Alfa Romeo MiTo: viva Italia
And the winner is: something small, something
cool, and something funky. Its the Alfa Romeo MiTo. Jack
Yan explains why
Lucires Car to Be Seen in for 2009, was not the most
obvious choice. There were cars that were socially significant,
such as the Tata Nano, which could, once the Indian company begins
exporting them and looking at non-petrol powertrains, be the must-see
of all cars. Certainly when petrol hit record prices in 2008, the
Nano, had Tata been able to build any after hitting a stumbling-block
with labour issues, could have rocketed to stardom like a latter-day
1959 Mini or 1972 Honda Civic. Imagine Hollywood celebrities, claiming
to care after seeing Slumdog Millionaire, turning up to the
Oscars in privately imported Nanos. Sadly, it didnt happen.
Or we could have gone for the Ford Fiesta Mk
VII. While not socially significant, it is significant for
the Ford Motor Co., as a small car that will be sold worldwide.
Ford hasnt talked about world cars for some timeit claimed
the Mondeo was one, but continued selling the Telstar and Versailles
in some of its markets for yearsbut faced with a credit crunch,
CEO Alan Mulally has seen sense and
got around Dearborn politics. We like the Fiesta, but I found the
adaptive steering a little light. (Ford says its intentional.)
Still, theres no denying that its a value-packed car,
with Bluetooth and voice recognition that more expensive vehicles
do not have. The VR even picks up
the Kiwi accent, moderately well.
The other Ford that was nominated, the Ka, is
a hoot to drive; but at the other end of the scale, we felt 2009
was not the year to be showing off in big sedans such as the Lincoln
MKS, Genesis or the BMW Siebener.
The Volvo XC60
might be the small SUV from the Swedish
company and collision avoidance is a cool feature, but when you
pilot one around Auckland, youll realize its not exactly
small. Volvo claims this is an asset, and for those who seek space,
it is rightbut it is not right for TCBS
when theres still a feeling of frugality in the air.
The Opel Insignia could have been the lazy choice
(as it has already won the European Car of the Year award), but
for all its excellence, it is a family car which, while rewarding
the driver and looking particularly special, doesnt look like
something where a celeb could step from on to the red carpet. (However,
it looks far better than the Vectra C, which it replaces.)
The Volkswagen Scirocco and Renault Mégane
havent shaken off their plainness. And the Nissan GT-R,
while earth-shaking, isnt our idea of the Car to Be Seen inespecially
as its designers have created it to look fearsome.
But its not the process of elimination
that has got us to the choice of the Alfa Romeo MiTo. You are unlikely
to find a car that has the same combination of cheeky looks, great
dynamics (Alfas VDC dynamic
traction control as standard), safety (with a five-star Euro NCAP
rating), and performance at the price. The funky interior is a joy
to look at, especially with the air vents looking very Alfa indeed.
While the Veloce develops 155 PS,
the diesel manages a combined 62·8 mpg with 119 g/km of carbon
This is the most stylish car of 2009: it is classless,
like so many previous TCBS winners
have been, affordable, right for the social and economic times,
and the car which Lucire readers, female or male, would be
happy to step out of, either at the swankiest dos or the shopping
parking lot. Even if Alfa sells a bundle of them, you can still
feel specialunlike some of the other nominees which lose their
cachet when there are too many on the roads.
We commend Alfa Romeo. Italy has won TCBS
for the second consecutive year.
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