The small Alfa is going to be first Fiat-Chrysler model to be analyzed closely. It will part of several posts intended to show the models and have an outlook at their history and future. The MiTo is one of the only two current Alfa models and is the smallest Alfa Romeo ever. The car was officially presented in March 2008 after Geneva Motor Show and introduced in July, after some months of development and redesign by Centro Stile Alfa Romeo in Arese. Technically it is based on the third generation Fiat Punto, launched in 2005 and still on sale, but from the design point of view it is the first Alfa to follow the shapes of the famous 8C Competizione. They used the main design shapes of the super car to project a premium ‘B-Segment’ 3 door car as a response to the need of decreasing production costs for the Grande Punto and at the same fill Alfa’s portfolio with a lighter car. The result was the MiTo, called after Milan (in Italian, Milano) and Turin (Torino).
Since the beginning its shapes have been part of discussions everywhere it is presented, as the car has a very particular front, while its interior may not be the best of the segment. Anyway Alfa Romeo decided to introduced it as a direct rival to Mini Cooper, which was by that time the only premium ‘B-Segment’ car. After it came the Citroen DS3 and Audi A1. In the back it is also inspired in the 8C with circular stop lights using LED system. It is positioned in the premium segment because of its price, most of the times above volume models like the Punto, Clio and so on. In terms of design the MiTo is one of those cars that generate passion or the opposite, because the shapes are not common in a car of that segment. Some people hate the front of the car or the giant wheel arches, while others love the back of it. At the end is a matter of aesthetics in which the opinions will be all subjective. By the time of the presentation Alfa Romeo used the same colours it used for the official photos of the 8C: red Alfa and white in 4.06 meters long, 1.44 meters high and 1.72 meters wide, more or less the same length of current Punto (4,03 m). The fact that it is only offered in 3 doors hatchback body type was initially conceived to give it more sportiness, but it has severely affected its sales as premium ‘B-Segment’ consumers look not only for that but also more roominess. 4 years after the introduction of the model what really matters is the demand it has had, and according to initial sales target, the 3 door Alfa has not performed quite well its task.
When it was launched the MiTo was going to become one of best-selling Alfas as the car was less expensive than its brothers and was the first reachable Alfa for many. Fiat wanted to sell around 70-80.000 units per year* but soon the reality was completely different. In 2008 they sold almost 14.000 units but in 2009, the first complete year for the model, 63.000 cars were delivered worldwide, not far from initial target, but it was by far the top sales volume achieved by the car. In 2010 the financial crisis hit European market and soon the MiTo, which did not show to be a success since the beginning, began its fall, Italy included. It could never beat the domination of Mini Cooper while the arrival of successful DS3 and A1 was too much for the Alfa to compete and gain market share even in Italy. The main problem that could explain the flop of the MiTo is the fact that is does not have more body type versions (Mini offer is composed by Cabrio, Coupe, Roadster; the DS3 is now offered with cabrio version also. And the A1 is offered in 3 and 5 doors versions), and the quality of the interior is not the best of the segment. Though it has a large range of engine options the lack of a super powerful one is also a problem for a car that wants to be a referent of sportiness and lightness. Alfa has made an important marketing campaign with some DJs and music events all over Europe.
As it was said before the front-wheel-drive Alfa has several engine options. In Italy the offer begins in a 0.9 TwinAir with 85 hp and goes up to 1.4 T with 170 hp, known as Quadrifoglio Verde. There are 4 different versions according to the accessories: the Progression, Upload, Distinctive and QV, with prices starting at €14.730. The MiTo is available in Europe, Japan, Australia, Mexico, Argentina, Chile and Colombia, but Italy is the largest one by far. But what is the future for this model? Alfa wanted to launch the 5 door version to gain more market share among premium ‘B’ but then came the crisis and Marchionne decided to cut investments in Europe, and therefore that kind of body type will only arrive when Fiat decides what to do with next generation of the Punto and MiTo (they share their platform). Nowadays Alfa Romeo is trying to push up the sales of this car with more and more limited editions such as the one they will present in the Mondiale de l’Automobile, in Paris next week. But it won’t be easy. The competition is getting tougher and the market is getting smaller, while Alfa Romeo keeps waiting for its second chance to survive with the arrival of more models to its range. Personally I think Alfa Romeo should first have a wide range of big models (Segments C, D, and E, besides more cabrios and coupes) before thinking of a compact car. The idea of the MiTo is reasonable from the point of view of sharing production costs with its cousin, the Punto. But if Alfa wants to become a referent of sportiness and luxury, certainly those values are more common in larger segments. Audi and BMW have their own B-Segment models, but they did it only after developing a big portfolio of large cars to tell the people that they really work on luxury and sportiness. With that brand awareness and positioning, they launched the small models, not before.
Here there are the links of some comparisons made by specialized press about the MiTo and its competitors:
OMNIAUTO: MiTo vs. Mini (ITALIAN)
TERRA: MiTo 1.4 TB MultiAir TcTvs. A1 1.4 TFSi Stronic (SPANISH)
CAR AND DRIVER: MiTo 1.6 JTDM vs. Mini Cooper SD (SPANISH)
TOP CAR: MiTo QV vs. Mini Cooper S vs. DS3 THP (ENGLISH)
LA NACION (Youtube): MiTo 155hp vs. A1 122hp vs. Mini 184hp (SPANISH)
AUTOEXPRESS: MiTo 1.3 JTDM vs. A1 1.6 TDI vs. DS3 e-HDi (ENGLISH)
And here it is the official brochure (ITALY):
ALFA ROMEO MITO 2012 (ITALIAN)
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I think Alfa Romeo in Europe would be in real trouble without the Mito. The new larger cars are needed to establish the brand globally and of course we’re in a financial pickle at the moment here, but without cheaper efficient models Alfa will wither completely.
In the short to mid term some finessing of the current range is needed. I understand that engineering the GTA model would be costly, but could the Cloverleaf not get a much more muscular bodykit? I don’t think there is enough difference between a well specced 135 and Cloverleaf to persuade people to spend more. I also think the lesser models needs a revamp around the lower part of the front and rear bumpers, especially the cheaper models without the matt black section around the exhaust. Engineering a convertible could be costly but a large fabric sunroof using a modern looking material and stopping just before the hatch would be a good addition to the range. I 100% agree that the interior needs a make over, some of the switches taken directly from the Punto don’t look great and the radio graphics are dated too – though I do like the unusual ‘soft carbon fibre’ finish on top models!
Longer term I think the 3 door should continue and be joined by a sporty 5 door crossover (such as your wonderful Xtrada concept), plus a 2+2 seat 2 door coupe in the style of the bertone GTV and a cabriolet sister car with fixed side windows but the rear window retracting behind the rear seats an a fabric roof folding down onto the rear deck (reducing development costs and retaining rigidity. Using the Mito component set would allow a cheaper price and decent profit margins. Such a car would be a big success in the US were it could be Alfa’s unique entry model and undercut cars like the new BMW 2 series.
What platform would it be based on though? Would Mazda be interested in building the 2 in Fiats plant in Poland and allow Alfa to use it for a range of niche cars? Or given that Fiat is developing the existing Mito platform for the new 500L, 500X and Small Jeep perhaps a reasonable investment could keep it going?
I’m not sure but I would argue that expanding the Mito rather than ditching it, is very important!
The MiTo will soon have an update, but the car won’t change a lot (the 5 door version should arrive later). We will see when it all happens. Thanks for you comment Gus82
I’m looking forward to seeing the updates!
A big thank you for your great site by the way! There some really great info here that we don’t always get in the UK. Cheers!
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Your web site is fantastic. Could I connect with you on Twitter??
Hey, thanks. Who are you?
Love the Mito always have but wish their was a 5 door version. Biggest hate is the interior especially the dash. It’s an Alfa it should have proper round instruments it should be the the Alfasud TI of this decade but it isn’t