Friday, 8 January 2016

COLUMN – January 2016

Here is my column from the Christmas 2015/January 2016 edition of The Local Herald and The Clitheroe Local. It featured the Alfa Romeo MiTo QV Line, a car which has s sporty feel but with small-engine economy. As always you can find the full write up of the Alfa on the Reviews page. Looking ahead to the rest of this year, it's set to be a busy one. Thanks for following Simply Motor this far, and lets enjoy 2016!

So here we are at the end of another year. In this column I have my 30th (and final) review of 2015. Fear not though, because I already have half that number booked into 2016, in what promises to be my busiest year yet. So get on Twitter and follow @simplymotor to stay up to date with all my latest road tests, including various pictures before they appear on my website.

There are some pretty interesting cars on sale at the minute. In particular I am thrilled with the resurgence of the ‘proper’ hot hatchbacks. The Focus RS is back, and promises to be an absolute riot. Then you have the all-new Honda Civic Type R and Peugeot 308GTi. Both of these cars are rather exciting and, better still, have already been booked in to test. So watch this space.

On to that final review then, and it’s an Alfa Romeo MiTo. You may recall I recently tested its big brother- the Giulietta- and rather liked it. That was the Quadrifoglio Verde, or QV, version which is to Alfa Romeo what ST is to Ford. There is a MiTo QV, but that wasn’t what I tested. I had the QV line, which is a warm hatch, but with all the styling nods to the hotter QV.

The engine in the little MiTo is a 1.4-litre, turbocharged petrol unit. Power is 140PS and 230Nm of torque. This is sent to the front wheels via a 6-speed TCT semi-automatic gearbox, which is absolutely outstanding. I have always claimed that warm/hot hatchbacks should have a manual gearbox. And yet I absolutely loved the MiTo. In automatic mode it’s relaxing, easy to drive and the changes barely noticeable. Pop it into sport mode, and you can take control via paddles located behind the steering wheel and feel like a Formula 1 driver.

The QV Line features Alfa’s DNA drive system; Dynamic, Natural and All-weather. Natural is great for cruising, dynamic for when you want a sporty drive, and all-weather for when grip levels are low. What’s impressive is that there is noticeable difference between the modes. In natural the car feels refined and at the flick of a switch the steering becomes sharper, the throttle response quickens and the whole car feels livelier.

This car also features launch control, which makes for a 0-62mph time of 8.1 seconds and a top speed of 130mph, as well as being an incredibly cool thing to tell your friends about. Although to be fair, it’s hard not to like the MiTo; there’s just something about Alfa Romeo’s. The styling is delightful, with a sporty theme running through the crisp exterior lines into the comfortable cabin. I still like the split Alfa Romeo logo on the front seats, and the carbon-fibre-textured dashboard is a nice touch.

To say this is the ‘warm’ version Alfa have certainly given it some lovely touches. You get Brembo 4-piston brakes at the front, which means this little car stops as well as it goes. There’s adaptive suspension too, which features variable-response shock absorbers for a brilliant combination of comfort and composure. The QV Line comes in at £18,460 and that does create a slight problem, because that’s the same price as a Fiesta ST. I wanted to say it was too expensive and that it was no match for the Fiesta ST. But you know what; this is a completely different animal, and I love it as a warm hatch. Just one thing remains, and that’s to try the full-blown MiTo QV…

And that brings me nicely to the end of this column, and the year. Have yourself a fantastic Christmas; get drunk, get fat and have a bloody good time! See you in 2016…

Dan

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