The Alfa Romeo MiTo dies next year and to be frank, Driven to Write is neither happy nor sad.
So the dominoes continue to fall. A little over a week since FCA announced the UK withdrawal of the Grande Punto (as a prelude to its ultimate demise), there comes the latest slaughter of the innocents.
Speaking to Autocar earlier this week, Alfa Romeo Head of Brand (EMEA), Roberta Zerbi confirmed the MiTo’s imminent appointment with the eternal, telling the Haymarket weekly’s Rachel Burgess; “Mito is a three-door and people are choosing more and more five-door cars,” which is a nice line in marketing spin, albeit one which crumbles like a corroded Alfasud beneath the most cursory scrutiny.
Not that Ms. Zerbi is being entirely disingenuous you understand. There is more than a grain of truth in her assertion. Buyers are deserting three-door cars en masse across the European market, although whether the rationale behind this development is one of preference, or availability remains something of an ecumenical matter.
Of course we all know the true reason for FCA’s announcement. The MiTo is old, somewhat outclassed in its market sector and truth be told, never quite met expectations. Furthermore, with the Punto soon to be taken outside and quietly drowned, there seems little sense in keeping its Alfa-branded derivative going. Not with those sales numbers.
Alfa Romeo made several key errors with the MiTo programme. Firstly, their engineers somehow managed to turn what seemed to have been a thoroughly decent Punto chassis into something that neither rode, handled nor steered with the kind of fluency potential Alfa customers might have expected. Secondly, the styling was, to be charitable, awkward. And while the car could have survived either of these handicaps, suffering both simultaneously was a recipe for failure – which the MiTo has unquestionably been.
Apart from age (and collapsing sales), the prime reason for the MiTo’s demise is tied in with FCA’s forward plans, such as they currently are. The stabilio Mirafiori plant where the MiTo is built is to be refitted in anticipation of a new Alfa-branded model to built in its stead. This car will be yet another crossover, likely to be underpinned by a variant of the Jeep Compass architecture; itself based upon the 940-series Giulietta platform, to sit below the Giulia-based Stelvio model.
It’s possible this car will also replace the Giulietta, unless a business case (and the necessary funding) can be found to justify a new C-segment hatchback. But with the entire industry betting their respective farms on the CUV format, it’s somewhat unlikely, given the strictures FCA continue to operate under. Basically, if it cannot be sold in the US or China, it’s highly unlikely to happen.
Another strand to this move lies with FCA’s aim to move the Alfa Romeo brand further upmarket, closer to Maserati in positioning. So even had the MiTo been a competitive product, it would now sit uncomfortably within Alfa chief, Tim Kunisis’ commercial ambitions.
As we begin to bid a somewhat ambivalent farewell to the MiTo, how do we consider a car which was in essence rather inoffensive, which pleased a subset of its customer-base and broadened choice for the consumer – a choice which is shrinking into whatever flavour of CUV you might happen to prefer? It’s more difficult than one might imagine, at least if one is to be kind. Because while the MiTo wasn’t terrible, it wasn’t terribly good either.
“The Dream is gone, but the baby is real,” the song lyric says. And as Alfa Romeo drowns its unwanted child, perhaps the best we can do is to avert our eyes.