Reliability & common problems
This section covers the potential reliability issues that you might have with the Alfa Romeo MiTo. Click on the buttons below to read more about the typical problems that fall outside the scope of routine maintenance.
Frozen alternators (RHD cars)
The right-hand drive, petrol cars manufactured before 2010 come with a windscreen drain pipe designed in a way that allows the water from the windscreen to get to the alternator. As long as the air temperature stays above freezing, you won’t have any issues.
Below 0°C, the water can freeze when the car is standing still and lock the alternator after a rainy day or snowfall. It is rare, but it can happen if the conditions are right.
The driver may be in for a surprise when starting the car in the morning. With the alternator stuck, the starting engine will drag the belt around the pulley making a horrible screeching noise and burning the rubber belt (black smoke may enter the cabin).
Luckily, the fix is simple – the drain pipe was updated in February 2010 (service news no. 7002.10). The updated drain pipe can also be fitted to cars made before 2010, and it only costs around £20. This issue also affects the Fiat Grande Punto and Punto Evo as they are based on the same platform as the Alfa Romeo MiTo.
Red paint & stone chips
The “Alfa Red” aka “Rosso Alfa” paint is noticeably weaker in terms of resistance to chipping than other colours.
This seems to affect all Alfa Romeo cars made a few years before 2010. The problem was noticed by Alfa Romeo as they’ve temporarily stopped selling red Mitos and Giuliettas in 2010. Many cars had body panels resprayed as part of the manufacturer’s warranty due to stone chips.
From what I’ve gathered, they’ve managed to improve their red paint after 2010.
The red paint problem is not limited to Alfa Romeo. Other manufacturers were also having problems with red paint around that time. I believe it had something to do with environmental restrictions on paint formulas.
By the way, this reminds me of the problems Mercedes-Benz had with corrosion and water-based paint in the late-1990s.
If you want to buy a red Alfa Romeo MiTo, inspect the paint more thoroughly than you normally would. If you find a lot of stone chips, try to negotiate a discount. The body parts that are affected the most are the wheel arches, the front bumper and the bonnet.
M20 & M32 gearbox bearings
Some Alfa Romeo MiTo models are fitted with the infamous General Motors M32 gearbox. A typical problem with this 6-speed transmission is bearing wear. In particular, the 6th gear bearing.
When this bearing starts wearing out, the gearbox becomes noisy when driving in 6th and 5th gear. If not fixed, this problem leads to total gearbox failure (a hole in the gearbox).
The M20 gearbox is almost identical, so it suffers from the same problems.
The M32 transmission is used in so many vehicles, and bearing failure is so common in high-mileage cars, that I’ve dedicated a full page to the M32 transmission.
Follow the link above to learn more about the symptoms of bearing failure, the solution to the problem and how much it costs to fix a dying M32 gearbox.
The M32 or the M20 gearboxes were used in the following Alfa Romeo MiTo models:
1.4 TB 16v (155 PS) – M32 (only the 155 PS variant)
1.3 JTDm (90 PS) – M20 (only the 90 PS variant)
1.6 JTDm – M32 until 2010, between 2010 and 2012 it could be the C635 or the M32, later only the C635
C635 gearbox – difficulty engaging gears
Fiat and Alfa Romeo gradually stopped using General Motors’ M32 gearbox after the introduction of their own transmission – the C635. Bye bye, whining bearings. Hello, clunking gear changes.
There have been cases of problems with the 1st and 2nd gear engagement in cars with the C635 manufactured before 2012. From what I’ve gathered, the majority of these issues were seen in Alfa Romeo cars – the Giulietta and the Mito.
The symptoms include grinding or clunking sounds when changing gears. The 1st and 2nd gear may be difficult to engage. The fix to the gear change problem is to replace the 1st and 2nd gear synchronizers, which is a big job and not a nice thing to do out of warranty.
As I see it, the gearboxes that had problems with the synchros had come out like this from the factory or developed the symptoms soon after. Therefore, the odds are that the problematic gearboxes would have been fixed or replaced by now.
If you are planning to buy a car with the C635 transmission, make sure that the first and second gear engagement is okay. If it is, you shouldn’t have issues with this transmission.
If you are already facing a potential £1,000 bill for replacing the synchronizers, it might be worth trying to change the gearbox oil first.
There are people who managed to improve the first gear engagement significantly by simply changing the transmission oil, and the improvement was big enough that the gearbox repair became unnecessary.
The C635 gearbox was used in the following Alfa Romeo MiTo models:
1.6 JTDm – after 2010, between 2010 and 2012 it could be the C635 or the M32, later only the C635
1.4 TB MultiAir 16v in the MiTo QV (the 170 PS model)
The TCT transmission is closely related to the C635 – make sure that the 1st and 2nd gear shifts are quiet when buying a car with one
Twin Clutch Transmission (TCT)
The TCT stands for “Twin Clutch Transmission”, and that describes it quite well. The same transmission is used in Fiat cars where it is known as the DDCT (“Dual Dry Clutch Transmission”). Again, that’s exactly what it is.
A dual-clutch transmission is like an automated manual transmission. It has two clutches – one drives odd-numbered gears, and the other drives even-numbered gears.
The trick to achieving quick gear changes, that dual-clutch transmissions are known for, lies in pre-selecting gears and predicting driver’s behaviour. In the right conditions, the TCT can change gears stupidly quick.
The TCT has two full-size clutch plates mounted on either side of the flywheel, which is great in terms of torque handling capabilities (better than concentric clutches). It is also very efficient because it doesn’t have a torque converter like a traditional automatic transmission.
You can think of the TCT as two manual, three-speed gearboxes (+reverse gear) joined together and controlled by hydraulic actuators. The hydraulic control system has a certain resemblance to the Alfa Romeo’s Selespeed transmission.
The Selespeed was a manual transmission controlled by an electro-hydraulic device made up of solenoid valves, sensors and actuators. It was powered by a little hydraulic pump, and it had its own hydraulic fluid circuit. The pressurized oil was stored in a hydraulic accumulator and then used to change gears and operate the clutch.
The above definition fits both the TCT and the Selespeed.
If you think the Selespeed is too complex and difficult to service, don’t get a car with the TCT. Overall, the TCT has a good track record in terms of reliability but it is a very complex piece of kit.
I keep repeating myself every time I write about dual-clutch transmissions, and I will this time too. I don’t recommend buying used cars with dual-clutch transmissions. It’s not something you want to own outside of warranty.
5 things to know before buying a car with the TCT transmission
1. If the transmission fails, you will have a problem.
Trying to fix a faulty TCT gearbox will most likely be expensive or very expensive, which is the norm for dual-clutch transmissions.
A failure of an individual component, like a £20 sensor, means that you may have to replace the entire control unit, which is very expensive. Sometimes, you can have the faulty part replaced if you can find someone capable of doing it, but it will still be expensive because of the labour involved and the knowledge required.
Few places can repair dual-clutch transmissions and even dealerships do not generally repair them. If you go to the dealership with a TCT problem, the odds are that they will offer to replace the entire electro-hydraulic control unit for £2000+.
2. The transmission has two dry clutches that will eventually wear out.
The clutch plates are consumable items, just like in a manual transmission. After 100,000 miles, all bets are off. There have been cases of the clutches wearing out earlier than 100,000 miles too.
The clutch replacement is obviously more expensive than in a car with a manual transmission. That’s because there are two clutches instead of one, and replacing them is a lot more labour intensive.
Replacement of the clutches also involves replacing slave cylinders, oil seals, alignment of the release bearing, and electronic clutch adaptation once the transmission has been put together. It is not a common gearbox, so the garages are going to charge more for working on it.
Oh, and there’s a dual-mass flywheel (DMF) that will need replacing at some point too.
3. We will most likely see failing hydraulic accumulators as these gearboxes get older.
The hydraulic accumulator has a rubber diaphragm inside and compressed nitrogen gas behind the diaphragm.
Here’s how it works:
There is compressed gas on one side of the diaphragm and hydraulic fluid on the other. The diaphragm can deflect to store energy (oil pressure) because nitrogen gas is compressible, while the oil isn’t. This stored energy is then used to do the mechanical work – changing gears and operating the clutches.
Hydraulic accumulators have a limited lifespan (typically up to 10 years). The nitrogen gas will eventually escape, just like air escapes from a seemingly airtight balloon. Also, it’s not uncommon for the diaphragm inside to fail before the gas escapes.
Don’t worry about the accumulator though – it’s easy to replace. It’s everything else that should worry you – the seals, the actuators and the expensive clutches.
4. The TCT cannot creep like a traditional automatic transmission because it doesn’t have a torque converter.
Taking off from a standstill is achieved by slipping the clutch, which makes it wear, and it can wear out prematurely if you don’t take this into account.
If you already own a car with the TCT, you should adjust your driving habits to minimise clutch slip in traffic. Always let the clutch engage fully in 1st gear when you are crawling in traffic – don’t keep your foot on the brake. Also, never use the gas pedal to stop the car from rolling backwards on an incline.
5. The TCT shares its design with the manual C635 transmission.
Because of this, some early TCT gearboxes had problems with the 1st and 2nd gear synchronizers just like the manual C635. When test driving a car with the TCT transmission, make sure the 1st and 2nd gear shifts are quiet (no clunking and no crunching noises).
If you are going to buy a used Alfa Romeo MiTo with a TCT transmission, here are the typical symptoms of TCT malfunction:
transmission warning lights
car entering “limp home” mode
clunking or crunching noises when changing gears
harsh gear changes
a sensation that the clutch is slipping (engine revs rising too quickly and not matching the acceleration of the car)
car refusing to engage gear when trying to take off from a standstill
juddering / vibrations when taking off from a standstill
car dropping out of gear while driving
Alfa Active Suspension – expensive shock absorbers
The MiTo Quadrifoglio Verde aka Cloverleaf may be equipped with active suspension that can change the damping stiffness of the shock absorbers depending on the road conditions. It can improve handling in certain situations, like braking or cornering, and soften the suspension when stiff damping is not needed.
It’s also connected to the D.N.A. switch, where the driver can change the suspension settings.
Alfa Romeo calls it “Alfa Active Suspension” and it was an optional extra in the MiTo Cloverleaf (or standard in some markets). The system was developed by Magnetti Marelli and they call it “Synaptic Damping Control”.
The active suspension works well, but at some point, the shock absorbers will need to be replaced just like in any car.
When the time comes to replace the shock absorbers in your Alfa Romeo MiTo equipped with active suspension, you will be looking at £500 for a single shock absorber (or more). If you want to replace all four, that will be between £2000 and £3000 when you include the cost of fitting.
Before you have a heart attack, it is possible to retrofit a car with active suspension with standard dampers. You would need to deactivate the active suspension electronically to stop the ECU from returning error codes. The car won’t handle as well with standard shock absorbers, but it is a cheaper alternative.
You may also be able to have the shock absorbers reconditioned. There are companies that specialize in these kinds of jobs. Typically, active dampers can be reconditioned for around half the price of new ones.
If you’re worried about the potential cost of servicing the active suspension, it’s best to just get a car without it and avoid the hassle.
MultiAir is Fiat’s and Alfa Romeo’s brand name for their variable valve lift and timing system for the intake valves. It’s actually a relatively simple system given its capabilities. Here’s how it works:
There is one key thing that you need to remember: MultiAir uses engine oil pressure to function. Using the wrong type of engine oil or changing the oil too late will cause issues with this system.
In my opinion, Alfa Romeo’s 18,000 miles oil change interval is very optimistic. I think that no MultiAir engine should go longer than 10,000 miles or 12 months between oil changes. Alfa Romeo started with the 18,000 miles but reduced the interval to 9,000 miles after a while.
My guess is that too many MultiAir units must have failed early. I believe Fiat kept the original 18,000 miles interval.
As with any new technology, there will be a teething period and some early failures. MultiAir was first released in the Alfa Romeo Mito and the Fiat Punto Evo around the same time. There have been cases of failed MultiAir units replaced under warranty or not long after. Luckily for us, if a particular MultiAir unit was going to die, it probably already did and was replaced.
If you’re in the market for a car equipped with MultiAir, make sure the previous owners maintained a reasonable oil change interval (18k miles is not reasonable) and look out for the symptoms of MultiAir malfunction:
Intermittent rough idle, especially after a cold start
Rattly engine sound
Engine misfire under load
“Check engine” light or the stop/start system not working
Apart from regular oil changes and using the correct engine oil, there is one more thing that you should do. There is an oil strainer in the cylinder head that may get clogged, starving the engine top-end from oil. It is not a service item, so it’s common for it to be neglected. In my opinion, it should be replaced or at least cleaned every 30k miles. This little mesh filter can be found in non-MultiAir engines too, but it’s less critical there.
I wouldn’t recommend buying an early, second-hand Alfa Romeo MiTo with MultiAir because the technology was still new back then and has been improved since. I believe the major updates took place in 2012 and 2013 (part no. history: 55228221 -> 55236341 -> 55249566 -> 55257643). The newer MultiAir engines are likely to be more reliable.
In my opinion, this technology has a future but like with many innovations in the automotive world, it’s best to wait a couple of years before taking the plunge.
It’s not that the original MultiAir engines were unreliable. Just be aware that the cost of replacing a failed MultiAir unit (it is a module that sits next to the camshaft) is over £1,000. I’m not sure if the slight increase in fuel economy and power is worth the risk when buying a second-hand car.
1.3 JTDm – timing chain wear
The camshaft in this engine is driven by a single row timing chain not much bigger than a bicycle chain. In my opinion, it’s not a very robust design and it is an area to watch.
Generally, when a timing chain is used, the intention is for it to last the “lifetime” of the engine (very roughly 200k miles). Therefore, there is no replacement interval specified for the timing chain. As I see it, trying to reach 200k miles on the original chain and tensioner is very risky.
If the chain wears and elongates (stretches), or the tensioner stops working properly, the typical symptom that develops is a chain rattle that lasts for a couple seconds after a cold start. In severe cases, the chain noise may remain for longer after the engine has started. The “Check Engine” light may appear too.
Here’s what timing chain noise sounds like:
Any chain stretch symptoms should not be ignored in this engine, regardless of the mileage. If the timing chain jumps some teeth, you will be looking at valvetrain damage. You may choose to replace the timing chain preemptively like you would with a timing belt, or you can wait until symptoms develop.
In my opinion, most 1.3 JTDm engines that have done more than 100k miles will qualify for a full timing chain service (new timing chain, guides, tensioner and gears).
If you are looking to get one of these cars, make sure there is no chain rattle after starting the engine. This needs to be a cold start when the car has stood still for a couple hours (ideally overnight). If the chain rattle is persistent, it means the chain or the tensioner is on its last leg.
Summary or problems & additional information
The name MiTo comes from the two Italian cities related to the creation of the MiTo: Milano (design) and Torino (production). Also, the word “mito” means “myth” or “legend” in Italian.
The “Alfa Red” aka “Rosso Alfa” paint is the weakest in terms of resistance to stone chips. The difference from other colours is noticeable, especially if you do a lot of motorway driving. The paint durability has improved after 2010, following a temporary suspension of selling red MiTo cars in 2010.
The active shock absorbers (MiTo Cloverleaf) are expensive to replace when they fail. Consider this before buying a used Alfa Romeo MiTo equipped with Alfa Active Suspension.
The 1.4 TB (155 PS), 1.3 JTDm (90 PS), and early 1.6 JTDm engines are mated to the infamous M32 / M20 gearbox. A typical problem with this 6-speed transmission is bearing wear – the 6th gear bearing in particular.
In 2010 and onwards, the General Motors’ M32 transmission was replaced by Fiat’s C635. In my opinion, the C635 is not perfect but it is still an improvement over the M32. Just make sure that the gear changes are smooth, and there is no noise coming from the transmission. If all the boxes are ticked, you shouldn’t have issues with this gearbox.
I don’t recommend buying a used Alfa Romeo MiTo with the TCT transmission. It’s not something you want to own outside of warranty.
I also don’t recommend buying an early Alfa Romeo MiTo with the MultiAir system unless you can find a car that had the MultiAir unit replaced after 2012 with an updated one. When buying a car with the MultiAir technology, look for a car whose previous owners maintained a reasonable oil change schedule (18k miles is not reasonable).
For those worried about potential MultiAir problems, the 120 PS 1.4 Turbo Benzina (without MultiAir) is a great choice – decent performance and one system less to go wrong. Also, you should have no problems with the 5-speed gearbox.
As with pretty much all Fiat & Alfa Romeo engines from those years, the 1.4 8v FIRE remains the cheapest to maintain and the most reliable engine. Its replacement, the 0.9 TwinAir, definitely feels faster, but it is a lot more complex despite having less cylinders (MultiAir, dual-mass flywheel, turbocharger, balancer shaft).
The 1.6 JTDm is a decent engine with no major problems. The things that could go wrong are the same as for other modern diesel engines.
Alfa Romeo MiTo specifications
This section contains Alfa Romeo MiTo specifications. You will also find technical information regarding the engines used in these cars. Press the buttons below to display the specs and engine technical details.
Petrol engines – specs & performance figures
|0.9 TwinAir Turbo 8v||875 cm³ / 53.4 cu in||85 PS / 63 kW||145 Nm / 107 lbf⋅ft||2012-2013|
|0.9 TwinAir Turbo 8v||875 cm³ / 53.4 cu in||105 PS / 77 kW||145 Nm / 107 lbf⋅ft||From 2013|
|1.4 8v||1368 cm³ / 83.5 cu in||70 PS / 52 kW||115 Nm / 85 lbf⋅ft||2012-2016|
|1.4 8v||1368 cm³ / 83.5 cu in||78 PS / 57 kW||115 Nm / 85 lbf⋅ft||From 2011|
|1.4 16v||1368 cm³ / 83.5 cu in||78 PS / 57 kW||120 Nm / 88 lbf⋅ft||Until 2011|
|1.4 16v||1368 cm³ / 83.5 cu in||95 PS / 70 kW||125 Nm / 92 lbf⋅ft||Until 2011|
|1.4 MultiAir 16v||1368 cm³ / 83.5 cu in||105 PS / 77 kW||130 Nm / 96 lbf⋅ft||2009-2013|
|1.4 TB 16v||1368 cm³ / 83.5 cu in||120 PS / 88 kW||206 Nm / 152 lbf⋅ft||Until 2009, "Turbo Benzina"|
|1.4 TB 16v||1368 cm³ / 83.5 cu in||155 PS / 114 kW||230 Nm / 170 lbf⋅ft||Until 2010, "Turbo Benzina"|
|1.4 TB MultiAir 16v||1368 cm³ / 83.5 cu in||135 PS / 99 kW||230 Nm / 170 lbf⋅ft||2009-2014, "Turbo Benzina"|
|1.4 TB MultiAir 16v||1368 cm³ / 83.5 cu in||140 PS / 103 kW||250 Nm / 184 lbf⋅ft||From 2014, "Turbo Benzina"|
|1.4 TB MultiAir 16v (MiTo QV)||1368 cm³ / 83.5 cu in||170 PS / 125 kW||250 Nm / 184 lbf⋅ft||From 2009, "Quadrifoglio Verde"|
|1.4 Turbo GPL (LPG)||1368 cm³ / 83.5 cu in||120 PS / 88 kW||206 Nm / 152 lbf⋅ft||2009-2016, Twin-fuel (Petrol + LPG)|
Diesel engines – specs & performance figures
|1.3 JTDm 16v||1248 cm³ / 76.2 cu in||90 PS / 66 kW||200 Nm / 147 lbf⋅ft||Until 2009|
|1.3 JTDm 16v||1248 cm³ / 76.2 cu in||95 PS / 70 kW||200 Nm / 147 lbf⋅ft||From 2009|
|1.3 JTDm 16v||1248 cm³ / 76.2 cu in||85 PS / 62 kW||200 Nm / 147 lbf⋅ft||2012-2015|
|1.6 JTDm 16v||1598 cm³ / 97.5 cu in||120 PS / 88 kW||320 Nm / 236 lbf⋅ft||Until 2015|
Petrol engines – technical details
|Engine||Engine config.||Forced induction||Valve timing||Fuel delivery||DMF||Inlet flaps|
|Legend:||SOHC - Single Overhead Camshaft
DOHC - Double Overhead Camshaft
VVT - Variable Valve Timing
VVL - Variable Valve Lift
EFI - Electronic Fuel Injection
DMF - Dual-mass Flywheel (does not apply to auto. transmissions with torque converters)
|0.9 TwinAir Turbo 8v||Inline-2, 8 valves||Turbo||Timing chain, SOHC, VVT & VVL||Port injection (EFI)||Yes||No|
|1.4 8v||Inline-4, 8 valves||No||Timing belt, SOHC, VVT||Port injection (EFI)||No||No|
|1.4 16v||Inline-4, 16 valves||No||Timing belt, DOHC, VVT||Port injection (EFI)||No||Port Deactivation|
|1.4 MultiAir 16v||Inline-4, 16 valves||No||Timing belt, SOHC, VVT & VVL||Port injection (EFI)||No||No|
|1.4 TB 16v||Inline-4, 16 valves||Turbo||Timing belt, DOHC||Port injection (EFI)||Yes||No|
|1.4 TB MultiAir 16v||Inline-4, 16 valves||Turbo||Timing belt, SOHC, VVT & VVL||Port injection (EFI)||Yes||No|
Diesel engines – technical details
|Engine||Engine config.||Forced induction||Valve timing||Injection system||DMF||DPF||Swirl flaps|
|Legend:||DOHC - Double Overhead Camshaft
DPF - Diesel Particulate Filter
DMF - Dual-mass Flywheel (does not apply to auto. transmissions with torque converters)
|1.3 JTDm 16v (90 PS)||Inline-4, 16 valves||Turbo||Timing chain, DOHC||Common Rail||Yes (M20 gearbox)||Optional||No|
|1.3 JTDm 16v (85 & 95 PS)||Inline-4, 16 valves||Turbo||Timing chain, DOHC||Common Rail||No||Yes||No|
|1.6 JTDm 16v||Inline-4, 16 valves||Turbo||Timing belt, DOHC||Common Rail||Yes||From 2009 (initially optional)||Fixed flaps|
Alfa Romeo MiTo wheel sizes
Press the button below to see the original equipment manufactuer (OEM) rim & tyres sizes for the Alfa Romeo MiTo. These are the original wheel sizes that were fitted by the manufacturer.
|Tyres||Rims||Centre Bore||Bolt Pattern||Comments|
|185/65 R15||6Jx15 ET40||58.1 mm||4x98|
|195/55 R16||7Jx16 ET39||58.1 mm||4x98|
|205/45 or 215/45 R17||7Jx17 ET39||58.1 mm||4x98|
|215/40 R18||7.5Jx18 ET42||58.1 mm||4x98|
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