simple. Instead Alfa launched a Europe-wide competition to help come up with a moniker, with voters allowed to choose between a limited number of options; so there would be no Alfa McAlfaface shenanigans. In November 2007 the company proudly announced that Furiosa had won, on the back of strong poling in Italy and France. (Brits had preferred Fira, which sounds more Vauxhall-ish.)

All sorted then? Of course not – cue your grandfather’s favourite joke about the Italian love of reverse gear – Alfa then decided to completely ignore the results of its own competition and announced it was going with Mito instead. A formulation dreamed up – doubtless at considerable cost from a swanky agency – to celebrate the fact the new car had been designed in Alfa’s home city of Milan but would be assembled in a Fiat plant in Turin, Torino in Italian. Still, at least Furiosa wasn’t wasted, with George Miller giving it to Charlize Theron’s one-armed ass-whupper in Mad Max: Fury Road.


Alfisti have always had a high tolerance for the sort of flaws that buyers of other brands would regard as unforgivable, but much less acceptance for boring cars. Which is, pretty much, what the launch spec version was. The mono-nostril styling gave a very slight resemblance to the 8C, but the Punto underpinnings meant a torsion bar rear axle and a range of deeply unthrilling Fiat Group powerplants. The most exciting engine at launch was a 120hp version of the rev-averse 1.4-litre turbo, one which gave a 0-62mph time that only just dropped below nine seconds.

Contemporary road testers commented on a high seating position, stiffish ride, limited steering feedback and a front-endy handling balance which made faster progress an exercise in understeer management. The modest dynamic thrills on offer came from joggling between the modes of the switchable DNA system, which adjusted steering weight and throttle mapping. On the plus side, construction felt impressively solid by brand standards and the Mito scored well on kerb appeal. But excitement was conspicuous only by its absence, and against the better-rounded charms of the ‘R56’ Mini, the Alfa started life as an also-ran.

Too harsh? Well the Mito certainly got better over time. The engine range filled out at both ends, with a punchier 155hp version of the 1.4 and – in 2011 – Fiat’s charismatic TwinAir, which added some much-needed character at the bottom of the range, and which was also slow enough to give the Mito some attractively low insurance premiums for yoof in search of something a bit classier than a DS3 and more imaginative than a Mini.


There was never a truly hot version, but the Quadrifoglio Verde got close. Launched in 2010 this used a 170hp version of the 1.4 and got various chassis tweaks and upgraded Brembo brakes. It wasn’t a dynamic scalpel, but it took impressive punishment without complaint. I took a QV from the UK to Monza for a ‘Speed Days’ track session where €40 bought 50 minutes on the circuit. The Mito did back-to-back stints without complaint, holding its own against a variety of more potent machinery and never ran short on retardation.

The Mito’s likeability is a long-term one, something that has won it a small but enthusiastic following and a fan club keen to defend its honour. But sales were never more than disappointing. At peak it moved less than half what the Mini was managing in Europe, by 2013 volume had collapsed to a dismal 17,000. Small wonder that Alfa cancelled a proposed five-door version early on. There was also meant to be a 240hp GTA, which would have been aimed squarely at the Mini JCW and featured both a 1.8-litre engine and active suspension, and was even previewed by a production-ready concept at the 2009 Geneva Show. Sadly, it was canned too.

Alfa’s changing strategy – and determination to move itself upmarket – meant there was little internal love for the Mito. Developing the rear-drive Giorgio platform that underpins the Giulia and Stelvio cost a huge amount, leaving little in the kitty for less important projects. That’s why, with minimal tweaks, the Mito was allowed to trundle on for as long as it did. It’s also why Alfa’s first supermini will almost certainly be its last. So, wake or party?


Author
Discussion

mrclav

Original Poster:

748 posts

162 months

Tuesday 12th March
quotequote all
I agree that the passing of this car isn't exactly going to be mourned - I never thought anything but 'meh' when seeing them (I speak as a former 147 owner).

Patch1875

3,341 posts

71 months

Tuesday 12th March
quotequote all
Still a good looking wee car, nearly bought a QV until I drove it.


Oilchange

5,342 posts

199 months

Tuesday 12th March
quotequote all
What a miserable article.

Bought a little black one with leather for my daughter, she loves it. All her mates like the leather and the raspy little 1.4 and the fact that it is different to the usual VWs and Vauxhalls that they all drive. It goes like a rocket in dynamic too.
Much love for the Mito here!

Harry_523

86 posts

38 months

Tuesday 12th March
quotequote all
I had an early one of these for 5 years and loved every minute of it. The ride was rubbish and the steering a bit weird, but it looked and sounded great, had bags of grip and was the most reliable car ive owned by some stretch.

Lets not forget that the QV was the first supermini with adaptive dampers, the multiair/twinair engines where world firsts for their cam technology, and you could get those gorgeous carbon buckets. A proper Alfa clap

wiliferus

3,230 posts

137 months

Tuesday 12th March
quotequote all
I always had a soft spot for these. Always struck me as a super mini with a bit of class... something a bit different. As much as I completely get there are more complete supermini packages out there, if I’d have been in the market for such a car I would have certainly given a Mito more than a cursory glance.
Only in QV flavour obviously.
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Vee12V

770 posts

99 months

Tuesday 12th March
quotequote all
Once got a Edition Maserati courtesy car for the weekend. Now that was a sublime spec.

Gary29

2,023 posts

38 months

Tuesday 12th March
quotequote all
It's a Punto....innit.

humphra

40 posts

31 months

Tuesday 12th March
quotequote all
I've had several times when one of these would fitted the bill. However, I've never been able to see past the design of the front and in particular, rhose headlights. Just an ugly design at the front end, in my opinion.

ZX10R NIN

13,352 posts

64 months

Tuesday 12th March
quotequote all
I have to say the are good little cars that make for good options especially used as they have a BHP output to keep everyone happy 95/205/120/140/155/170 they also come with a decent amount of kit, they're as reliable as anything else on the market I've sourced these for young & old all are happy the thing I get asked the most is to change the headunit for one with DAB etc & also because they're single din the headunits are cheap.

firebird350

269 posts

119 months

Tuesday 12th March
quotequote all
Mainly because of the headlights I always thought the Mito's front end made it resemble Roger Rabbit...

nottyash

4,662 posts

134 months

Tuesday 12th March
quotequote all
I ended up buying a top of the range model last year. Now badged Veloce as the QV name was dropped it has the same 170bhp multi air petrol 1.4. Now with a semi auto box as standard as well as the standard DNA which features active suspension on this model. Mine has Sabelt carbon seats, Etna black paint, chrome mirrors, digital climate and Bose making it a £25500 list new. There is no way on earth it is worth that kind of money, however I picked up mine with 10 mile on the clock with £9000 off that price. It is great around town. Going to the shops, and in Dynamic its quite a blast on the back road. Handling is stiffer, steering is heavier, throttle response sharper and it has overboost in this mode. It is dated inside, but the new models exterior is the best yet. Lots of carbon and honeycomb grills. Boot is bigger than a mini Cooper s, and so is rear seat space. Fuel economy is only 31 average despite quoting 52mpg combined. No idea how they achieved that.

Edited by nottyash on Tuesday 12th March 09:07

The Crack Fox

13,300 posts

131 months

Tuesday 12th March
quotequote all
I’d like it more if it didn’t have a face like Daniela Westbrook.

Fire99

9,515 posts

168 months

Tuesday 12th March
quotequote all
I like them even if the looks are a bit marmite.. I'd certainly take one of these as a used buy over a MINI R56. The MINI isn't without it's issues (engine grief). I think the sales figure comparisons are less about the Mito and more the age-old issue of image. Alfa have had a small market share in the UK (regardless of model) for what seems like eternity, where as the MINI, much like the Audi TT became 'the car of choice' for a certain demographic. smile

wiliferus

3,230 posts

137 months

Tuesday 12th March
quotequote all
nottyash said:
I ended up buying a top of the range model last year. Now badged Veloce as the QV name was dropped it has the same 170bhp multi air petrol 1.4. Now with a semi auto box as standard as well as the standard DNA which features active suspension on this model. Mine has Sabelt carbon seats, Etna black paint, chrome mirrors, digital climate and Bose making it a £25500 list new. There is no way on earth it is worth that kind of money, however I picked up mine with 10 mile on the clock with £9000 off that price. It is great around town. Going to the shops, and in Dynamic its quite a blast on the back road. Handling is stiffer, steering is heavier, throttle response sharper and it has overboost in this mode. It is dated inside, but the new models exterior is the best yet. Lots of carbon and honeycomb grills. Boot is bigger than a mini Cooper s, and so is rear seat space. Fuel economy is only 31 average despite quoting 52mpg combined. No idea how they achieved that.

Edited by nottyash on Tuesday 12th March 09:07
I know beauty is in the eye, but that’s gorgeous.

Although that picture makes it look like you have some weird camber on the rear wheel hehe

Haltamer

759 posts

19 months

Tuesday 12th March
quotequote all
Whilst they're not the prettiest alfas, personally I'd have one over an Abarth:- That said, I've never heard anything special about their dynamics.

Evilex

461 posts

43 months

Tuesday 12th March
quotequote all
My ex had a Mito. I had a Puma that was a decade older with twice as many miles.

I could find nothing to recommend the Mito over the Puma. The Puma was ultimately more reliable, much quicker, handled and rode better. The only downside was marginally less rear space.
The Puma cost ⅛ the amount the Mito did.
Tax, insurance and fuel costs were loosely equal.

In short, I didn't like the Mito, especially the attempts at making it feel "sporty", which just resulted in a crashy ride.


cookie1600

1,099 posts

100 months

Tuesday 12th March
quotequote all
The Crack Fox said:
I’d like it more if it didn’t have a face like Daniela Westbrook.
Needs a full de-coke every now and then?

DeltaEvo2

712 posts

131 months

Tuesday 12th March
quotequote all
Mito over the Mini any time. The engine in the Mini is an abomination. Always getting repaired. Engine warning lights every two months, it drinks so much oil. I may get a MiTo Quadrifoglio instead, it looks better, it's a bit bigger and rare.

ElectricSoup

5,072 posts

90 months

Tuesday 12th March
quotequote all
Em, Alfa's first supermini? Wasn't the Sud smaller? Anyway, like the Sud, the Mito should have had a 5 door version. Had there been one, I'd have had one at some point.

nottyash

4,662 posts

134 months

Tuesday 12th March
quotequote all
wiliferus said:
I know beauty is in the eye, but that’s gorgeous.

Although that picture makes it look like you have some weird camber on the rear wheel hehe
Its my rubbish photography. There is a huge gap above the wheel, and lowering them makes them look much better. Problem is speed bumps where I live so have to leave it standard.