by Brad Leach - 31/12/12
Like Sydney’s Double Bay and Melbourne’s Chapel Street, the Via Condotti is the heart of Rome’s fashion elite. Drive an Alfa Romeo Mito QV down that famous street and you’re right at home.
But wait, we’re not in Italy, we’re at home in Melbourne…well it’s easy to get carried away driving Alfa’s ‘pocket-rocket’.
The Mito QV is proof positive of Alfa Romeo’s product-lead resurgence – this hot hatch takes on the Germans and demands attention from anyone considering a European badge.
Watch-out for Alfa Romeo – the famous Italian brand is returning to its best thanks to a fresh injection of talented people, focus and of course funding from parent company Fiat. The Mito compact car is a clear pointer to Alfa’s future – it’s hip, dynamic and oozes Italian style.
Car Showroom tested the range-topping Alfa Romeo Mito QV – the sporty Mito is priced at $34,990.
With nice turbo 1.4-litre power, a taut, slick chassis and brilliantly sporty interior, the Alfa Romeo Mito QV takes up the challenge to Volkswagen’s segment-leading Polo GTI.
Alfa Romeo Mito QV is powered by Alfa’s credentialed 1.4-litre TB MultiAir turbocharged four-cylinder engine from the ‘Fire’ engine family. ‘MultiAir’ is Alfa’s direct valve control system which meters a direct air charge at the inlet ports for strong torque across the rev range.
Maximum power is 125kW at 5500rpm and peak torque of 250Nm arrives at 2500rpm.
Combined cycle fuel consumption is rated at 6.0l/100kms and acceleration zero to 100km/h is listed at 7.5 seconds. So in direct comparison to the Volkswagen Polo GTI three-door, the Alfa Romeo Mito QV is just a smidge slower to 100km/h (7.0 seconds for the German) but marginally better in fuel consumption (6.1l/100kms for the Polo GTI).
Turn the key (a very stylish red key with a colour Alfa Romeo logo of course – the Italians do everything with that extra style) and the Mito QV bursts into life with a great sound which accompanies you wherever you go…but get more than 4000rpm on-board and it really sounds great.
Inside is where the Alfa Romeo Mito QV goes some way in justifying the price premium over its most direct German rival. It’s altogether racier than the Polo GTI - the Mito QV’s outstanding Sabelt front seats look like they’ve come straight from the Italian Touring Car Championship racing series and naturally are snug where you want them to be snug when pressing-on in the twisty stuff.
There’s also superb alloy pedals with neat Alfa Romeo logos and the combination of rake/reach adjustment for the leather-wrapped sports steering wheel and those Sabelt seats delivers just the right driving position demanded by high performance steerers. Curiously, unlike the larger Alfa Romeo Giulietta QV, there is comfortable space around the pedals and a nice alloy left foot-rest.
The QV scores unique sports instrumentation with nice gauges (the Italian wording adding to its style) trimmed in satin-chrome in a conventional layout. There’s a nice multi-function display/trip computer with the usual information and audio is a six-speaker CD system (steering wheel remote buttons) with Alfa’s Blue&Me Bluetooth connectivity and an input port for Tom Tom satellite navigation (an integrated Tom Tom nav system is optional).
Rear seat access is good, but legroom is on the tight side (just like rival European three-doors). The rear-seat split folds 60/40 and luggage space (rear seat in-place) is 270-litres.
For the stylists at Alfa Romeo Centro Stile in Turin, Italy the brief for the Mito was relatively simple – Alfa’s all-new compact was only ever going to be a three-door. But Alfa’s sporty DNA was a not-negotiable ‘must-have’.
The result is a distinctive look which is at its best in the range-topping QV model. We liked the tapered rear-three quarter from the disguised B-pillars (a bit of cue from the Alfa Romeo 8C sports car) which gives the Mito a muscular stature.
At the front the Alfa Romeo Mito stands-out as an Alfa with the iconic shield shaped grille which fits nicely with the v-sculptured bonnet bonnet and height-adjustable clear-lens headlights.
The QV model runs metallic-look exterior mirrors, a rear hatch spoiler, dark-finished 18-inch alloy wheels and the Alfa Romeo cloverleaf (reserved for performance models) get a carbon-fibre look.
Alfa Romeo’s turbocharged 1.4-litre engine really sings when you push it along and, combined with its relatively light weight of 1145kgs (1189kgs for the Volkswagen Polo GTI three-door), the Mito QV provides a lively package which performance drivers will enjoy.
The Alfa Romeo Mito QV sits on a MacPherson strut front suspension and Torsion beam rear with a C cross section. Drive is via an electronic differential and there’s the usual European armada of electronic driver aids including cornering brake control.
Inside is a three-mode driver-select driving dynamics switch (‘Dynamic’, ‘Normal’ and ‘All-Weather). In ‘Dynamic’ mode the throttle response and steering are sharper and suspension firmer.
Around town, when accelerating hard from low speeds, torque steer was noticeable, but over our high-speed mountain roads test loop, the Alfa Romeo Mito QV was brilliant. Alfa has the suspension well-and-truly firm and that meant great feedback, precision turn-in and excellent mid-corner balance.
For sure, the Alfa Romeo Mito QV is typically European stiff over poor inner-city roads like Melbourne’s tram and train tracks – drivers of German performance cars know what we mean – but refinement levels are high and all-up it’s a very slick package. And good all-round visibility, rear parking sensors plus a handy 11.0-metre turning circle meant the challenges of our CBD car park were easily conquered.
Alfa Romeo only sells the Mito QV as a six-speed manual – fair enough it is the model’s performance leader – but the self-shifter is slow to change and this is at odds with the excellent six-speed twin-clutch automatic available in other Mito variants.
Given the all-round excellence of the Mito QV we told the Car Showroom juniors to quit complaining about the tight rear seat legroom.
Yep, we have a new Car Showroom favourite in the ‘Premium European Sporty Compact’ segment. Wrapped in quintessential Italian style wherever you look, the Alfa Romeo Mito QV ticks all the boxes demanded by buyers in this league.
The sporty interior is a standout (albeit with tight rear seat legroom) and the engaging handling reminds us of Alfa Romeo’s reputation amongst enthusiast drivers.
Volkswagen’s Polo GTI 3-door is cheaper ($27,790) and its twin-charged 1.4-litre is slightly more powerful (132kW) but has the same torque (250Nm). The Polo oozes Volkswagen quality, but we’ll score the Alfa Romeo Mito QV ahead in driving dynamics and the Italian-style interior edges the Polo’s German precision.
Audi A1 Sport enjoys the same twin-charged 1.4-litre powerplant as its Volkswagen cousin and delivers a more stylish interior than the Polo. But you’ll need more coin than the Alfa Romeo Mito QV – the Audi stickered at $42,500.
BMW’s 1 Series Coupe has the looks and, well it’s a BMW, but in this league it’s expensive – the entry-grade 115kW/200Nm 120i priced at $47,400.
From the MINI range (excellent quality, great style, nice to drive) you’ll need the $40,500 turbocharged 1.6-litre Cooper S (135kW/240Nm) to rival the Alfa Romeo Mito’s 125kW/250Nm.
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