Alfa 2What is it? Worth every cent of the extra over the base model

What’s in it? A 99-kilowatt turbocharged 1.4-litre with a six-speed auto

Is it thirsty? I used 9.5 litres per 100 km in the city, 7 in the country. The official combined figure is 5.5.

Drive away $30,538

Thumbs up Value, fun to drive, a great auto gearbox.

Thumbs down Some road noise, space saver spare.

Lots of cars have a sport mode. Usually it changes the gears ratios, sometimes it tightens the suspension by pumping the shock absorbers up a bit. And in most cases when I flip between sport mode and regular, often called comfort, I notice very little difference apart from the transmission refusing to use top gear.

Alfa Romeo’s DNA is not like this. It offers one of the most effective sport modes in motoring. In your normal pottering about town you have it in N, or normal. A (all weather) is for mud and slush and the occasional snowfall, D is dynamic. Maybe they should have called it P for passionate.

alfa 1In D the car behaves like it’s being driven by an Italian through the alps. It downshifts rapidly for the climb up the mountain and hangs on to lower gears. Coming down the other side it double-clutches beautifully on each downshift and hangs on to the lower gear for engine braking until you start accelerating again. And it uses top gear. The only downside I noticed is that when cold the motor is a bit lumpier on light throttle.

Even in traffic you’ll know when it’s in D. It downshifts as you’re braking for the lights so you’ll be in the right gear if they turn green before you’ve stopped. And it hangs on to a lower gear until it’s thoroughly satisfied you’re cruising along, when it relaxes and gives you the higher gear.

It’s a very clever auto gearbox, and when it’s not clever enough you have paddle shifts on the steering wheel to override it.

Note that I’m talking here about the four-cylinder Alfa Mito, the turbocharged 1.4-litre, and not the cheapest Mito with the 875cc two-cylinder motor, a dog of a car. If the two-cylinder is all you can afford borrow the extra $6500 from your mum, stack it on the mortgage or sell enough of your kids to get the proper Alfa. After the two-cylinder cheapie this one is a revelation, and as well as being far more powerful it gets almost the same real world economy.

The Mito is a comfy little car and pleasingly direct, with good seating and, provided the front-seat folk are prepared to negotiate, a surprisingly comfortable rear seat for something this size. It handles nicely, rides firmly and is among the best handling of front-drive cars.

Published December 2014

 

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