THE long tradition behind the famous Alfa Romeo marque may have had a somewhat chequered history at times during the last fifty years, but there's no doubting the sporting pedigree inherent in the genes of the latest MiTo, or the character marking it out from the compact hatchback crowd.
In top Quadrifoglio Verde trim, equipped with the powerful 1.4-litre 170 horsepower MultiAir petrol engine and six-speed manual gearbox, this is a car in which Alfa's flame still burns bright.
Its advanced, free-spinning power unit smoothly delivers those horses, without temperament even at traffic-trickling speed, but hitting its stride only in the tachometer's upper reaches. Here, accompanied by a sporting exhaust note in tune with expectations given that Alfa Romeo badge, sprint-style acceleration off the line matures into a surging flow of overtaking power, dispatching Britain's traffic-choked main roads without fuss.
Relatively short, close ratio gearing, selected by a meatily-efficient gear change action, allows optimum available power utilisation, with sixth still long enough for relaxed cruising.
It's a drivetrain with a powerful punch and spiritedly strong performance, yet CO2 emissions are a very competitive 139 g/km, with 47mpg combined consumption.
The wide wheels and generous tyres help make this top level MiTo a remarkably adept, delightfully stable car.
In cornering it grips very well, turning in crisply; it doesn't easily lose traction, and doggedly stays on its driver's chosen cornering line even on wet roads and when surfaces are badly broken mid-bend.
All MiTos come with Alfa's switchable "DNA" system, with the so-called Natural setting a good everyday compromise. It smoothes throttle response, and offers a leaning towards supple comfort, while – combined with active suspension in this topmost specification – maintaining handling prowess.
Select Dynamic, though, and it's an altogether sharper car, designed to deliver driver enjoyment. Here the phrase Jekyll and Hyde soon springs to mind.
The MiTo's dash of exterior Italian style continues inside with a distinctly sporting ambience. The chunkily styled instruments are clear enough, the control layout easily learnt, and the driving position multi-adjustable.
Quadrifoglio Verde specification brings a competitive equipment level, headed by a state of the art safety specification including stability control. There's smartly attractive Alcantara upholstery, an alarm, trip computer, USB and Aux ports for the audio system, plus radio remote locking, front electric windows and heated electric mirrors. Bluetooth, cruise control and rear park assist are also fitted.