TAKING a long, hard look at the curiously named Alfa Mi.To, it’s clear that the Italians are pushing hard to re-take the initiative in the small car market. With the Fiat 500 proving to be a huge hit thanks to its cheeky styling, funky image and relatively low purchase price, MINI has been put under serious attack as the darling of the city car set. Thankfully for MINI, the Fiat currently lacks a truly capable sporting version and doesn’t quite tick all of the right boxes for Nürburgring fetishists – the premium-priced British car is still, therefore, arguably the best of the bunch.
However, Fiat has decided to spring a two-pronged attack and rolled out the Mi.To – a car that in many ways tries to recapture the spirit of the original Alfasud (without, hopefully, toting the older car’s baggage). It’s small, stylish, and oozing with Alfa Romeo panache. The pricing strategy looks good too, with the new Italian undercutting its British rival at each step in the model range. Will the MINI take an almighty hit on the European market because of the Mi.To? MINI fans will be relieved to know that, based on initial First Drive reports on the Mi.To, their inflated icon is safe for the moment – with the Mi.To being bogged down with too many electronic aids that intrusively spoil the fun.
Perhaps that won’t matter with style conscious buyers, but the press won’t let them get away with producing a rival that’s more Capuccino than Espresso – all froth and no substance. I reckon that, for now, MINI’s safe, but that, in time, buyers will drift away looking for something nice and Mediterranean.
Ultimately, though, for every sale lost in Europe, MINI’s probably picking up half a dozen in the USA, as North Americans get to grips with expensive pump fuel. Alfa Romeo’s looking to join the party over there – so it will be interesting to see how things pan out.
For now though, I’ll buy an Italian to look at but the Brit to drive.
Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...
Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.