TEST DRIVE: It’s all about Mito

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Steve Sharpe drives Alfa Romeo’s stunning hatchback

As well as being a bit of a mouthful, Alfa Romeo’s Mito Quadrifoglio Verde is the new version of the top-spec hot hatch version of the performance flagship.

It’s a new Italianicized name for the Cloverleaf but many Alfa models down the years have carried the name, and the car itself has large cloverleaf emblems dotted around to emphasise the point.

Few would disagree that the Quadrifoglio (pronounced quodri-folio) sounds a lot sexier that Cloverleaf, which brings to mind a low-fat spread.

It’s a revised edition of the flagship model, with the biggest difference being a six-speed TCT automatic transmission added for the first time and a revised interior.

That TCT transmission, with steering-wheel paddle shifters, is paired with a 1.4-litre MultiAir Turbo Petrol 170hp engine , which Alfa say has improved economy and reduced emissions – 10 per cent and 11 per cent respectively.

It results in a reduction in 0-62mph acceleration figures to 7.3 seconds, with a top speed of 136mph.

There are some other cosmetic upgrades to the Quadrifoglio Verde – new matte colours are available, a rear spoiler, sports rear bumper and twin exhaust pipes, plus enhanced styling features including a burnished finish on exterior elements and 18-inch alloy wheels.

Inside there are some new elements like a new flat-bottom sports steering wheel and new Uconnect five-inch touchscreen multimedia system with DAB and satellite navigation as standard.

The Mito first appeared in 2008 and as far as looks go it carried on Alfa’s long list of beautiful cars – and this QV version looks better than ever.

Alfa Romeo’s front end is probably the most distinctive look of any car, and one look at that heart-shaped grille and off-centre registration plate tells you the brand.

This QV version of the Mito really is a stunning car, squat yet sleek, retro shaped yet with a modern twist. What really added the finishing touches on my test car was one of the new matte colour schemes, a striking non-shiny grey shade.

Inside the cabin is equally stylish and distinctive, with a real Italian flair.

There’s that new flat-bottomed sports steering wheel, trimmed in leather with contrasting stitching, as well as the new instruments with integrated Quadrifoglio Verde logo.

Black leather with white stitching also trims the handbrake lever and the gear lever, while the ‘carbon look’ dashboard, special floor mats and aluminium kick plate (with Quadrifoglio Verde logos) add to the special feel of the interior.

The frame-hugging sports seats – height adjustable on the driver’s side and with lumbar adjustment for both front occupants – are trimmed in specific QV fabric and finished with white-and-green stitching to complete the revised look.

It looks great – all swirling lines and dramatic swoops. The gauges and air vents are circular, reminiscent of an aircraft cockpit, and the mood is dark and sombre.

Some of the plastics let the side down a little – especially on the doors – and are less than plush, though it all looks durable and well put-together

This QV version features a small media screen in the centre of the dash, and even that has a retro feel to it. If a sixties sports car was built with a satnav it would look like that.

On the downside, though, while it looks cool it is small and requires some concentration to use.

The Mito is a compact car but there’s plenty of headroom and legroom in the front.

The rear seats are a bit cramped and as the Mito is a three-door hatch its entry to the rear involves a degree of clambering too.

The boot’s a decent size but the lip is high, meaning that bulkier, heavy items need to be hoisted over.

Acceleration from 0-60 has been improved in this new QV version and at 7.3 it packs a punch, but many hot hatch competitors are posting sub-seven second figures.

There are three modes – Dynamic N for Normal and All-weather – with dynamic being quickest.

It’s lively and enjoyable but it’s not a screamer.

The automatic gearbox gets caught out every now and again too. It seems to hang in mid change, caught in limbo before it finds the next gear.

It’s especially apparent when slowing down while approaching a junction or a roundabout although selecting Dynamic mode improves the situation.

The Mito cruises comfortably when on long runs. The 1.4 petrol engine is well behaved, only rising in volume when it’s thrashed, but there’s a fair bit of road noise and wind noise at higher speeds, although never intrusive enough to be an annoyance.

The Mito’s diminutive proportions make it easy to manoeuvre around town, and although visibility isn’t great through the small rear windows it’s easy to handle in tight spaces.

Take the QV out for a blast in the country and when driven hard there’s fun to be had.

Grip is good but there’s some body roll, and hit a bend swiftly you’ll feel the high sides of the bucket seats pressing into your ribs. The steering is light and easy to handle but it’s not the most pin-sharp you’ll find.

There’s no denying that the Mito, and in particular this QV version, offers something different in the hot hatch market, and while it’s not the hottest hatch out there, it’s overflowing with Italian flair and panache.

It’s at the higher end of the price range for hatchbacks, with the entry level version starting at just over £16,000, rising to more than £20,000 for the QV version I drove.

But as well as that Italian style you get fine amounts of equipment as standard.

Entry-level Sprint cars get air-con, alloys, Bluetooth and a USB socket, and Distinctive trim adds larger wheels, rear parking sensors, lumbar support for the driver’s seat, cruise control and various aesthetic add-ons.

Sportiva models get a sportier, while the range-topping Quadrifoglio Verde cars have yet more sporty touches, plus sat-nav and loads of other goodies like ultra-sporty bucket seats and loads of other QV personalised extras.

An impressive array of safety equipment also comes as standard.

Alfa’s Mito Quadrifoglio is a stunning car to look at, packed with style, and you can overlook its faults just by taking a long, lingering look at it.

There are hot hatches which are quicker and cheaper, but very few that can match it for sheer style.

Fact file

Alfa Romeo Mito

Engine: 1.4 litre petrol

Transmission: Six-speed manual

0-62mph: 7.3 seconds

Top speed: 136mph

Fuel economy: 52.3 mpg avg

Price: £20,210 OTR (inc options £25,200)