When Alfa Romeo decides to make a hot hatch based on its stunning 8C Competizione special, there's good reason to get excited. The MiTo is the first Alfa to be built since the 500-unit limited edition was launched in 2007. The Italian carmaker's sports special was designed to reflect the lines and performance of the sporting Alfa Romeos that took part in Italy's Mille Miglia (1,000 mile) race of the 40s and 50s - and it soon became a new symbol Alfa's style and technology. Inspired by the 8C, the MiTo is Alfa's attempt at a stylish, mass-market three-door that marries everyday practicality with the marque's racing heritage. Many of the design features from the two-door fibreglass 8C are evident in the MiTo, from the shape of the unframed side windows to the three-lobed front bumper motif, headlight cluster design and the marque's trademark alloy wheel design. The name MiTo was chosen as a sign of the marque's past and future, of Milan - the design hub from which the car's style was born - and Torino (Turin), where it is made. The MiTo is Alfa's most compact three-door at just four metres long, and it comes with three levels of specs. Even in the entry-level model I'm driving - the Progression package (fabric seats, 16-inch alloys, HK$189,800) the MiTo's stylish interior combines a distinctively crafted dashboard, sports seats and an abundance of quality materials and finishes. But an extra HK$10,000 buys you the mid-range Sport version, with a two-tone dash and instrument panel, a central display with Bluetooth connectivity, aluminium pedals and kick plates, rear parking sensors, bi-xenon headlamps, chromed mirrors, exhaust and light frames, red brake calipers, 17-inch alloys and a rear spoiler. The Premium package (HK$219,800) adds a very smart leather interior and a few other extras such as a fire prevention system, rain sensors and an auto-dimming rear view mirror. All models boast Alfa Romeo's DNA transmission, which gives the MiTo a sporty zing. The DNA system acts on the engine, brakes and steering, allowing three different vehicle behaviours: super sporting (dynamic), town driving (normal) and low grip conditions (all-weather). The carmaker says the MiTo is the first car in its segment to offer such a versatile transmission, although Hong Kong drivers will probably ever only switch between normal and dynamic mode, as the all-weather setting provides extra grip for icy roads and the extremes of a European winter. In normal mode, the MiTo is nimble around town, with the DNA system maintaining the standard vehicle stability setting, but sharpening up the power steering to correct oversteer (a clever pulse in the wheel tells the driver to correct the line on whichever side of the wheel it's felt). In dynamic mode, the engine torque curve changes for a prompter throttle response (boosted from 201Nm to 230Nm, with more power transferred to the front wheels) and the power steering is sportier yet, with a heavier weighting and a tighter turn-in at higher speeds. The turbocharged, 1.4-litre engine is punchy and - much in the spirit of sporting Alfas - enjoys being revved hard. In dynamic mode especially, the MiTo is a blast to drive. Its impressively light kerb weight (1,145kg) and turbocharged low- to mid-range pull are bolstered by an impressive chassis that flicks in round corners. And as good as the performance and handling of the MiTo are, there's plenty of real-world practicality to make it an easy ride for longer highway commutes. In normal mode, the MiTo is remarkably deft at suppressing bumps - more so than a standard Mini, and is also more practical, with more rear legroom and better access to the boot thanks to a larger hatchback door. The MiTo was also awarded the top, five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash test as its structure is designed to offer maximum safety in a collision. Passive safety equipment features include seven airbags and front seats with anti-whiplash head rests and active safety systems include ABS, EBD and dynamic steering torque (DST). Although the MiTo may have some Alfa purists raising an eyebrow, the truth is that it's all Alfa Romeo. It's small, fast, light and agile, and refreshingly affordable. At a glance: Alfa Rome MiTo What drives it? A 155 brake horsepower, turbocharged, in-line four-cyclinder 1.4-litre twin-cam engine with a six-speed manual box. How fast is it? It hits 100km/h in eight seconds and has a top speed of 215km/h. How safe is it? The MiTo comes with seven airbags, anti-intrusion bars, vehicle dynamic control, traction control, corner braking control, dynamic steering and hill-start ABS with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist. It has a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating. How thirsty is it? It drinks 6.5 litres of fuel per 100km on a combined run. How clean is it? It complies with Euro 5 emissions limits and delivers a fug factor of 153g/km of carbon dioxide. Available: HK$189,800, HK$199,800 or HK$219,800 depending on specs from Auto Sportiva, tel: 2877 8788.