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Electric Car Guide
Alfa Romeo Mito 1.3 JTDm-2
Review and Road Test of the Alfa Romeo MiTo 1.3 JTDm-2
Model/Engine size: 85 Sprint 3dr
Fuel economy combined: 80.7 mpg
Green Car Guide rating: 9/10
Historically Alfa Romeo has not been seen as a leader in the area of fuel economy cars, but all that has changed with the MiTo 1.3 JTDm-2, which is capable of a highly impressive 80.7 mpg, equating to 90 g/km CO2.
With sub-100 g/km emissions, it’s also exempt from the London Congestion Charge. But can the MiTo really combine economy and sporty fun?
Even before you drive the car, the MiTo has individual looks to set it apart; we think that both its exterior and interior design works well.
Small cars should be fun to drive, and even more so if it’s an Alfa. The MiTo doesn’t disappoint in this area. It’s small and light, and has responsive steering, even though it may not be super-precise. Its chassis adds to the fun, providing agile handling and decent levels of grip.
This MiTo has an 85 bhp 1.3-litre MultiJet diesel engine with a five-speed manual gearbox – not the most slick-shifting of units. The car has a Start&Stop system, which helps to keep the official emissions figures down.
Alfa Romeo MiTo performance on snow and ice-covered roads
Snow and ice-covered roads turned out to be part of the MiTo’s road test. It wasn’t fitted with winter tyres, but the MiTo does come with Alfa’s ‘DNA’ drive setting choices, designed to give you different levels of response in the steering, throttle and traction departments; D is for Dynamic, N is for Normal, and A is for All-weather.
It’s difficult to feel a huge amount of difference between the three settings in everyday driving, however at one point on our test route the Mito was faced with a steep hill covered in sheet ice, and despite its lack of winter tyres, it somehow managed to scrabble to the top in the all-weather setting. Being curious about issues involving tyres, traction, snow and ice, there was no choice but to attempt the ascent again, but this time in Dynamic mode. Sure enough, the front wheels started spinning uncontrollably almost immediately, thus proving that there is in fact a difference between the three settings, even though it may not be that obvious in normal driving.
The snow also made it down to Heathrow, where there was one inch of the white stuff lying on the ground, resulting in half of all flights being cancelled (meanwhile, in East Germany, airports were operating completely normally despite six feet of snow). The cancellations at Heathrow included a flight on which I was scheduled, resulting in the MiTo having to be driven from Manchester to Farnborough, despite all news programmes warning of instant death for anyone driving on the roads that day. Would the Alfa make it to Farnborough in such treacherous conditions? Also, would a car capable of almost 80 mpg have sufficient power for a long motorway journey?
It turned out that all fears were unfounded. Overall, the MiTo was an excellent means of transport for motorway driving. It was comfortable and stable, the steering was well weighted, and it generally had sufficient power, apart from when trying to overtake on long uphill sections of motorway. Although quiet during most driving, when pushed, the engine can sound vocal and strained, when the overall refinement of the car suffers. There’s also some road and wind noise at motorway speeds. The MiTo would probably benefit from a sixth gear to keep the revs lower at motorway speeds.
Of particular importance, it returned some excellent economy figures. We didn’t quite see 80 mpg, but at motorway speeds it averaged just over 60 mpg, which is likely to keep most potential owners happy. In fact the MiTo managed 60 mpg during its entire time with us, which mainly involved lots of fast motorway runs as well as testing through the ice and snow in the Pennines.
Another outcome of the impressive economy was the driving range on a full tank, which in real-life is likely to be at least 500-600 miles for most people.
So the MiTo looks good, drives well, and is economical. But it’s an Alfa Romeo, so surely there must be some quirky features to imbue it with Alfa character?
Alfa Romeo MiTo design & features
One of the main areas of the car that could benefit from improvement is the ride. During most driving the ride is perfectly fine. However if you have a poorly-surfaced road and you’re driving at a certain speed, the ride can become extremely jiggly - jiggly being a perfect technical term for the experience - to the extent that if you try and drink from a bottle of water while negotiating such a surface, you’re likely to spill the contents down your shirt.
Other more trivial gripes include the windscreen wiper controls, for front and rear windows. On the journey from the North to the South of the UK the motorways were full of grit, meaning that the windscreen and rear window needed constant cleaning. But rather than having a stalk that you push up or down, like virtually all other cars, the windscreen wiper controls are on a rotary dial that you have to turn at the end of the stalk. If you want to clean the windscreen with water you have to pull the stalk then turn the control to get the wipers working, rather than just having one touch for both actions.
On the rear window, you can only have the wiper working with lots of water, which, on a journey on gritted roads, poses a real risk for losing all of your water. Added to all that, the automatic wiper setting seemed slow to respond to rain.
Another area for improvement is the display of the information about items such as time and temperature that sits between the dials on the dash. This information is in small red text on a black background and compared to most modern cars it’s not very clear – and the graphics on the main dials aren’t much better.
There can also be a crashy noise from the suspension if you negotiate urban obstacles such as speed bumps or pot holes at low speed.
The final issue to be aware of is that access to the rear seats is difficult, and once you’re there, there’s little space, legroom is cramped, and rear visibility is poor. The boot isn’t particularly large, and it has a very high lip. However this is a small car and prospective owners are presumably not expecting it to have limousine-like levels of space.
Most of the above are minor issues and they don’t stop us liking the MiTo. It’s a viable alternative to a MINI, although it doesn’t have as much power as a Cooper D, and the MINI still has the edge in the area of direct responses, although its firm ride may be a bit much for some.
At £14,450 the MiTo is quite expensive for a supermini, but it’s cheaper than a MINI.
If you want a more powerful diesel than this 1.3, there’s the 120 bhp 1.6 JTDm. There’s also a range of petrol 1.4-litre engines with outputs ranging from 78 bhp to the MultiAir 105, 135 or 170 bhp units.
The MiTo range as a whole has four equipment levels; Progression, Sprint, Distinctive and Quadrifoglio Verde; not the easiest names for consumers to understand.
The MiTo has impressive safety equipment including electronic stability control, seven airbags and active anti-whiplash head restraints, and it has achieved the maximum Euro NCAP five-star crash test rating, but one area where Alfa needs to improve its perception with potential buyers is with reliability.
You may get some quirky Alfa features but the MiTo 1.3 JTDm-2 does the big, important things well –- it’s a small, efficient car with lots of character, it’s good to drive, good to look at, it’s very economical, and it shows that cars can be fun even if they don't have lots of power; that’s why it gets a Green-Car-Guide rating of 9 out of 10.
Car Facts and Figures
Alfa Romeo MiTo 1.3 JTDm-2 data
Fuel economy extra urban: 97.4 mpg
Fuel economy urban: 64.2 mpg
CO2 emissions: 90 g/km
Green rating: VED band A - First year £0
Weight: 1150 Kg
Company car tax liability (2011/12): 13%
Insurance group: 11
Power: 94 hp
Max speed: 108 mph
0-62 mph: 12.9 seconds
- Paul Clarke