If there is one car brand capable of garnering strong emotion, then it is Alfa Romeo. The sheer beauty of its products coupled with superlative road holding and driving satisfaction: these are the qualities that Alfa Romeo has built its name on. While it could be argued that over time, some of these values have got a little lost in translation, the latest products from the Milanese automaker are proof that the Italians have definitely got their ‘mojo’ back!
No better is this illustrated than with Alfa Romeo’s all-new MiTo, ‘the sportiest mini’ to emerge from a premium manufacturer. Its utterly exotic sibling, the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione, provided the ultimate technical and stylistic template for the privileged newcomer. The result is vehicular poetry in motion. Its sculpted and finely modelled surfaces provide the ideal attire for the engineering and mechanical excellence that lies beneath. The fact that all this sensuality and agility is packed into just 4 metres, is all the more remarkable. Sheathed in a heavenly ‘Mother of Pearl’ hue, the MiTo takes centre stage on the dramatic red and black Alfa Romeo stand at the 2008 Johannesburg International Motor Show.
Sporty and compact, Italian style
As mentioned, the MiTo borrows many characteristic traits from its style icon brother, the 8C Competizione: the peculiar shape of the side windows, the three-lobed motif that distinguishes the front bumper, the shape of the headlights and the LED tail-lights. The headlight and tail-lights are framed to create an ultra-stylish eye-liner effect – depending on spec, these can be chromed, body-coloured or black.
The highly distinctive dashboard and seats ensure that the interior of the Alfa Romeo MiTo represents the ultimate expression of Italian style; welcoming yet sporty, with high material quality and scrupulous attention to detail. Choice is the watchword when it comes to kit – different spec packages (including a sport package) complement an endless list of options ranging from Microsoft’s collaborative Blue&Me system to a panoramic sunroof.
The car’s proportions also make a very clear statement that this is a true sports car – it measures 4.06 metres long, 1.44 metres high and 1.72 metres wide – without giving up anything in terms of driving comfort.
Performance and technology for an exhilarating yet safe drive
The new Alfa Romeo MiTo is self-avowedly an Alfa to the core, confirming an uncompromising sense of control and driving satisfaction: beginning with a favourable weight/power ratio (more than one third higher than the average for the segment); adding a centre of gravity near to the roll axis for the best dynamic response – and concluding with mechanical units that can accommodate even sudden movements in safety.
This out-and-out sporty configuration is also determined by a low ride typical of a true Alfa Romeo and the choice of two tried and tested suspension layouts – MacPherson at the front and semi-independent with torsion beam at the rear. A first for this segment are shock absorbers with coil-over spring technology (standard on all specifications and engine versions). This considerably reduces roll, guaranteeing maximum linearity and precision in the steering response (the steering ratio – 12.9:1 – is extremely direct and the trajectories very neutral); great road-holding, maximum stability in high-speed manoeuvres and the agility of a true Alfa Romeo over tight mixed routes.
Another first for this segment is the brand new ‘Alfa D.N.A.’ device. This control acts on the engine, brakes, steering, suspension and gearbox, allowing for three different vehicle behaviour modes based on the driving style best suited to the situation or the customer’s wishes: super sporting (Dynamic), town driving (Normal), maximum safety even in difficult grip conditions (All weather).
Another innovative product introduced on the Alfa Romeo MiTo is the Q2 Electronic system that acts only on the brakes to guarantee the effect of a self-locking differential i.e. guaranteeing maximum traction through the bends.
Lastly, the MiTo adopts another state-of-the-art electronic device for maximum handling: the DST (Dynamic Steering Torque) system that complements the electronic power steering as part of the Vehicle Dynamic Control system. In detail, the DST makes it possible to apply a slight torque to the steering to suggest the correct manoeuvre to the driver. This takes place in very specific circumstances, e.g. to compensate for oversteer, to make the effort at the steering wheel proportional to the steering angle, or to maintain a trajectory if the grip is different on either side.
Powerful, smooth and environmentally-friendly power units
The MiTo was launched in Europe with a 114 kW 1.4 Turbo-petrol and a 88 kW 1.6 JTDM Turbo-diesel engine (both teamed up with six-speed manual boxes) that already comply with the limits imposed by the future Euro 5 regulations.
In particular, the 88 kW 1.6 JTDM is the best engine in its category in terms of specific torque (it can achieve a mighty torque of 320 Nm at just 1750 rpm), while also boasting 80% lower particulate emissions and 20% lower CO2 emissions than the previous generation of power units. In the same way, the top of the range car in terms of power – the 114 kW 1.4 Turbo-petrol – offers extraordinary performance for this capacity (top speed of 215 km/h and acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h in just 8.0 seconds) with a 30% reduction in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions compared to cars of the previous generation. The best news is that these engines (particularly the petrol unit) retain that unmistakable Alfa Romeo rasp.
At a later stage, the Alfa Romeo MiTo engine range will be further extended to include higher power ratings and the introduction of other new features developed by FPT – Fiat Powertrain Technologies – such as the MultiAir electronically-controlled valve lift system and the innovative DDCT (double clutch) automatic transmission.
Segment-beating safety and dynamic behaviour
The Alfa Romeo MiTo was built to obtain the maximum Euro NCAP rating in the future. For this reason, the new model unveils the most sophisticated electronic devices for control of vehicle dynamic safety: Vehicle Dynamic Control (not disengageable) that manages important functions such as the Hill Holder, traction control, assisted panic braking, MSR to prevent the wheels locking during over-run, DST (Dynamic Steering Torque) and Q2 Electronic.
The Alfa Romeo MiTo has also been designed to achieve the maximum safety rating: it offers total protection for driver and passengers, as evidenced by 7 airbags as standard (two of which are Multistage); three-point seatbelts with pretensioners and load limit limiters; S.A.H.R. (Self Aligning Head Restraint) system, an anti whiplash device built into the backrest on the front seats.
In the field of preventive safety, the Alfa Romeo MiTo also offers headlights with a daytime function (known as daytime running lights) that automatically turns on the side lights when the engine is turned on – to meet a specific European standard that will enter into force in 2012 – and LED tail-lights that offer greater brightness than conventional bulbs, for greater safety.
IN 2008 FIAT (INCOPORATING THE ALFA ROMEO BRAND) CELEBRATES 10 YEARS OF BUSINESS IN SOUTH AFRICA. FROM A SINGLE MODEL LINE-UP AND NOT ONE STAND-ALONE DEALERSHIP, THE COMPANY NOW BOASTS A VERY COMPREHENSIVE RANGE AND A DEDICATED DEALER NETWORK. FIAT GROUP AUTOMOBILES SOUTH AFRICA – 10 YEARS YOUNG AND HERE TO STAY!