Text by Cheryl Tay
Photos by Adrian Wong
The first and last time I drove the Alfa Romeo MiTo was when it first came to Singapore in mid-2009. One year later, new versions of the baby Alfa emerged – in the forms of two different power output and drivetrains: the 135bhp 1.4-litre automatic Twin Clutch Technology (TCT) and the 170bhp 1.4-litre manual which replaces the initial 155bhp engine I tried before.
I got to test drive the 135bhp 1.4-litre automatic TCT this time, to see how different it is from before. The first model to be installed with the 1.4-litre turbo-gasoline MultiAir engine, this MiTo also has the ‘Alfa D.N.A.’ (Dynamic, Normal, All-Weather) which allows the driver to choose between three driving modes.
Each setting differs in the performance of engine, brakes, steering, suspension and gearbox; essentially resulting in different throttle and transmission response, power steering assistance, suspension firmness and stability control.
The Dynamic mode is the most exciting with faster engine response, stiffer steering and a more responsive accelerator pedal. Flick the selector to ‘d’ and the car gets an instant shot of caffeine, with its throttle response improving dramatically.
Normal mode is just of standard setting that you can leave in as default mode for everyday use. The All-Weather mode is not something you will utilise often in Singapore but you can flick to ‘a’ and try it for fun.
The Alfa Romeo MiTo 1.4 MultiAir 135bhp 1.4 Turbobenzina can hit 100km/h in 8.2 seconds – the slowest of the MiTo range – but it is still decent for its mini category. Its maximum torque is about 230Nm, not as quick on its feet as its manual counterpart and shows signs of fatigue from time to time.
The styling of the MiTo remains largely unchanged, from its unmistakable front grille and three-lobbed motif, with concentric circular shape of the headlights to its high-tailing rear with LED tail lights. This front-wheel driven hatchback is powered by a 4-cylinder 16-valve 1,368cc turbocharged engine that spits out 135bhp through its new TCT six-speed gearbox.
The automatic MiTo is the first Alfa to be fitted with this double dry clutch transmission, which is works like all other dual-clutch gearboxes – two gearboxes working in tandem, with the next gear engaged in anticipation while the previous gear is still engaged. This helps to maintain the powerband while shifting gears. Drivers can try using the steering mounted paddle shifters too.
Dimensions of the MiTo have not changed and it still stands at 4.06m long, 1.44m tall and 1.72m wide. Not the largest in its class, rear legroom is rather inadequate and the sloping, low roofline gives restricted rear headroom.
Previously, there were no fanciful features like keyless entry or engine start/stop button. But the revised MiTo now comes with the Start&Stop system and gear shift indicator. The Start&Stop is a system that controls temporary engine cut-off and subsequent restarting when the engine is idling at a standstill.
Ideally, it will further reduce emissions and noise but I think there’s a lot more refinement to be done. There is a significant pause when you press on the accelerator at the go of the green light. If you think you prefer not to have the Start&Stop system, you can always switch it off. The gear shift indicator is this device that prompts drivers the optimal time for different levels of gear engagement, so that you will be in the correct gear at all times.
This car reminds me of the twincharged Volkswagens – the ones with a supercharger and turbocharger – where a 1.4-litre engine can feel like a 2-litre engine. The MiTo is not there yet, but it does feel more powerful than it seems. Look on the bright side, you get to save on road tax!
Alfa Romeo MiTo 1.4 MultiAir Turbobenzina (A)
Engine: 1,368cc 4-cylinders in-line 16-valves turbocharged
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Max Power: 135bhp at 5,000rpm
Max Torque: 230Nm at 1,750rpm
0-100km/h: 8.2 secs
Top Speed: 207km/h
Price: $123,800 with COE