Someone once said "What good is an eye-catching new suit if the person inside it is rotten?"
Now that's a pretty brave statement - but an assertion, nevertheless, that speaks to the question of style versus substance.
So what about the 2014 Alfa Romeo MiTo?
What does this gorgeous little motor - an arch-rival to the MINI and Audi A1 - have to back up its looks?
Stylish inside and out
Externally, the latest incarnation of the MiTo benefits from a fresh, chromed front grille; titanium grey headlamp and tail lamp surrounds; tinted rear windows and a sports rear bumper.
The altered colour palette that now includes a laid-back "Matte Magnesio Grey" finish.
The interior is thoroughly different to the initial MiTo, first launched in mid-2008.
The car now has a changed dashboard, upgraded plastics and an up-to-the-minute five-inch, touch-screen infotainment system with voice recognition, Bluetooth, steering wheel remote controls, USB/aux ports and optional satellite navigation.
Substance under the bonnet
With just 875cc under the bonnet of the Alfa I tested, you'd think you'd have all the power of an average domestic vacuum cleaner on tap.
But you'd be wrong.
Yes, there's no denying the TwinAir Sprint model sounds like an industrial sewing machine on tick over.
However, the little Italian car draws deep from its well of two-cylinder potency when it needs to.
Extra performance and efficiency
The tiny petrol-powered turbo engine benefits from a 20hp boost in performance – now 105hp – which translates in a 0-62mph time that's 1.1 seconds quicker than the previous 85hp version.
Despite the additional performance, the Alfa Romeo MiTo TwinAir remains impressively efficient, with a combined fuel economy figure of 67.3 mpg and CO2 emissions of just 99g/km.
A wide-ranging array of traction, braking and stability control systems is standard on the mini MiTo too.
All this can be adjusted via Alfa Romeo's trademark Alfa DNA selectable driving mode system which allows you to choose between three different driving settings: Dynamic, Normal, and All-Weather.
Choose your driving mode wisely
The clever gadgetry controls the character of the car, from the behaviour of the engine, brakes and steering, to the suspension and gearbox.
This works - but only to an extent.
Dynamic is sporty, making the steering weightier and the throttle more responsive, but that in reality makes the MiTo more of a struggle to drive.
If you stay with the Normal setting, the steering is gentle and the car is effortless to weave in and out of city traffic.
'Fistfuls of charm'
The super-mini is also now equipped with fuel-saving Start & Stop; air conditioning; a leather-trimmed steering wheel and gear knob; electric windows and mirrors; seven airbags; front fog lamps; a rear spoiler, and alloy wheels.
So, even though the MiTo isn't going for a song, the miniature motor is well equipped and offers fistfuls of charm.
And, no, in my opinion, looks still aren't more important than content – but they've certainly not done Alfa Romeo any harm.
Pros & cons
- Stylish √
- Economical √
- Nippy √
- Kit √
- Noisy X
- Max speed: 114 mph
- 0-62 mph: 11.4 secs
- Combined mpg: 67.3
- Engine: 875cc 2 cylinder 8 valve petrol turbo
- Max. power (bhp): 105 at 5500 rpm
- Max. torque (lb/ft): 107 at 2000 rpm
- CO2: 99 g/km
- Price: £14,350
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