Friday, August 6, 2010


On test… Alfa MiTo Distinctive

Smith The Elder had an Alfa – two actually. Ja, in his day my pop he was a cool oke. One was a lime green 60’s-era Alga Guilia with a brown interior and a thin wood and aluminium steering wheel. The other was a kak-brown Alfetta with white seats that went like stink and boasted an exhaust that made all the right, fruity noises that Italian engines are famous for.

The same can’t exactly be said for this new Alfa. Its 1.4-litre turbo engine doesn’t have that distinctive Alfa rasp but what the hell – you can go a whole lot quicker in this one than pops ever could in his chorries. Especially if you flip the DNA switch (stands for Dynamic, Normal, and All Weather – smart bunch those Italians). Just like BMW’s M cars do when you tap their magic “M” buttons, engage the little Afa’s Dynamic mode and it sharpens up, hunkers down and disappears quicker than mama Rizzo’s meatballs at cousin Vinnie’s wedding.

Looks wise, it might not be everyone’s shot of grappa. Design cues from the stupendously gorgeous Alfa 8C Competizione are evident, but the MiTo can look a little too cartoonish from some angles – especially that front end. The doors are enormous too, not only long but particularly high. Sometimes one does get the impression that one’s sitting in a tremendously quick bath tub. It’s a very plush bathtub though. The leather-lined interior is classy and sophisticated. Italian, in other words.

And, ja, it’s plenty quick too. Not quite MINI Cooper S-quick, but almost. And it’s this Teutonic Brit that the MiTo is clearly going for. Cleverly priced between the Cooper and the Cooper S, it offers a very tempting alternative in a market that the MINI, Renault Clio RS and Opel Corsa have been romping about in.

If you’re wondering where the weird name comes from, by the way, it represents the automotive union of two Italian cities – Torino, the industrial heart, and Milan, the style capital. There are currently three MiTo models in the local line up - all with versions of the 1.4T engine. It ranges from the 100Kw "Progression" (R227 900), to the 114Kw "Distinctive" I drove (R245 200), and the 125Kw flagship "Quadrifoglio Verde" (R264 000).