Alfa Romeo MiTo TwinAir Sprint road test

  • We test drive the new Alfa Romeo MiTo TwinAir
  • Low emissions and claimed average of 67.3mpg
  • TwinAir Sprint model available now for £14,150

The Alfa Romeo MiTo is a car that's designed to help the Italian manufacturer appeal to a wider and younger market.

It has a lot of the right ingredients to achieve this goal. Its styling echoes that of the Alfa Romeo 8C supercar, a range of lively engines are available and it's not expensive to run.

In order to continue boosting the MiTo's appeal, by improving its green credentials and cutting running costs further, Alfa has fitted a new engine into the small three-door hatchback.

Displacing a mere 875cc, the Fiat Powertrain-developed TwinAir engine is a compact two-cylinder unit. It's claimed to average 67.3mpg and its emissions are rated at 98g/km of CO2.

Besides potentially cutting fuel bills, its sub-100g/km emissions means it qualifies for free road tax and congestion charge exemption. That means some drivers could stand to make substantial savings.

The low emissions may even put the car on the radar of some company car drivers, who will find its 10% Benefit-in-Kind tax band appealing.

Admittedly an 875cc engine sounds underwhelming. Fortunately, thanks to the use of a turbocharger, the diminutive power plant outputs a moderate 85bhp and 145Nm of pulling power.

That allows the MiTo TwinAir to accelerate from 0-62mph in 12.5 seconds, which is more than enough to keep up with traffic. Its top speed is 108mph, although you'll need quite a stretch of straight road to reach that speed.

The MiTo's TwinAir engine has to be worked vigorously in order to extract any notable acceleration, or to maintain motorway speeds, however. Overtaking has to be considered very carefully and you'll need to change down a gear or two if you're ascending a steep hill.

On the plus side the engine revs eagerly and is smooth and refined, despite what its off-beat exhaust note might initially suggest. The Alfa's six-speed manual gearbox, a rare feature in a car of this size and price bracket, is precise and rewarding to use too.

Driving the MiTo isn't an engaging experience though, despite what you might hope. The steering is fairly well weighted and the Alfa corners acceptably without excess body roll, but there's little feedback or feel. Firm suspension also causes the car to become unsettled and tiring on rougher roads.

It's not all rosy on the economy front either. Alfa Romeo claims that the TwinAir should return an average 67.3mpg but we'd expect that you'd realistically average more around the 40mpg mark. That's because the engine has to work so hard to keep the MiTo moving.

Herein lies a problem. The TwinAir engine is undoubtedly a fine piece of engineering but if you're using it for motorway commuting or simply driving it in a conventional fashion then its economy figures will tumble. Many drivers would most likely find a conventional larger petrol or diesel alternative much more economical and flexible.

There are other issues as well. While the MiTo is externally quite a stylish and interesting-looking car, the interior's not so appealing. It's fairly drab, with some low-quality detailing, visibility isn't great and about the only highlights are a slightly garish gear knob and the Alfa badge in the middle of the steering wheel.

It feels dated too, with little of interest on offer, and important elements like the steering wheel just aren't that comfortable or pleasant to the touch. The seats also lack side support, important for holding you in place when cornering at speed, and there's a surprising amount of tyre noise when the car's on the move.

You do get a lot of kit for your money though, so it's not all bad news. The Sprint model comes with equipment that includes air-con, electric front windows, a CD player, a USB port, an auxiliary connection for MP3 players, hill start assist, stop/start, cruise control, Alfa's D.N.A. steering and engine response selector and electric mirrors.

Potential buyers will be pleased to find that the MiTo is relatively practical too. There's just about room in the back for two adults, although accessibility isn't great, and a large 270 litre boot is on offer.

Alfa is also currently offering to extend the standard three year warranty to a five years warranty if you purchase your car before 30 September 2012. That will help protect against any unexpected bills and further reduce running costs.

So, if you're looking for something a bit different that won't break the bank then it's worth trying the MiTo TwinAir. If you just want a cost-effective small car that's fun to own and well equipped then we'd suggest you consider something along the lines of Volkswagen's up!.

If you don't want to drive in an economical fashion however, or intend to do lots of motorway commuting, we'd recommend choosing a car with a bigger engine. It'll be more relaxing to drive and, in general day-to-day use, probably just as good on fuel.  

The new Alfa Romeo MiTo TwinAir Sprint is available now for £14,150.

To read the full Parkers Alfa Romeo MiTo review click here.

Also consider:

Volkswagen up!

The up!, which shares its platform with the SEAT Mii and Skoda Citigo, is a comfortable and flexible compact car. It's also cheap to run, economical and easy to live with.

Audi A1

The A1 is an upmarket and stylish small car that's well built and quite refined. Both three and five door versions are available and a range of engines are on offer.

Citroen DS3

If you're looking for something that stands out a little, you could consider the DS3. It's good to drive, inexpensive to run and there is a wide range of options on offer.