‘JTDM-2’ means that the Mito is fitted with Fiat’s latest 1248cc Multijet II diesel. It’s a Euro 5 engine, markedly undersquare, and its 95PS and 200Nm are charged with propelling a car that weighs 1150kg plus its occupants.
Running gear is pretty conventional. The McPherson struts at the front have the bonus of coilover dampers; at the rear, a C-section torsion-beam is attached to the bodyshell using slotted bushes to provide directional stiffness, while suspension is by compact helical springs.
Various aspects of the car’s dynamics can be adjusted using a control on the console. Three settings are available: ‘normal’, ‘dynamic’ and ‘all-weather’. Damping rates, response to the accelerator pedal and — on cars fitted with Fiat’s automated transmission — gear-change points are set according to which mode is selected.
Alfa Romeo Mito 1.3 JTDM-2.
Despite the enthusiastic entreaties of Alfa’s P.R. man to make certain I’d set the ‘DNA‘ driving mode selector to ‘dynamic’, I made good and sure it was set to ‘normal’. After all, what’s so bad about ‘normal’ that I’ve got to take care not to use it?
Nothing, as it happens. The little Alfa took Millbrook’s demanding hill route in its stride, despite the willful efforts of a cynical old hack to make it misbehave. Feed in the power and it understeers, though not excessively; back off, and it tucks in neatly and promptly. So the Mito behaves well, but in ‘normal’ mode it’s not really ahead of the pack: I reckon a Fabia TDI 105 or a Fiesta TDCi 90 would be a match for the Mito on a cross-country route, and the new Citroën DS3 certainly would.
Call up ‘dynamic’ mode in the Alfa and you get greater precision on bends taken quickly, and the accelerator response improves agreeably. The car’s limits aren’t significantly affected, but one feels more connected to the road — both through the steering and through the seat of the pants. In ‘normal’ mode, the Mito’s ride quality is very firm, and disappointingly busy at urban speeds; switch to ‘dynamic’ and it’s even worse, of course, but that’s all part of the fun.
Steering feel, weighting and response are good — there’s apparently a slight increase in weighting when you switch to ‘dynamic’ mode, though I confess I didn’t notice it — and all major controls are well-positioned and feel well assembled. The driving position is slightly odd, recalling the long-armed Italian driving positions of yore, and the steering wheel is offset a little to the left, but only the longest-legged are likely to run into trouble. The driving seat is excellent for my rather scrawny frame, providing both comfort and location, but broader drivers should try before they buy.
The Mito’s little diesel engine delivers good torque from very low engine speeds, and it managed to keep up a good pace on the gradients and bends of the Millbrook hill route. There’s a subjective sense that the performance is a little ‘flat’, chiefly because the torque output doesn’t carry on rising as revs increase beyond the very low 1500rpm peak: there’s no drama to the way the Multijet delivers its power, which a potential Alfa buyer might find disappointing. But impressions can be deceptive, and any doubt that the engine is doing its job can be dispelled by looking at the speedometer.
The gear ratios leave nothing to complain about, and the gearchange quality is good.
While it can be very hard to judge how long a nice new car will take to fall to bits, the standard of assembly — on ‘my’ car, at least — seemed impressive.
Instrumentation is heavily styled but clear enough. Heating and ventilation controls are poorly positioned. Build quality seems good.
The instruments are clear enough, despite their heavily-styled design, so long as you don’t have the steering wheel set too low. The radio takes up an awful lot of space on the dash, and the heating and ventilation controls have ended up virtually on the floor: it would be very hard to adjust the heater safely while driving.
Refinement is generally good. The engine is always the dominant noise source, and although its voice is not especially distinguished, it’s never unpleasant.
The Mito diesel is a good car if you judge it by mainstream standards. But it’s an Alfa, and it needs to have something more. That technically accomplished little engine, excellent though it is, is just not right for this car. What the Mito needs is a turbodiesel with a bit more brute force. If Fiat’s 1.6 Multijet could be shoe-horned in, it would give the Mito 120PS and 221Nm. That would be more like it.