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Alfa Romeo MiTo: viva ItaliaAlfa Romeo MiTo: viva Italia

And the winner is: something small, something cool, and something funky. It’s the Alfa Romeo MiTo. Jack Yan explains why



THE ALFA ROMEO MITO, Lucire’s 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 didn’t 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 hasn’t talked about world cars for some time—it claimed the Mondeo was one, but continued selling the Telstar and Versailles in some of its markets for years—but 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 it’s intentional.) Still, there’s no denying that it’s 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, you’ll realize it’s not exactly small. Volvo claims this is an asset, and for those who seek space, it is right—but it is not right for TCBS when there’s 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, doesn’t 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 haven’t shaken off their plainness. And the Nissan GT-R, while earth-shaking, isn’t our idea of the Car to Be Seen in—especially as its designers have created it to look fearsome.

But it’s 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 (Alfa’s 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 dioxide.

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 special—unlike 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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