As part of the 2014 model year updates for the Alfa Romeo MiTo supermini sized three door hatchback range,the two cylinder, 875cc TwinAir,
105bhp turbocharged petrol engine is claimed to offer improved response and flexibility without harming fuel economy and increasing CO2 emissions.
The latest version of the TwinAir engine benefits from a 20bhp boost in performance which translates in a 0-62mph time that’s 1.1 seconds faster than the previous 85hp version. Top speed is 114mph. Despite the additional performance, the MiTo TwinAir officially returns a combined cycle fuel economy figure of 67.3 mpg and CO2 emissions of 99g/km. This unit is mated with a 6-speed slick action manual gearbox with stop/start fuel saving function fitted as standard, as with all the five engines on offer, in the new 2014 range. All MiTo versions have as standard Alfa’s D.N.A three mode selectable system where the driver can choose between various setting to adjust the steering and throttle responses.
The low CO2 figure of the new TwinAir engine means that VED road tax is £0 cost and should you be a company car driver then the Benefit-in-Kind tax rate is 12% and the insurance rating is group 13.
Prices of the latest MiTo range start at £14,350 for the TwinAir 105 Sprint and will rise to £18,995 once the 1.4-litre MultiAir petrol 170hp Quadrifoglio Verde (formerly Cloverleaf) variant arrives shortly.
The other three current engine options are a 1.4-litre 135bhp MultiAir petrol unit, a 1.3 JTDm-2 85bhp turbodiesel and a 1.6 JTDm-2 120bhp turbodiesel. A further unit will become available shortly with the 1.4 MultiAir petrol unit uprated to 140bhp which is mated as standard with a twin clutch automated transmission at £17,700.
In addition to the Quadrifoglio Verde specification the revised range now starts with Sprint specification, followed by Distinctive and Sportiva but the choice of spec level will depend upon the engine chosen.
I have just sampled the 2014 MiTo range with the Sportiva spec powered by the new uprated 875cc TwinAir turbocharged petrol engine and this models weighed in at £16,300.
The overall standard upgrades for the latest MiTo range includes higher specification, revised interiors, more advanced driver support technologies including Alfa’s Uconnect system, touch-screen infotainment with voice recognition, Bluetooth, steering wheel controls, USB/Aux ports and sat-nav is now an optional extra. Other spec as standard includes Start&Stop, air conditioning, leather trimmed steering wheel and gear knob, electrically operated windows and door mirrors, seven airbags, front fog lights, a rear spoiler and alloy wheels, 18-inchers on the Sportiva which give a harsh ride. Sportiva spec also includes sports kick plates, Sportiva badging, a darker roof-lining and distinctive leather-look upholstery for the sports seats. However the plastic trim feels and looks cheap in places.
Outside the latest MiTo gets a chromed finish to the distinctive Alfa grille, titanium grey headlamp and taillight surrounds, tinted rear windows and a sports styled rear bumper plus a choice of new body colours. The three door MiTo is mostly recognised by its iconic Alfa Romeo face. In most other respects it is standard fare in the three door supermini hatch sector, apart from the now much larger new MINI Hatch.
The MiTo is very much a niche model in the UK’s best selling supermini sector of the new car market. Alfa Romeo have been coy responding to my request for sales figures for this range but suffice to say they only sold a total of 5,687 new cars in the UK last year and that was a 21.6% fall on 2012. So far this year sales are running at the same level as last year.
In fairness the Alfa range currently only consists of the MiTo supermini and the Giulietta C-segment five door hatchbacks. But the desirable 4C Coupe with right hand drive will arrive later this year priced at £45,000 and a recent statement from Alfa’s parent company of Fiat said more totally news models are planned and these will contain more of the sporting DNA of the Alfa brand which dates back over 100 years.
So for now the MiTo soldiers on and the uprated 105bhp TwinAir two cylinder 875cc turbocharged petrol engine is the main talking point. Going to two cylinders is not new and some of us will remember the Citroen 2CV with its distinctive engine soundtrack and sluggish but durable performance unfortunately it is noisy and suffers from vibrations. The soundtrack of the two-cylinder TwinAir MiTo is much the same but the performance is better but I think two cylinders is a step too far for engine downsizing. Even some new three cylinder units are too small and generally all these new-age small capacity engines in the end get worked harder to meet the demands of modern day driving and in turn return poor fuel economy.
This version of the MiTo is officially supposed to return 67.2mpg in the Combined Cycle but my test driving resulted in a poor 39.3mpg and that wasn’t driving the car fiercely at all. Most of the time it was left in its ‘Natural’ D.N.A setting and I used the gearchange arrow shift prompts. I did try the engine with the ‘Dynamic’ D.N.A setting and certainly it sharpens the lethargic response but then it was too easy to rev the engine in lower gears into the rev-limiter. With only 145Nm (107lb ft) of torque available from 2,000rpm there just isn’t enough ‘grunt’ to make the driving experience rewarding or even satisfactory for a car like the sporty looking MiTo. Even at lower commuting speeds the response to the accelerator is not sharp, the engine feel’s fuzzy and I was never quite sure whether I was using enough revs or too many to pull away. On faster A/B roads it improved but the long-legged gearing meant numerous down changes to get the engine in its power-band to overtake slower vehicles or even to accelerate up hills or our of a corner. This was normal, legal driving I’m talking about, no boy or girl-racer stuff.
Thankfully there are other engine options for customers to choose from if they like what they see with the new MiTo. Overall the three door hatchback is not a bad car at all. It comes from an iconic brand, it is well equipped, it looks good inside and out, the ride is firm, the handling feels sharp enough but I couldn’t be sure just how good the car is because of the disappointing engine performance, both in terms of get-up-and-go and fuel economy. It might be supermini in size but not in its performance.
MILESTONES: 2014 Alfa Romeo MiTo 875cc TwinAir 105bhp Sportiva 3-door supermini. Price: £16,300. Engine/transmission: 875cc, two-cylinder turbocharged petrol, 105bhp, 145Nm of torque (107lb ft) from 2,000rpm, 6-speed manual. Performance: 114mph, 0-62mph 11.4 seconds, 67.2mpg Combined Cycle (39.3mpg on test), CO2 99g/km, VED road tax £0. BIK company car tax 12%. Insurance group: 13. Warranty: 3-years/unlimited mileage. Dimensions/capacities: L 4,063mm, W 1,720mm, H 1,446mm, boot 270-litres. For: Low on tax costs, sporty styling, well equipped. Against: Lethargic noisy engine, poor fuel economy on test, firm ride on large wheels, stylish rather than practical or speedy in this sector, cheap interior plastic trim. Miles better news agency