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Alfa Romeo MiTo Review (2012): Quadrifoglio Verde (Cloverleaf)

Fri, 29 Jun 2012

We have the range-topping Alfa Romeo MiTo Quadrifoglio Verde (Cloverleaf) in for a week for review and test.

The Alfa Romeo MiTo Quadrifoglio Verde (or Alfa MiTo Cloverleaf to us linguistically challenged Brits) is Alfa’s efforts at a proper little hot hatch and gets the very good 170bhp 1.4 litre MultiAir engine under the bonnet, offering real performance promise.

The MiTo is a bit of a Marmite car in the looks department with its small car take on an 8C nose. Alfa hasn’t really done anything to mark out the Cloverleaf from its lesser brethren save for adding some meaty alloys and a couple of oversized ‘Cloverleaf’ badges stuck to the front wings.

Inside Alfa did update the Cloverleaf last year to major on big slabs of carbon fibre, but in all other ways the Cloverleaf is essentially a regular MiTo, just one that goes quickly and costs £19k.

Is a potent engine under the bonnet of a baby front-wheel drive Alfa enough to warrant the Cloverleaf badge, or is the MiTo Cloverleaf more a marketing exercise?

We have to confess that we do like the way the MiTo looks. Even its poor man’s take on an 8C nose is appealing and characterful, and there are some great lines down the flanks with the MiTo’s flared arches promising much.

But those flared wheel arches and aggressive stance are there on even the bog-standard MiTo costing a sizeable chunk less than this Quadrifoglio Verde, and Alfa hasn’t seen fit to do anything much to mark the Cloverleaf out as something special.

In fact, about all that Alfa has done is stick Cloverleaf badges on the front wings (which look incongruous – and too big) and fitted a pleasant enough set of 18″ alloys.

Inside is much the same story, with anyone familiar with lesser MiTos feeling very much at home. Yes, there are big slabs of carbon fibre to shout ‘Sporty’ and the seats are sports seats with Alcantara for better grippiness, but it’s all a bit black and gloomy.

That said, the driving position is pretty good and the overall effect is stylish and individual, although some cheap plastics and switchgear don’t make the Cloverleaf feel as special as you’d perhaps hope.

But there are toys aplenty including Climate, Cruise, Bluetooth and parking sensors.

With 170bhp from its 1.4 litre MultiAir, performance is where the Cloverleaf should win hands down against any other MiTo. And it does.

The MultiAir engine loves a heavy right foot and rewards your need for speed with a linear delivery of proper zesty Italian brio. The six-speed manual is a slick little shifter and the MultiAir engine makes more encouraging noises the more you ask of it. Huge fun.

Surprisingly, the MiTo Cloverleaf isn’t the crashy-bashy experience you might expect and, on the whole, its ride is on the softer side of what you’d normally expect in a hot hatch.

The downside to that is that the Cloverleaf isn’t quite as involving as you might like on a B-road blat. The steering doesn’t give you back the sort of messages the zippy engine notes tells you to expect and the body control isn’t quite as sharp as it could be.

Still, the Cloverleaf is huge fun, just as long as you’ve got the DNA switch in the right place – which is firmly in Dynamic mode.

In Dynamic mode the MiTo does a more than passable impression of a hot hatch, but in Normal mode it’s downright horrible. The ride is squidgy, the steering is feathery with no feel and the throttle feels like it’s connected with old knicker elastic.

For some reason Alfa won’t let you choose Dynamic as the default setting, so the MiTo (and every other Alfa we’ve driven) reverts to ‘Normal’ mode every time it’s switched off. Which is not what you want, although it might possibly be good for economy for driving in heavy traffic.

By a verdict of three to one, we like the MiTo Cloverleaf. The one dissenting voice thought it was just not involving enough to warrant the Cloverleaf badge and its handling was just not good enough.

But the rest were seduced by the cuteness of the MiTo, that crackingly good 1.4 litre MultAir engine and, perhaps most surprisingly, economy that was on the right side of 40mpg despite us driving it with gusto for a week.

But with a sensible head on – rather than a simple ‘We just really love it’ – there probably are better options than the MiTo Cloverleaf –  like the MINI Cooper S.

But perhaps the biggest rival for the MiTo Cloverleaf is another car that stole out hearts – the Citroen DS3. In DSport guise it’s actually a bit quicker than the MiTo and handles better. It doesn’t sound as good, but it’s cheaper too.

But in the end, if you love Alfas, you will love the MiTo Cloverleaf. Because, just like every Alfa there’s ever been, it still has huge appeal despite its shortcomings. In fact, the MiTo makes you smile.

And that’s enough reason to buy one all on its own.



By Cars UK