Currently Alfa Romeo has a three car line up consisting of a super-mini (MiTo), a hatchback (Giulietta) and a low volume carbon chassis sports coupé, the 4C.
The MiTo is a stylish super-mini, with a range of efficient engines and options to customise the car. It’s main competitors in this segment are the Mini, Audi A1 and Citroen DS3, this is due to the MiTo being aimed at the premium small car market, although there are other choices in the super-mini segment (Peugeot 208, Volkswagen Polo, Ford Fiesta, Fiat Panda, Fiat 500, Renault Clio, Toyota Yaris) However, they do not match the premium cache of the Alfa Romeo. The MiTo is known for its sporty and stylish image, interior space (enough to seat 4 adults for short journeys) and its economical engines. It has been criticized for its cheap interior plastics, uncomfortable ride and 3 door only configuration.
All MiTo’s come with stop-start technology, cutting the engine’s power when the car is stopped to save fuel. The 1.3 litre diesel is exempt from road tax and edges out the Mini Cooper D and the Audi A1, returning 78.5 mpg versus 72.4 mpg (Mini) and 74.3 mpg (Audi). Even the most powerful MiTo, the 170 bhp Quadrifoglio returns a respectable 47.1 mpg.
The MiTo’s ride is criticized but is said to provide decent handling in the corners, both the Mini and Audi are said to suffer from the same harsh ride. However, the Mini is the class leader when it comes to having ‘fun’ in the corners. The Citroen DS3 range of vehicles offers the best ride due to their softer suspension set up.
The MiTo offers 270 litres of boot space, but if you want 60:40 split-folding rear seats, this is a £500 option which is painful considering the other cars in its class offer them as standard. The Citroen DS3 offers 280 litres of boot space (980 litres with the seats down) The Mini only offering 160 litres of space (520 with the seats down) The A1 with 270 litres of space (920 with seats down).
The Alfa Romeo Mito holds the five-star safety rating for the Euro NCAP but so does the Citroen, Audi and Mini. Seven airbags, electronic stability control, ISOFIX child seat anchor points, anti-whiplash head restraints are all standard. The MiTo suffers from cheap interior plastics (along with the Citroen) and cant compete with the solid build quality interiors of the Mini and Audi, although the Audi has the most high quality interior of them all.
The MiTo begins at £14,350 for the 875cc 105bhp version, the most expensive version, the 1.4 litre 170 bhp Quadrifoglio Verde costs £21, 595. The MiTo is well equipped and comes standard with manual air conditioning, electric windows and remote central locking. Its competitors do not offer the same value for money when comparing standard equipment. However, the Alfa Romeo does suffer more depreciation then the other brands. The Mini holding its value the best of all.
The Alfa Romeo Giulietta falls into the super competitive small/family hatchback market, where the consumer is spoilt for choice. The BMW 1 Series, Audi A3, Mercedes A Class, Volvo V40 hatchback, Citroen DS4, Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus, Lexus CT hatchback, SEAT Leon and even the Mini Countryman are all competitors. The Giulietta is known for its stylish interior and exterior design as well as its impressive engines. However, it has been criticized for its uncomfortable driving position, lack of rear space and sale price.
The 1.6 litre diesel is the most economical, returning 64.2 mpg while emitting only 114 g/km of CO2. Unfortunately, this cannot match the most economical offerings from the Ford Focus ECOnetic 88g/km or Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion 85 g/km. Stop-start fuel saving technology is standard on all turbo engines and they all come with a three-year/unlimited mile warranty.
The Giulietta is chastised for its poor driving position. The pedals are too close to you and each other, leaving nowhere to rest your foot, while the steering wheel remains too far away. The suspension is said to be soft enough to handle the UK roads, with little wind noise entering the cabin. Both the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf have more functional interiors and driving positions, the Golf seriously impressing with both interior class and feel.
The Alfa Romeo Giulietta beats the Ford Focus in boot space, 350 litres versus 316 litres respectively and offers standard 60:40 split folding rear seats. The Golf starts out with an impressive 380 litre boot space but thanks to its lie flat seats, this grows to 1,295 litres of space.
All cars score a five-star Euro NCAP rating and host impressive safety features. Although, there have been no major recalls or reliability issues with the Giulietta, Alfa Romeo has still not been able to match the build quality and reliability of the other two manufacturers.
It is more expensive to purchase a Giulietta then either the Golf or Focus. However, it does come with air conditioning and electric windows as standard. The Ford Focus does offer generous levels of standard spec also and the Volkswagen is unlikely to depreciate as much as the Alfa Romeo.
The Alfa Romeo’s distinctive styling and Italian flavour is a departure from some of the more staid designs in the small/family hatchback market. However, it doesn’t offer the class leading performance that the likes of the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus and BMW 1 Series are known for.
The Alfa Romeo 4C is an interesting model to make comparisons with. It is the only car at its price point to feature a carbon chassis. The BMW i3, while cheaper, is aimed at a completely different market segment. The 4C also offers performance figures of more expensive machinery, while remaining incredibly light (895 kg). In this segment, it is more likely that customers will be comparing on price, performance and driving enjoyment. Contenders like the Porsche Cayman/S and Lotus Exige S seem most likely as they are the most performance oriented sports coupes in this price bracket.
It is also less likely that someone purchasing this vehicle will be interested in mpg over performance figures, but the 4C remains frugal because of its 1.75 litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine, returning 41.5 mpg and 157 g/km CO2. The Lotus returns 28 mpg and 236 g/km, this means more road tax than the 4C. The standard Cayman returns 34.4 mpg and 180 g/km CO2.
The 4C is a fully fledged sports car, you sit low in the carbon tub and while driving the hard suspension set up can be unforgiving. The Exige S is similar, with its stiff suspension, chassis and tough steering, the Lotus is a performance car first and foremost. The Cayman is much more forgiving, a good driving position and comfortable cabin, this is the car you would want as a daily driver.
Boot space is not one of the Alfa Romeo’s strong points, only offering 110 litres. However, this is more than the Exige S which has a tiny boot behind the engine (belongings will get very toasty). Again, the Cayman is the right choice in this area with 162 litre load area, which increases to 275 litres if you fill it to the roof. Both the Alfa and Lotus have cramped interiors which need a certain amount of gymnastic talent to wedge yourself into. The Cayman is easy to get in and out of and has plenty of interior space for a 2 seat sports coupé.
The Alfa Romeo beats both the Cayman and Cayman S to 62mph, offering the performance of the much more expensive (£80,000+) Porsche Carrera S. The Exige S is even quicker than the 4C, reaching 62 mph in 4 seconds versus 4.5 seconds respectively. Both Alfa Romeo and Lotus have had reliability problems in the past but both companies have been working hard to remedy this. The 4C borrows some components from other models in the range, meaning they have been tried and tested and therefore less likely to fail. The carbon chassis should prove to be incredibly strong and durable as well. Both safety and reliability feature heavily in the Porsche Cayman, again one of its strong points.
The Alfa Romeo exudes style and new technology, with performance figures of more expensive machines. However, the Cayman/S is a better daily driver and will hold its value. Couple this and you with Porsche’s proven reliability and you have a hard car to match. The Exige S offers the most visceral performance and driving experience, but at the expense of comfort and practicality. What the 4C does offer is a beautifully designed sports coupé with a carbon tub – no other manufacturer at this level can say that. It offers a direct connection with the road thanks to its light weight an unassisted power steering. This is for the purists who have an eye for style.
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