|Alfa Romeo Mito|
Photographing and writing about cars here and abroad, including visits to the Porsche works in Germany, 1000+ mile classic road trips and conversations with retired racing drivers in Las Vegas, his love of cars comes through in his work.
My first car was a 950cc Mark 2 Ford Fiesta and, frankly, I would have given short shrift to the idea of a sub-1 litre engine in a modern supermini providing sufficient power. But the development of engine technology in the last few years has been incredible, with ever smaller engines offering more power and much better economy alongside lower emissions. In fact, there is now precious little difference between the mpg figures for the best of the petrol, diesel and hybrid cars, with all of them promising upwards of 60-70 mpg and under 100g/km of CO² (at least on paper).
One novel approach is Fiat’s Twinair engine currently featuring in the Fiat 500 but soon to be added to other cars in its extended family. It is an 875cc inline 2 cylinder, turbocharged engine that produces 85bhp and 107 ft/lb of torque in a manner that has pleasantly surprised all the reviews I could find of it. Autocar described the engine as “deeply impressive” in the Fiat 500 and it is testament to the Fiat Group’s confidence in their little bit of technological wizardry that they are moving it to some of their other cars.
The Alfa Mito has been one of the standout cars in the supermini sector in recent years having the design and quality to challenge the perennial favourites from Ford, VW et al. Richard Hammond chose it as his contender in one of Top Gear’s small car challenges and in its first year on sale helped improve Alfa’s figures by 52%.
So it is a natural fit to put this excellent engine to use in the new Alfa Romeo Mito Twinair. What you get as a result is one of the best looking cars on the market that is petrol powered and yet has such low emissions that it is road tax and London Congestion Charge exempt. How they managed to squeeze more low down torque from this little engine than either of the 8-valve 1.4l engines is beyond me. How they managed to only put out 98 g/km of CO² and get 67.3 mpg does boggle my mind a little.
The only car that I can think of in this mould is the recently released Ford Focus 1.0 Ecoboost which gives a slightly bigger and more powerful engine to the slightly bigger and heavier Focus. The solutions are designed to replace older, larger capacity engines but, critically, the Ford’s emissions are too high to qualify for the exemptions and its economy on the combined cycle is more than 10 mpg worse.
In the supermini sector there are really very few rivals for the Mito Twinair. There is a Toyota Yaris Hybrid that was unveiled at the 2012 Geneva motor show that is said to be able to get 80 mpg and under 80 g/km of CO² but with a price around the £15,000 mark, it is more than £1,000 more expensive than the Mito Twinair and would require the replacement of an expensive battery pack before it could be sold, second hand, in a few years.
While hybrids are going to have a place in the future, modern developments in petrol engines mean that cars like the Mito Twinair retain their edge, both in performance and overall economy when depreciation is taken into account.