Alfa Romeo MiTo – now with patented MultiAir Technology

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MiTomorphosis!

The Holy Grail for any engineering endeavour is to have your cake and eat it – to unify seemingly incompatible goals. For the Fiat Group’s engine designers, Fiat Powertain Technologies (FPT), the quest has been clear cut: deliver high performance and driveability while, at the same time, significantly reducing emissions and fuel consumption.

FPT’s solution is the adoption of revolutionary MultiAir technology in conjunction with a raft of technical innovations; all of which have been shoe-horned into the world’s sportiest compact car, the Alfa Romeo MiTo. This evolution underlines the company’s on-going commitment to reconcile lower emissions and fuel consumption with higher performance and driver satisfaction for an increasingly environmentally-savvy audience.

The new Euro 5-ready 1.4-litre MultiAir engine, developed and patented by FPT, made its European debut in the MiTo late last year, and is initially offered in two turbocharged forms for the South African market. The 100 kW version of the unit powers the 1.4 TBi Progression, while the breathtaking 125 kW 1.4 TBi Quadrifoglio Verde flagship marks an auspicious return for the iconic Cloverleaf badge which is, of course, unashamedly close to every Alfista’s heart.

In addition to MultiAir, the new MiTo range showcases a broad spectrum of innovative technologies, including optional Active suspension on the Quadrifoglio Verde (a first for this class of car), the emission-reducing Start&Stop system (standard on both versions), and Alfa Romeo’s highly acclaimed DNA system – another standard item across the MiTo range. Derived from racing, this three-mode electronic system communicates with the engine, brakes, steering, suspension (applies to Quadrifoglio Verde with optional Active suspension) and transmission, allowing the driver to adjust the responses of the car to suit driving style and road conditions.

Alfa’s Electronic Q2 limited slip differential (another Alfa Romeo exclusive and standard on every MiTo) heads a number of dynamic driver aids, including a long list of safety systems such as traction control, stability control, ABS/EBD and Hill Holder. Together with the MacPherson strut/torsion beam suspension layout, these all help deliver the handling dynamics and sure-footed road holding capabilities you’d expect from an Alfa, whatever the road. Designed to satisfy the highest Euro NCAP crash safety rating (currently five stars), the MiTo also offers optimum passive safety.

The model’s high level of engineering integrity can also be appreciated through the series of improvements that have further increased the quality of the Alfa MiTo. Improvements embrace the interior finish, trim combinations, and gearchange quality (the lever on the MiTo Quadrifoglio Verde has been shortened by 2.5 centimetres) as well as modifications to the steering, suspension and braking systems.

Oscar Rivoli, Alfa Romeo SA’s Managing Director, says: “The Alfa Romeo MiTo is already a global success story. Sold in 34 countries and on five different continents, it has won wide acclaim for its unprecedented fusion of head-turning high-end style, engineering flair, dynamic performance and driving pleasure. South Africa has been no exception – in addition to racking up an average of about 30 sales per month since launch, the MiTo was also a hot favourite in this year’s Car of the Year competition. I am confident that these latest innovations will make it even more desirable.”

So what’s the big deal about MultiAir?
This technology does exactly what it says on the box: it takes precise control of the quantity and characteristics of the air drawn into the cylinders in the combustion cycle. Bear in mind that there are numerous electro-mechanical variable valve timing systems in production today that seek to achieve this, but because they have no more than two operating regimes, they are severely limited by the degree of flexibility they can exercise in the valve opening schedules.

By contrast, MultiAir completely eliminates these compromises by metering the direct air charge at the cylinder inlet ports with an advanced electro-hydraulic actuation and control system that has no fewer than five basic parameters, and the ability to optimally adjust valve timing and lift between them to exactly suit different engine speeds and loads, ensuring strong low- and mid-range torque and vigorous top-end power, combined with good economy and low emissions.

This is a transformational technology comparable to the introduction of FPT’s common rail fueling for diesels (another first for the Fiat Group a few years back), but the principles behind it are as simple as they are ingenious. MultiAir engines have just one camshaft with three lobes allocated to each cylinder. The first two control the two exhaust valves in the conventional way, while the third defines the maximum possible lift and opening duration of the two inlet valves. It also acts on a small piston that sends engine oil, via pressurised hydraulic channels, to additional pistons located just above the inlet valves.

Four solenoid valves – one for each cylinder under individual control from the Magneti Marelli ECU engine management system – can be opened at any point during the inlet valve’s movement to bleed off the oil. Varying the oil flow instantly and precisely controls the opening and closing of the valves between the parameter extremes mechanically described by the camshaft lobe for optimum results.

MultiAir can even open the inlet valve twice in one intake stroke, when running at low speeds and loads around town, to create more swirl of the intake mixture, enabling it to burn more completely, thereby lowering fuel consumption.

MultiAir strategies

  • When the solenoid valve is closed, the oil in the hydraulic chamber behaves like a solid body and acts on the intake valves in accordance
    with the profile of the cam lobe.
  • When the solenoid valve is open, the hydraulic chamber and the intake valves are de-coupled; the valves no longer follow the cam profile.
  • By controlling the solenoid closing period, various optimal intake valve opening schedules can be realised.

MultiAir in action
Different strategies can be employed to optimise combustion efficiency, according to varying driving situations…
FULL LIFT – for maximum power, the Solenoid Valve is always closed and full valve opening is achieved by completely following the mechanical cam, which was specifically designed to maximise power at high engine speed; i.e: motorway driving.
EIVC (Early Intake Valve Closing) – for low-rpm torque, the Solenoid Valve is opened near the end of the cam profile, leading to early intake valve closing. This eliminates unwanted backflow into the manifold and maximises the air mass trapped in the cylinders; i.e: during acceleration.
LIVO (Late Intake Valve Opening) – in engine part-load, the Solenoid Valve is opened earlier causing partial valve openings to control the trapped air mass as a function of the required torque.
PARTIAL LOAD – the intake valves can be partially opened by closing the Solenoid Valve once the mechanical cam action has already started. In this case the air stream into the cylinder is faster and results in higher in-cylinder turbulence; i.e: at engine start up or idling.
MULTI-LIFT – Multiple opening strategies are used to enhance turbulence and combustion rate at very low loads. The advantage is a significant reduction in fuel consumption and emissions in the urban cycle; i.e: city driving.

MultiAir makes the difference:

  • 1.4 TBi MultiAir 100 kW compared to the 1.4 TBi 88 kW (not available in South Africa):
  •  CO2 reduced by over 10%
  • Max power increased by 12.5%
  •  Acceleration (0-100 km/h) reduced by up 0.4 seconds
  • Better throttle response, less turbo lag
  • Fuel consumption reduced by up to 10%

So, there’s two new engines now right?
Yup, the MiTo’s new range of MultiAir engines are based on the Fiat Group’s established 1.4-litre ‘FIRE’ block. Initially available only in one version – the MiTo 1.4 TBi Distinctive – the two new engine and accompanying trim variants top and tail this version to make a MiTo trinity comprising the MultiAir 100 kW trimmed to Progression spec, the current 114 kW Distinctive and the range-topping MultiAir 125 kW specced in the stunning Quadrifoglio Verde outfit.

Striking an unbeatable balance between spirited, sporty performance and fine economy, the MultiAir 100 kW version is outstandingly flexible and responsive and pulls vigorously from low engine speeds, posting a class-leading 0-100 km/h time of 8.4 seconds and a top speed of 207 km/h (just 0.4 seconds off that of the 114 kW version). This excellent performance dovetails perfectly with respect for the environment, reflected in CO2 emissions of just 129 g/km and a combined fuel consumption of 5.6 l/100 km. This model features a five-speed manual box.

The 125 kW MultiAir powerplant fitted exclusively to the range-topping Quadrifoglio Verde model bearing unique Cloverleaf insignia is even more exceptional, with a specific power output of 124bhp/litre which is not only a first for this class of car but also the highest value ever recorded for a production Alfa. Combined with a new fast-shifting, short-travel six-speed gearbox, the QV’s powertrain exemplifies the philosophy of downsizing: producing hi-tech turbocharged engines to increase performance while slashing fuel consumption and emissions. The results achieved by this strategy are impressive by any standard. A CO2 figure of 139 g/km and 4.8 l/100 km over the extra-urban cycle are closer to what you might expect from a small city car than a sporty hatchback capable of sprinting from 0-100 km/h in 7.5 seconds and powering on to 219 km/h.

This MiTo Cloverleaf MultiAir’s 125 kW engine gives it a class-leading power/weight ratio of 6.7 kg/hp which is almost 10% better than the already excellent performance of the current 114 kW 1.4 TBi. Peak power of 125 kW is developed at 5,500rpm, and is supported by up to 250 Nm of torque at 2,500rpm, delivering 6 l/100km on the combined cycle.

These statistics are particularly significant because they prove the effectiveness of downsizing to produce high-tech engines with better performance allied to sharp reductions in fuel consumption and emissions, giving the MiTo Quadrifoglio Verde an unbeatable performance/consumption ratio.

Driving Dynamics
Key to the sporting handling and ride characteristics of the MiTo is its suspension layout: MacPherson struts at the front and a semi-independent layout with torsion beam at the rear. To emphasise the promptness of response, stability and control, even under extreme conditions, MiTo’s track widths are among the widest in the segment – 1483mm front and 1475mm rear. The wheel rims are also wide in relation to the size of the tyres in order to optimise the latter’s handling performance. The MiTo also has a sporting yet pliant ride, and the torsion beam features high torsional stiffness to enable it to also act as an anti-roll bar, thereby ensuring optimum roll performance and helping maximise the promptness of response.

The most distinctive feature of the MiTo’s suspension is that the front and rear dampers feature coilover springs fitted inside the damper that act in parallel with the main spring during extension travel, with the main purpose of reducing roll and increasing chassis response. Special dual-acting telescopic hydraulic dampers are fitted as standard on all versions.

DNA (Standard across the range)
The MiTo’s innovative DNA system offers three distinct ‘vehicle personalities’ tailored to driving style and the prevailing road characteristics and conditions: Dynamic (sporting), Normal (suburban/town driving) and All weather (maximum safety, especially in low-grip conditions).  A three-position switch, situated beside the gearlever, alters the throttle response and steering set-up for the different driving environments.  In Dynamic mode, the throttle response is quicker, the steering is sharper and the handling is more direct.  For icy and loose surface environments the All Weather mode provides a more gentle response.

Dynamic 

  • VDC & ASR Less intrusive VDC and ASR – Electronic Q2 activation
  • Electric power steering Sportier tuning
  • DST Standard braking control coordinated with ABS
  • Greater control of lateral acceleration.
  • Oversteer correction: slight pressure through the steering wheel encourages driver to steer in the correct direction
  • Engine Faster response
  • Suspension  Synaptic Damping Control – sport suspension set-up (MiTo Cloverleaf only)Normal 

  • VDC & ASR Standard setting
  • Electric power steering Normal tuning
  • DST Standard braking control coordinated with ABS
  • Standard control of lateral acceleration
  • Oversteer correction: slight pressure through the steering wheel encourages driver to steer in the correct direction
  • Engine   Standard response
  • Suspension Synaptic Damping Control – normal suspension set-up (MiTo Cloverleaf only)All weather 

  • VDC & ASR  More intrusive VDC, less intrusive ASR
  • Electric power steering Normal tuning
  • DST  Greater braking control coordinated with VDC
  • Standard control of lateral acceleration
  • Oversteer correction: slight pressure through the steering wheel encourages driver to steer in the correct direction
  • Engine  Normal throttle response
  • Suspension Synaptic Damping Control – normal suspension set-up (MiTo Cloverleaf only)

VDC (Vehicle Dynamic Control) is Alfa Romeo’s version of ESP (Electronic Stability Program), a system that activates under extreme conditions when vehicle stability is at risk, helping the driver to control the car.  Permanently engaged, VDC allows the driver the full satisfaction of controlling the car as long as conditions are normal, but cuts in just before a situation becomes critical.
ASR (Anti Slip Regulation) is an integral part of the VDC and optimises traction at any speed with the aid of the brakes and throttle. The system computes the degree of slip on the basis of wheel revolutions calculated by the ABS sensors, and activates two different control systems to restore grip.
CBC (Cornering Brake Control) comes into play when the car takes a corner while under heavy braking. In this case, brake pressure is discharged on each wheel individually to maintain vehicle stability, minimising any understeer or oversteer behaviour.
DST (Dynamic Steering Torque) improves both driving safety and handling performance through continuous interaction between the electric power steering
(which generates torque at the steering wheel) and electronic control of dynamics (VDC). In detail, DST automatically makes corrections, helps to maintain vehicle control and ensures that the VDC activates unobtrusively.
Electronic Q2 improves the transfer of drive torque to the wheels and, in particular, guarantees excellent cornering behaviour, thus making the car safer and more entertaining during a sporty drive or when grip is poor. When accelerating in a bend, the front braking system acts on the inner wheel to increase traction
on the outer wheel (bearing the highest load), and therefore distributes torque between the front driven wheels in a continuous, dynamic manner according to driving and road surface conditions.

Start&Stop (Standard on the 100 kW MultiAir and the 125 kW MultiAir QV)
The MiTo’s Start&Stop technology makes its debut combined with MultiAir engines for the first time on an Alfa Romeo. The system turns off the engine whenever the vehicle is stationary and idling in neutral, then restarts it automatically when the clutch is depressed. Start&Stop can be deactivated at will by the driver but, when active, achieves notable reductions in fuel consumption, emissions and noise pollution.

Gear Shift Indicator – GSI (Standard on the MultiAir versions)
The Gear Shift Indicator (GSI) linked to Start&Stop discreetly suggests to the driver when to change gear – leading to more efficient use of the engine in terms of fuel consumption. The indicator is located on the control panel and is active in Normal and All Weather DNA settings. This device promotes improved gear selection resulting in improved driving performance and engine efficiency.

Quadrifoglio Verde – The Cloverleaf returns
The ‘Quadrifoglio Verde’ (Cloverleaf) is an iconic symbol dear to Alfa aficionados that evokes the history of a brand with a rich racing and motorsport heritage. Appropriately, it finds its new home with the fastest and most powerful MiTo, the 125 kW MultiAir Quadrofoglio Verde.

This is the MiTo MultiAir that most dramatically illustrates the power of innovative solutions to reconcile high performance and driving pleasure with economy and a low impact on the environment – 139g/km of CO2. It’s all the more remarkable when you consider that the MiTo MultiAir QV is powered by an engine with one of the highest specific outputs in the segment and a chassis equipped with features hitherto unthinkable for a car in this class.

A new optional active suspension system controls the dampers to redefine the vehicle’s dynamic capabilities under all driving conditions and raises standards of safety, comfort and handling to new levels. The system, developed as a joint venture between Alfa Romeo and Magneti Marelli, draws on the extraordinary experience both companies have accrued in motorsport throughout the world.

New Six-Speed Gearbox (Standard on the 125 kW QV)
The technological qualities of the Alfa MiTo QV’s engine are fully exploited by the next-generation C635 six-speed gearbox. Developed by FPT and manufactured at the Verrone factory in Italy, this groundbreaking mechanical unit is the first result of a design philosophy aimed at improving drivability, consumption levels and production flexibility.

The new gearbox ensures clean and swift shifts with a very short action, even weightings, and superb noise and vibration suppression. In addition, modern design
and construction techniques help to significantly reduce consumption levels thanks to less friction and optimum gear ratios. Its debut in the Alfa MiTo 125 kW 1.4 MultiAir marks the debut of a modern family of gearboxes adapted for a broad range of models.

Active Suspension (Optional in the 125 kW QV)
Motor sport has always been a testing ground for new technologies, which have found their way from the world’s most famous racetracks to standard road cars. One example of this transfer between two seemingly very different worlds is dynamic adaptive suspension. This system, which actively and continuously controls the electronic dampers, was developed by combining Alfa Romeo development testing at the historic Balocco test track and the Nürburgring, with the latest engineering techniques from Magneti Marelli.

The 125 kW MiTo QV is the first vehicle in this sector to feature active suspension (optional). Using five independent accelerometer sensors located on the front two shock absorbers, rear centre and rear bulkheads, the adaptive damping system continuously monitors and controls the car’s dampers, helping to contain both lateral body roll and longitudinal movement.

Each shock absorber works independently of the others, stiffening when required by an electronic signal that moves oil into a chamber of the absorber or removes oil from the chamber for softened suspension (on/off system).  The four electronically controlled dampers, five accelerometric sensors and an electronic control unit interface with the MiTo’s other on-board electronic systems to continuously monitor the road conditions and adjust the suspensions settings to give optimum performance and ride.

The suspension interacts with the three different control strategies of the Alfa DNA. system, enhancing ride comfort in ‘Normal’ mode, increasing safety and security in the ‘All weather’ setting by continuously interacting with the VDC system, steering and suspension, and sharpening responsiveness and agility with it switched to ‘Dynamic’.

To sum up, the Dynamic Suspension system effectively optimises comfort and handling by adapting suspension behaviour in accordance with the road surface and driver input. The system achieves this by altering the load distribution of the four dampers to enhance handling and grip. Moreover, the system manages longitudinal dynamic control by adjusting the movement of the chassis during acceleration, braking and gear changes, and by integrating with the VDC, steering and braking systems.

MiTo Range
As mentioned, the original 114 kW 1.4 TBi Distinctive model continues in the MiTo line-up flanked on either side by new MultiAir-engined versions in the guise of the ‘entry-level’ Progression and the ‘Full Monty’ Quadrifoglio Verde.

MultiAir Progression
Although the Progression is the first rung on the MiTo ladder this model certainly isn’t stripped down in terms of kit. Chunky 16-inch alloys, colour-coded mirrors, a rear bumper sans diffuser treatment, a little de-chroming around the side windows and a front bumper sans foglights are the only exterior differentiators from the Distinctive.

Stepping over the kick plates, the interior of the Progression virtually mimics that of the Distinctive that we’re now all quite familiar with. In fact, save for the Sprint fabric upholstery, the Distinctive and the Progression are identical indoors which means an extensive larder of standard kit. Please consult the accompanying documents for a full list of spec but it’s worth mentioning that all MiTos come with seven airbags (including a kneebag), a full passive safety system including Traction Control, Stability Control, ABS with EBD and Hill Holder, Q2 electronic diff and Dynamic Steering Torque system. It goes without saying that electric windows/mirrors, remote central locking, stereo controls on the leather steering wheel and manual climate control are standard on the Progression as they are on the Distinctive.

MultiAir Quadrifoglio Verde
The ‘big daddy’ of the MiTo range, the Cloverleaf-adorned Quadrifoglio Verde is kitted with 17” exclusive titanium-finish alloy wheels – similar to those that appear on the stunning Alfa 8C Competizione – along with brushed titanium-effect headlight surrounds and wing mirror covers. The performance focus is further resolved with a rear spoiler and diffuser-style rear bumper. The QV also sports red painted brake callipers. Inside the cabin, the QV features the same dashboard options as the Progression and Distinctive versions, but with an upgraded Sports cloth, front armrest with storage compartment and sports dials with white illumination. It also comes with the Blue&Me™ hands-free system with voice recognition, and media player with USB port.

Options & Personalisation
A comprehensive list of options, including roof and side graphics, is available; (see technical and specification table). And with 10 body colours and a variety of surrounds for the headlights & wing-mirror covers, every MiTo can be tailored to the driver’s individual tastes. The MiTo’s customisable headlight frames, for example, are available in Titanium Grey, Lucid Chrome, Satin Effect, Opaque Black or body colour.

Pricing, warranty and servicing
Alfa Romeo 1.4 MultiAir 100 kW Progression – R227 900 (incl. VAT)
Alfa Romeo 1.4 114 kW Distinctive – R245 200 (incl VAT)
Alfa Romeo 1.4 MultiAir 125 kW Quadrifoglio Verde – R264 000 (incl VAT)
Enhancing the ownership prospect, the MiTo, as with other premium products in the Alfa Romeo stable, has 30 000 km service intervals and enjoys full after-sales support in South Africa thanks to a comprehensive parts inventory (housed and distributed in an all-new, state-of-the-art facility) and the back-up of trained technicians at Fiat/Alfa Romeo dealerships countrywide.
Fiat Auto South Africa offers a three-year 100 000 km Warranty (three years on paintwork and five years on rust anti-perforation) as well as a six-year / 90 000 km service plan.
The new models are covered by the AA Fleetcare roadside assistance for three years. The service is active 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and is available by calling the dedicated toll-free number 0800 223 727.