Road test: Alfa Romeo Giulietta and Mito

New models keep Alfa Romeo’s cool and edgy reputation intact, writes Noel Ebdon.

The Alfa Romeo Mito, left, and Giulietta offer little new on the outside, but boast brand new interiors, as seen in the Giuletta below. Courtesy Alfa Romeo
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I need few excuses to fly to Italy and enjoy the fashion capital of Milan, so when the chance to pop in and say hi to Alfa Romeo for the joint launch of the 2014 Giulietta and Mito cropped up, I didn’t exactly hesitate.

However, as with all the best-laid plans of mice and men, the trip didn’t quite go to plan. First, having blissfully lived in the Middle East for the best part of two decades, I had completely forgotten about Europe’s penchant for bad weather once the short summer is over.

This slight oversight saw me drive the new cars in pelting rain for two days, a situation hardly suited to exploring both cars’ suitability for Gulf roads and conditions. What I can tell you about both cars is that they work really well on greasy, flooded Italian roads. Oh, and the windscreen wipers are fantastic, especially when overtaking large trucks on the highway.

The second problem with the launch was that both cars were virtually the same as the current ones we have in the Gulf market. Let me explain. The Giulietta and the Mito have been knocking around in Europe and other markets for a few years now, but they only popped up on the GCC radar around a year ago. So, although they needed a slight tweak on the styling back in their home markets to keep things fresh, here they were brand new anyway, so it’s all a bit superfluous.

Luckily for Alfa, both are stonkingly good cars, albeit with a few Italian oddities built in to give you that extra Latin flare.

So this is what I flew to a damp Milan for. From the outside it’s a few bits of trim and some funky alloys, and that’s pretty much it. It would take a real car nerd to spot the difference between the 2013 models and the spangly new 2014 ones.

The big change is on the inside, with both cars boasting brand new interiors. This was certainly the weak point with the older Giulietta, so trimming it up a bit will go down well with the buying public.

Let’s start with the Mito. On the outside buyers now get a chrome grille and some extra shiny bits around the lights. And, well, that’s pretty much it. Hardly a facelift to rival Joan Collins.

Inside, there’s a range of new trim options, as well as an excellent five-inch touchscreen, with Bluetooth and built in TomTom navigation. It’s big, bright and easy to use – a big improvement over the old system.

Under its curvaceous hood there’s a new baby 900cc Turbo engine, producing around 105 bhp, but it’s doubtful that unit will come to the region. GCC buyers will almost certainly get the zippy 135 bhp 1.4 Turbo engine for the Gulf’s larger roads.

I can’t really comment on the handling, due to the terrible weather en route, but on the few drying stretches I encountered, it feels tight and nippy. This car needs city streets and dry roads to really enjoy it. Unfortunately I had neither.

On to the Giulietta and again, there’s a trimmed grille and some shiny bits around the fog lights. The Giulietta also gets directional LED lights and LEDs at the back. And buyers now have the option of three new alloy designs.

Inside, it’s all change, with a redesigned centre console and dash. The relationship between the handbrake and the armrest has been improved, as the former was obscured by the latter in the previous model. Drivers can also enjoy some seriously sporty seats, trimmed in a deep black leather/Alcantara mix.

The main engine announcement was centred around the new diesel engine, which is as relevant to the region as flip flops to an Eskimo, so GCC customers will stick with the 1.4 Turbo petrol motor, which is great fun, and very Italian.

Again, I can’t tell you much about the handling, as every car on the road was trying to avoid parting company with the tarmac as the torrential rain swept a deluge of water across the highways.

But from my recent test drive of the 2013 model, the Giulietta is easily a rival to the key protagonists in this market, namely the VW Golf and Ford Focus.

Alfa Romeos are a bit like Marmite. You either love them or hate them. Car lovers tend to love them, which is a good thing, as it prevents the brand becoming boring and mainstream. It’s still cool and edgy, and both the new Giulietta and Mito keep that tradition very much alive.

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