This Night Has Opened My Eyes

The Alfa Romeo MiTo dies next year and to be frank, Driven to Write is neither happy nor sad.

Image credit: (c) uscarsnews

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.

Addio MiTo. Image credit: (c) bestfcacars

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.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Founding Editor. Content Provider.

17 thoughts on “This Night Has Opened My Eyes”

  1. Remember when Alfas were beautiful? It’s been a while. It might be FWD but I am clinging to my 2000 156 TS 2.0 and my 1984 GTV 2.0.

  2. Good morning Eóin. Your subtle reference to “Father Ted” is sadly ironic: unlike the Mito, he died far too son.

    Regarding the Mito, my sister-in-law own a one and likes it. It’s not without some left-field charm, but it’s impossible to make any rational argument in its defence. Likewise the Ypsilon, a tragically inadequate standard bearer for the once proud Lancia name.

  3. Well, a friend of mine set out to buy a new family car to replace their faithful Astra. Alone. Rather pleased with himself, he returned from his automotive shopping expedition to declare he had ordered an Alfa Romeo.

    I hope I feigned enough enthusiasm when I got to experience the new family acquisition for myself. More than his daughter, anyhow, who despite being only four years old was able to complain about a lack of space in the back of the cabin.

    Cramped, noisy, ugly and fairly expensive. Other than a curiously appealing dimpled texture on the dashboard, the Mito had little to recommend it.

  4. I must be one of the very few here who doesn’t hate the Mito. In fact I quite like the look of it (remember people: those headlights, they’re not eyes – just lights). But there’s no point arguing about its looks seeing that Alfa couldn’t turn it into something exciting to drive and pleasant to be in. A shame really.

    1. You aren’t alone. It’s not bad in itself so much as disappointing. Would some ride/handling/steering fettling have been so hard to do? That said, I like them more than I’d have expected.

  5. For me, the MiTo is one of the worst Alfas ever made, only marginally better than an Arna and even worse than the 145, which in my eyes is quite an achievement.
    Like Alfas from the Egger era, it’s terminally ugly, particularly when seen head on. On this narrow and tall vehicle, the cross-eyed-lights-cum-gaping-grille work even less well than on other Alfas with these featuers.
    They’re quite popular in Italy (which is living proof that Italians don’t have style built in from birth) and I seriously wonder how their owners cope with those bumpy and often challenging roads with a car having such bad road manners.

    1. The 145 surely predated Egger’s period at Arese?

      I would say in his defence that he was in place for the 159, which although conceptually attributed to Ital/Giugiaro, his team would have taken a hand in. Little else which emerged from centro stile Alfa during his tenure is to his lasting credit in my opinion however…

    2. The 145 was created under Ermanno Cressoni’s supervision with him personally fulfilling a life long ambition by giving a car a kink in the window line.

      The 145 drove badly because the early ones were an unhappy combination of an overweight car and engines with a serious lack of torque and the later Twin Sparks too easily showed the limits of the chassis setup as the 145 had a centre of gravity high up and far back due to its large glass area, something you definitely don’t want in a car with a trailing arm suspension.

  6. The market will a little poorer for the demise of the MiTo. My wife owns one, and whilst I agree with many of the criticisms (styling excepted – I actually think it’s character suits a small Alfa) I always enjoy driving it.

    Perhaps this is manifestation of some deep character-flaw on my part. I think it’s because of what the MiTo isn’t as much as what it is: it isn’t a Mini (quite a feat in itself), it isn’t feigning off-road ability, it isn’t a downsized German ‘premium’. The frameless doors are an unnecessary detail that delight, the build quality is actually very good (even if the materials themselves are variable), and the styling is cohesive, different and well executed.

    1. Fair point. Mito gets a thumbs up for frameless doors (although the Mini 3 door also has these).

  7. A small point of pedantry.

    “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.”

    The Compass uses the Small Wide 4WD platform – essentially that of the Renegade with a 70mm wheelbase stretch to 2640mm, same as the Tipo type 356-8. That’s a derivative of the Small / SCCS platform with started with the Grande Punto and Corsa D. The Compass is not a great ornament to the Jeep range, a cynically concocted vehicle intended to increase the brand’s penetration into unsophisticated markets.

    We should hope that Alfa’s E-Pace! (as Boring Boring CAR will no doubt put it) will at least make use of the Compact Wide platform used for the current Jeep Cherokee and first seen on the Guilietta 940.

    The Cherokee wheelbase of 2692mm looks about right for an Alfa CUV to sit below the Stelvio. In the present CUV-fixated world it’s hard to imagine Alfa doing other than A C-segment crossover, as their next volume seller.

    1. Thanks for the correction Robertas. I clearly have a faulty sense of direction…

  8. Compare it with its brother, the Opel Adam, and you will not find any good reason to buy a MiTo. Apart from the italian name and the design. The worst point is the cheap and cramped interior.

    1. That’s true, alas. I couldn’t choose the MiTo ahead of the Adam. The Adam has an excellent and plush intetior. Of all the rental cars I’ve had it was the one with the most “feel good” factor.

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