REVIEW: ALFA ROMEO MITO TWINAIR
I’m not sure if there’s a medical name for it, or indeed a technical one. I’m convinced it’s serious though, and it’s worrying me more than just a little too. My cylinder count is dropping – and it’s dropping fast. Less than a month ago I was blasting my way through North Wales in a V8 Aston Martin. A week later “my” Audi A7 TDi sported a V6. Next, a lift in my friend Tim’s car meant a brief spell sitting behind a regular inline 4 before the arrival of a SEAT Mii – that was powered by a triple. In less than a month I’d dropped 5 cylinders, not to mention countless torques and bhp’s as well. Now though my cylinder count is down to just two!
Alfa Romeo’s MiTo – the name comes from the Alfa’s two main “homes” Milano and Torino (I’ll spare you the obvious translations) – is now available as a TwinAir. That means that instead of the snarling multi-cylindered power-plant you might usually associate with an Italian motor maker with a racing pedigree longer than Monza’s main straight, you get just 2 cylinders and 875cc instead.
What, but why? Surely twin pot motors are either for ‘bikes or serve only to make a lot of noise and not a lot of go. Well not according to Alfa they don’t. The TwinAir comes not only with some very clever technology but some pretty bold claims too. Parent company Fiat – the MiTo shares most of its oily bits with their Punto – claim the TwinAir is the greenest petrol engine in the world, and they’ve got the figures to prove it too. CO2 emissions for this 875cc, turbo-charged, award-winning, engineering gem of an engine are a congestion charge free, 95g/km. Also it’s 13kg lighter than their usual 4 cylinder offerings and it’s 23% shorter too.
OK, but what do all these figures mean? In a word: Efficiency. The tiny TwinAir develops 84 bhp and 107lbft of torque. Plus, because it’s only got two cylinders, uses a chain to drive the cam rather than a belt, and its diminutive dimensions mean it uses less oil, it’s cheaper to service as well. Clever stuff indeed, but how does it feel?
The first thing you notice is the noise. Turn the Mito’s key and the soundtrack is, well…, different. You could be forgiven for thinking its diesel powered, but it lacks the tell-tale rattle, if not all of the vibration, at idle. As the revs rise it sounds more like a motorcycle, or a somewhat flatulent sounding sewing machine, but it spins freely and provides surprisingly spirited performance. OK so 0-62mph in 12.5secs and 108mph flat out aren’t the kind of figures to set many petrol-head pulses racing, but what the MiTo TwinAir lacks in performance it makes up for in character. You’ll have to keep stirring the six speed gearbox to keep things on the boil though, so don’t expect to match the claimed 67.3mpg figures on a regular basis.
Also, don’t expect the last word in interior refinement either. Though well equipped – stop-start, Alfa’s clever DNA switch which allows different driving modes, Bluetooth, iPhone integration, TomTom dock and USB, are all standard – some of the plastics are on the hard side. Also, the red digital display for the air-con, its rubbery feeling dials, and the shiny, metallic-looking radio mean the MiTo’s cabin, although more than capable of accommodating four adults, is beginning to show its age.
But ask yourself this, for just over £14,000 what other car can you get that mixes Italian style, wears one of the most famous and evocative names in motor racing, and comes with one of the most distinctive engine notes in years too? Sounds good when you put it like that doesn’t it? Perhaps loads of cylinders aren’t everything after-all.
Alfa Romeo Mito TwinAir Sprint
Engine: 875cc, 2Cyl, Turbo
Power: 84 BHP @ 5500rpm
Torque: 107lbft @ 1900rpm
Transmission: 6 speed manual. Front Wheel Drive.
Performance: 0-62mph 12.5 sec
Max Speed: 108 mph
MPG: 67.3 Combined.
VED: Band A