Alfa c

What is it? What it’s not is a proper Alfa Romeo.

What’s in it? A 77-kilowatt turbocharged 875 cc two-cylinder with a six-speed manual.

Is it thirsty? I used 10.5 litres per 100 km in the city, 6 in the country. The official combined figure is 4.2.

Drive away $26,523

Thumbs up It handles well.

Thumbs down Horrible motor, sharp ride and a space-saver spare.

There was a time when you couldn’t buy an Alfa with an automatic gearbox because Alfa only made manuals. There was a time when the sound of an Alfa engine – any Alfa engine – was inspirational, a symphony of many well-oiled parts moving in seamless coordination towards a common goal. There was a time when Alfas always made you feel good.

Alfa dThere were those times. Now we have a Mito with an 875 cc two-cylinder engine that vibrates like a dryer full of wet towels. It’s noisier than a 1980s diesel and doesn’t go as hard, with an official 0-100 kmh acceleration time of 11.4 seconds, the best Alfa’s own test drivers could wring out of it. With a bit of practice the fastest I did was 13.6. A Corolla auto accelerates faster.

The rising engine note of an Alfa was once thrilling. At 5000 rpm this one sounds like a lawn mower with a holed muffler. At 6000, or 38 kmh in first, 68 kmh in second, it’s done. The motor was designed for a Fiat 500 and it’s pretty crook in that too.

There’s only one reason you’d buy this car. It’s an Alfa for $26,523. Just don’t expect it to go like one. Although it does handle like one. It tucks into bends nicely and grips, getting around with panache and a lovely degree of Italian nonchalance – call that a corner? But as soon as you hit the gas there’s that low, loud raspberry thrumming from the engine again. The trade-off is supposed to be great economy. I couldn’t manage anything special.

There’s no torque to speak of. On the highway you find yourself changing down a gear, maybe two, for long hills. This fills the cabin with engine noise again. The tyres are noisy too.

The car is basic for the money – it was something you tolerated from Alfas of yore because they were fun. But when they’re no fun you could reasonably expect a few nice things. Like parking sensors, rain sensing wipers, good audio and somewhere to put your sunnies that isn’t a cup-holder. Nope. But there is cruise, good front seats and a deep luggage bay with enough room for the weekly groceries.

Harley Davidson builds two-cylinder motors that go and sound great, why can’t Alfa? There is a proper Mito with a proper four-cylinder engine. It costs $28,583.

Published June 2014



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