The 2009 Alfa Romeo MiTo, the new small hatchback from the Italian automaker, just might turn the perception of Alfas on its head. The company is mainly known for having great style, but the mechanical parts don’t always match up and some of the models spend as much time in the shop as the do on the road. The MiTo, however, retains the Milan-based car manufacturers spirit, with a welcome upgrade in technology.
As this is an Alfa, we will first look at the style of the MiTo. While Alfa’s designs are not always for everyone, most will generally accept their brilliance (albeit grudgingly, in some cases). This new hatchback draws its cues from the company’s 8C supercar, as evidenced by the front end and the swooping hood lines with the raised center section. Of course, this is a compact car that will retail for significantly less than the 8C, so supercar inspiration may seem a bit pretentious, but when all the pieces come together, the MiTo puts on a good show.
The handling is tight and responsive. If you want to rip around corners, then the MiTo will keep up with you. Higher trim level models come equipped with what Alfa has dubbed the DNA system, which allows drivers to select Dynamic, Normal, or All-Weather drive settings. This system was borrowed from Ferrari, and it shows. The Normal and All-Weather settings are perfect for your average, around-town driving, providing enough sportiness to keep things fun, but enough electronic controls to avoid ending up in a roadside ditch. The Dynamic mode is a blast, letting you push this little hatch to its limits. The electronic safety nets do show up when you really let loose, but by the time they kick in, you’ll welcome the help.
The four-cylinder engine puts out some decent power, 155 horses in the turbocharged variant and 240 in the special GTA edition, which is more than enough for a car this size. And when you’re using that power, you’ll be enveloped in Italian style. The MiTo’s interior eschews some of the latest trends in compact car interiors. A lot of compacts will try to disguise the fact that they’re small by including expansive windshields that meet glass-top roofs (or wide sun/moonroofs), and dashboards get a sweeping treatment that tricks the eye. The 2009 Alfa Romeo MiTo laughs at such efforts. This is a compact car, and the interior reflects that. If is nor cramping, though. Rather, it is like a perfectly fitting pair of jeans. Not too roomy, but not too snug. Just right.
And now, we come to the worst part of the MiTo, at least for those in North America. The car will not be coming stateside anytime soon. With the alliance of Fiat (who owns Alfa) with Chrysler, you can expect to see more Alfas on U.S. roads, but the MiTo will not be one of them. Executives have called the MiTo “too small” for the American market. A counterpoint to that, however, would be the Mini Cooper. That car certainly isn’t a giant, but sales are still strong. The MiTo could offer an effective counterpoint to the Mini. The Mini is built with German engineering (the brand is owned by BMW) and English tradition. The MiTo is all Italian. So, here’s hoping that the heads of Fiat and Alfa come to their sense and put this delightful hatchback compact onto American roads in the near future.