My wife was beginning to wonder if I was losing all sense of direction. Every time I popped to the shops the ten minute trip started taking over an hour. What she didn’t understand is that the Alfa Romeo MiTo Quadrifoglio Verde is one of those cars in which you have to take the long way home.
At the heart of the Mito’s ‘just a few more miles’ appeal is its engine. The 1,368cc turbocharged 4-cylinder uses the Fiat group’s MultiAir technology to increase power, improve efficiency and reduce emissions. The results are 168bhp and 184lb/ft of torque, packed into a compact body that weighs just 1,145kg.
The MultiAir is a classic Italian engine. In its sportiest setting (more on this in a minute) the Mito instantly lunges ahead with every prod of the throttle and it’s so quick to respond that you quickly forget that this engine uses forced induction. Power delivery is smooth and linear with strong urge low down but still thriving in the upper reaches of its range. It helps that it makes a great noise too, an angry-sounding growl building in ferocity as the rev needle swings around.
High-revving antics are further encouraged by the close ratios of the six-speed manual gearbox. The change is light and precise, if a little notchy at times, but really suits the character of the engine.
The brakes are also strong. Bright red Brembo calipers grip the discs at front and rear and they give the Mito serious stopping power. You can leave your braking late then slam on the anchors with confidence, setting off the hazard warning lights as the car suddenly thinks there’s an accident about to happen.
You don’t have to drive the Mito like you’re trying to set a new fastest stage time and the DNA switch next to the gear lever attempts to introduce a Jekyll and Hyde split personality. The acronym stands for Dynamic, Normal and All-Weather and each of these settings dictates the feel of the steering, throttle, traction control and the clever adaptive suspension.
In Normal and All-Weather modes you’d be forgiven for thinking that someone had filled the Mito’s tank with Temazepam. Push the throttle and the Mito seems like it’s still asleep with barely any acceleration until the pedal is mashed into the carpet. The electric steering is too light and vague and the suspension seems fidgety at low speeds. This was my first impression of the Mito and it felt a little bit disappointing.
Don’t worry though, all is not lost. You’ll soon learn to push the rocker switch forward for a second until ‘Dynamic mode’ flashes up in the display. Suddenly the Temazepam has been drained from the tank and swapped for a big dose of amphetamines. The throttle is now incredibly sensitive, the Mito lunging forward if you flex your right foot just a touch too far.
The steering takes on some much needed weight but retains the slightly glassy sensation while the adaptive suspension wakes up and starts to take an interest in proceedings. In Dynamic mode the ride is still firm but the chassis’ movements are much tighter. Suddenly the Mito starts to make sense but it left me wondering why on earth we need the DNA switch, particularly as it always defaults to Normal mode when you start the engine. Why can’t it at least remember your last setting?
The Mito uses an electronic differential to reign in the 168bhp and, while it does a reasonable job of helping the tyres to do their job, there is still an unruly side that makes its presence felt in tight corners. Pulling off from a standstill in Dynamic mode can be a challenge too, the hyper-sensitive throttle easily producing wheel-spin and a petulant slap from the traction control, but it’s still preferable to driving around in Normal mode.
As far as looks are concerned there are only two features that make the Quadrifoglio Verde stand out from lesser Mitos, the most obvious of which is the set of stunning 18-inch wheels. They’re beautifully detailed and fill the MiTo’s arches, giving it an air of purpose that almost makes up for the lack of bodykit.
The second touch is the familiar green cloverleaf sitting in a white triangle on the front wings. The Biancospino White paintwork doesn’t show off the Cloverleaf badge to its best but it does help those gorgeous wheels to stand out even more. Personally I’d pick the Alfa Metallic Red, which just so happens to cost the same as the white (£425).
If you were hoping for something a little more dramatic on the outside then you might be more impressed with the special touch waiting inside. Open the door and you can’t help but notice the Sabelt bucket seats. With carbon-fibre backing and large Alfa Romeo logos stitched into the alcantara and cloth these are something really special. Mind you, they need to be – they’re a £2,000 option!
Can you possibly justify spending that much on a pair of seats that don’t even have height or lumbar adjustment? Of course not but do you know what? I’d have them. Despite the lack of adjustment they are comfortable and hug you incredibly tightly. They also look so good that they become the centrepiece of an otherwise uninspiring cabin and they help to distract attention from some of the cheap plastics.
The MiTo Cloverleaf gets a decent level of kit as standard including air conditioning, stereo with Bluetooth, aux-in, USB and steering-wheel controls, cruise control, multi-function trip computer and stop/start technology. If you want auto wipers and lights you’ll ned to add the optional Visibility pack. Standard safety kit includes seven airbags, ESP, ABS with electronic brake distribution, and the electronic Q2 differential.
The Final Reckoning
If you like hot hatches then you’d have to be a hard-nosed cynic to avoid falling for the charms of the Mito Quadrifoglio Verde, despite some obvious flaws. It’s not got the most capable chassis in its class and at £18,765 it looks particularly expensive against more powerful rivals such as the Fiesta ST, 208 GTI and Clio 200 Turbo. You may find the DNA switch to be an annoyance (I did) and you might find the interior quality doesn’t compare very well.
However, the Mito is full to bursting with character. It’s quick, responsive and you will enjoy driving it. You’ll also find that you can’t help but drive it quickly all the time and that you’ll frequently want to take the long way home. And that is the sign of a great hot hatch!
Alfa Romeo Mito Quadrifoglio Verde Scores
|PERFORMANCE||Feisty engine that loves to be thrashed||9|
|HANDLING||Grippy and responsive but can get unruly||8|
|AFFORDABILITY||Looks expensive compared to more powerful rivals||6|
|DESIRABILITY||It’s an Alfa with a Cloverleaf. Of course its desirable.||8|
|DRIVING SPIRIT||The Mito is lively and entertaining … but only in Dynamic mode||8|
Alfa Romeo Mito Quadrifoglio Verde Specifiations
|Engine:||1,368cc 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol|
|Power:||168 bhp @ 5,500rpm|
|Torque:||184lb/ft @ 2,500|
|0-62 mph:||7.5 seconds|
|Top Speed:||136 mph|
|CO2 Emissions:||139 g/km (Band E)|
|Official Economy:||47.1 mpg|
|Price (As Tested):||£21,715*|
*Prices taken from Alfa Romeo website, March 2013