Mad Makeover Boosts Interest in Alfa Romeo’s Smallest Car
By Andy Bannister
The jury is still currently out on the success or otherwise of Alfa Romeo’s smallest model for many years – the Mini Cooper-rivalling MiTo (its slightly annoying name is a contrived reference to the Italian car making cities of Milano and Torino).
Sales of the three-door MiTo are only just getting cranked up, and the hottest version so far is the 1.4-litre T-Jet, which delivers a respectable enough 155hp. It is comprehensively blown into the weeds, however by a remarkably eye-catching special being touted around Europe at the moment.
Known as the Marangoni M430, it boasts a new turbo, injectors and stainless steel exhaust and develops 233hp. The little car can reportedly do 0-62mph in 6.6 seconds and can achieve a top speed of 158mph – not bad for 1400cc.
In these depressing times for the auto industry it’s refreshing to see such a very individual, very Italian product pushing the boundaries.
Trouble is, the model isn’t an official Alfa show car. It’s a one-off promotional product expensively concocted by Roman tyre maker Marangoni and Florence-based tuning firm TRC.
The standard car’s perfectly normal doors have been ditched in favour of outrageous scissor-opening units inspired by the legendary Lamborghini Countach, and inside the Italian flag features on the sports seats and there are Swarovski crystals inserted into the leather gearshift collar, handbrake and pedals.
The M430 moniker is shamelessly borrowed from the Ferrari of the same name.
For all its customised-to-hell-and-back appearance – red tyres, red-and-white paintwork and special equipment including a carbon fibre diffuser and quad exhaust tailpipes are also fitted – the Marangoni does hint at what might be possible from Alfa’s own-range topping MiTo model when it finally arrives.
The custom cabin and stand-out looks (although not entirely successful, especially from the front) do manage to make it an unusually interesting premium small car.
It’s too new to say at the moment whether (with or without a GTA version) it stands a hope of being anywhere near as successful as the Mini, and its chances may be harmed at birth by the dire state of the new car market.
One crumb of comfort in Europe is the MiTo has helpfully arrived at a time when the few buyers still confident enough to go out and buy a new car are thinking about downsizing their vehicles. Unfortunately, though, that could hit even harder the already-miserable sales of Alfa Romeo’s staple product, the 159 saloon (an Italian rival for the BMW 3-series) storing up yet more problems for Alfa’s hard-pressed dealerships.
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