Alfa Romeo Mito's Cloverleaf and clout

Alfa Romeo's sporty new MiTo Cloverleaf will certainly prove a lucky one, says ANDY RUSSELL.Alfa Romeo is one of the most evocative names in motoring, a marque with an illustrious racing history and a reputation for building drivers' car.

Alfa Romeo's sporty new MiTo Cloverleaf will certainly prove a lucky one, says ANDY RUSSELL.

Alfa Romeo is one of the most evocative names in motoring, a marque with an illustrious racing history and a reputation for building drivers' car.

But there's another name better known to Alfa aficionados which represents the pinnacle of the Italian car-maker's performance -

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Cloverleaf. The Cloverleaf badge to Alfa is like RS to Ford and VXR to Vauxhall - production cars with serious performance.

In Alfa's centenary year the Italian car-maker has launched not one but two Cloverleaf models, with hot versions of the new Giulietta as well as a new flagship for the revised MiTo three-door sports hatchback.

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What has made it possible is the new-generation MultiAir petrol engines - 1.4-litre turbo petrol units with extraordinary power outputs that deliver high performance and driveability while significantly cutting fuel consumption and emissions. They meticulously meter the quantity and characteristics of the air drawn into the cylinders during combustion and optimise valve timing and lift, so the engine performs strongly across a wide rev range.

Lusso and Veloce MiTos get the 135bhp version, itself no mean output, but Alfa has saved the best for the Cloverleaf version which has 170bhp and a class-leading 124bhp per litre - the highest value ever for a production Alfa. It makes the MiTo a pocket rocket capable of reaching 62mph from rest in 7.5 seconds, yet able to return more than 40mpg easily in real-world driving.

It's helped by the standard stop-start technology which cuts the engine in when the car is at a standstill and fires its up again when the clutch pedal is pressed.

It's a little cracker, with lots of low-down pulling power and, given its performance, it's surprisingly easy to drive in traffic, picking up cleanly and eagerly from 1,500rpm.

Let the revs climb and it's deceptively brisk, spinning freely to the red line accompanied by a pleasing rasp from the twin exhaust pipes. But I was disappointed that the gearshift could not be hurried and often had to coaxed to fully engage first gear from neutral.

The MiTo has another trick up its sleeve and that's Alfa's acclaimed and innovative DNA system which tailors driving style with Dynamic (sporting), Normal and All weather (gentler response for maximum safety on icy roads and loose surfaces).

The Cloverleaf doesn't hang around in Normal mode but flick the switch by the gear lever into Dynamic and it's like suddenly finding you've been driving with the handbrake on! The MiTo surges forward and it quickens the throttle response, sharpens the steering, makes the handling more direct and, on the Cloverleaf with its dynamic active suspension, adjusts damping characteristics for best performance and ride.

The result is that drivers get the best of all worlds, for despite the firm set-up it is surprisingly supple, soaking up bumps and lumps in Normal mode with none of the bone-jarring ride found on some performance models although there is noticeable tyre noise. Switch to Dynamic mode and the damping is beefed up to make the MiTo even more agile, handling with leech-like levels of grip.

The MiTo is a real head-turner, especially the bright yellow model I drove, with its pretty face dominated by huge headlamps rolling down the front wings, traditional Alfa shield grille and offset number plate.

And it doesn't disappoint inside with the carbon fibre-effect fascia and silver trim inlays adding sporty flair.

I normally struggle to find a comfortable driving position in Italian cars, ending up closer to the wheel than desirable, but had no problems in the MiTo with its good range of seat and steering wheel adjustment. Controls are easy to use and the dials easy to take in at a glance, but the biggest problem for drivers is the limited rear visibility when reversing so the optional rear parking sensors could be a worthwhile investment.

The MiTo is effectively a three-door supermini but seats only four as standard - three rear 60/40 split rear seats are a �450 option - and although you can carry four adults it's quite snug in the back, with the sloping roof cutting headroom, and feels quite dark. The boot offers a decent 270 litres of space but a curved back edge and high sill limit its practicality. The rear seat back folds down but you really need to remove the head restraints and there is a step up from the boot floor.

The MiTo Cloverleaf comes with 17in alloy wheels, heated door mirrors and electric front windows, rear spoiler, air-conditioning, sports seats and dials, darkened interior headlining, active suspension, stability control, front, side, window and driver's knee airbags, front fog lights, MP3-compatible radio/CD, Bluetooth hands-free system with voice recognition and USB port.

The MiTo has always been fun to drive and own and the new Cloverleaf model really brings out the best of Alfa Romeo's sporting heritage.


Price: �17,895

Engine: 1,368cc, 170bhp, four-cylinder turbo petrol

Performance: 0-62mph 7.5 seconds; top speed 136mph

MPG: Urban 34.9; extra urban 58.9; combined 47.1

Emissions: 139g/km

Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 16pc

Insurance group: 26 (out of 50)

Warranty: Three years/60,000 miles

Will it fit in the garage? Length 4,063mm; width (excluding door mirrors) 1,720mm; height 1,446mm

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