Thanks to models like BMW's MINI and Citroen's DS3, small car owners who can afford to spend a little more are better served than ever before. They drive something supermini-sized, not because they have to but because they want to, and are basing their decision on looks, styling and performance as much as on economy and urban practicality.
Alfa Romeo's MiTo (the name derives from Milano and Torino) is Alfa's chic alternative with a prestige badge and space inside that shames a MINI. It also helps that its styling is quintessentially Italian and that concerns over build and reliability, which have notoriously plagued the marque in the eyes of older UK drivers, have been largely laid to rest in recent years. This car based on proven underpinnings shared by the Vauxhall Corsa and Fiat Punto but offers a much more passionate package. Here's how to find a used example.
While Alfa Romeo's stablemate brand Fiat has long had a history of producing diminutive cars ideal for congested cities, the Alfa Romeo badge has traditionally been seen on the bonnet of sportier, more shapely models. Launched at the beginning of 2009, the MiTo proved Alfa had not given up on its sporty pedigree and love of style, but that it had recognised the need to produce a smaller car that appealed as much to the budget as to the heart. However, rather than start from scratch, Alfa turned to Vauxhall and good friends Fiat and took the Corsa and Punto supermini underpinnings as their starting point. This provides a sound foundation in terms of build quality, proven durability and engineering know-how.
The three-door hatch MiTo was launched in the UK early in 2009 with Turismo, Veloce and Lusso trim levels. Initially, the range was based around older petrol engines borrowed from the Punto, a 95bhp 1.4 16v and the turbocharged 1.4 TB (120bhp and 150bhp). There were also 1.3 and 1.6 JTDm diesels. A 78bhp 1.4-litre petrol unit was quickly added to an entry-level Junior model to give the range an affordable lead-in price (and make MINIs look expensive), but the real changes came with the introduction of clever MultiAir 1.4-litre petrol units in the Spring of 2010.
Most buyers opted for the 135bhp version of this unit, but there was also an even cleverer 170bhp variant fitted to the hot hatch Cloverleaf flagship model, which also featured active suspension, a first for its class. An entry-level 105bhp version of this engine was kept back until 2011. Work was also done on the diesel front, with the introduction in mid-2010 of a torquey 95bhp 1.3-litre JTDm2 unit to replace the older diesel 1.3, with the same technology used in a 1.6-litre JTDm2 diesel, also kept back until 2011.