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by Tim Beissmann

Alfa Romeo MiTo vs Citroen DS3 vs MINI Cooper


Model Overview


  • Alfa Romeo MiTo QV – $34,990
  • Citroen DS3 DSport – $35,990
  • MINI Cooper S Hatch – $40,700

(Manufacturer’s list prices, not including government or dealer charges.)

Just 12 months ago, if you wanted to buy a sexy European hatch on a budget that also had a bit of extra punch, the answer was simple: get a MINI Cooper S. It looks great, drives like a go-kart and is all yours for just over $40,000. But in the second half of last year, two new players emerged, and both at considerably lower price points.

The Alfa Romeo MiTo QV (for ‘Quadrifoglio Verde’, Italian for ‘Green Cloverleaf’) landed in July 2010 and is without doubt the value option in terms of the all round package you get for the price. It sits at the top of a four-vehicle range in Australia, and is priced $5000 above the entry-level Sport model. To justify the extra spend, the QV scores the brand’s impressive MultiAir engine and a number of dynamic and visual sporting enhancements.

The Citroen DS3 range is even fresher, arriving in September.  If you’re after a truly individual car, this would be the one. Since launch, just 141 DS3s have been delivered in Australia, split between the $32,990 entry-level DStyle and the turbocharged DSport. The DS3 is one of the funkiest cars to come out of France in the past decade, and if you know anything about the French and their penchant for peculiar and distinctive designs, you’ll know that’s quite an achievement.

So, if you’re in the market for a sexy hatchback with a bit of sporting flair, the recent release of these baby racers just made your decision a little tougher. As if it wasn’t hard enough already, with the likes of the Volkswagen Polo/Golf GTI, the Renault Clio RS200 and the Volvo C30 T5 in the mix.

This on-paper comparison should help fast track the research process and get you closer to the right sexy sports hatch for you.


Engine and performance

Alfa Romeo MiTo QV Citroen DS3 DSport MINI Cooper S
Engine 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Maximum power 125kW @ 5500rpm 115kW @ 6000rpm 135kW @ 5500rpm
Maximum torque 250Nm @ 2500rpm 240Nm @ 1400rpm 260Nm @ 1700-4500rpm
Transmission Six-speed manual Six-speed manual Six-speed manual
Drive Front-wheel drive Front-wheel drive Front-wheel drive
Acceleration 0-100km/h 7.5 seconds 7.3 seconds 7.0 seconds
Top speed 219km/h 214km/h 229km/h

Read CarAdvice’s full drive review of the Alfa Romeo MiTo.

Read CarAdvice’s full drive review of the Citroen DS3.

Read CarAdvice’s full drive review of the MINI Cooper.

As you would expect, the most expensive car here offers the best performance. The MINI sets the pace in terms of sprint times and top speed. The Citroen – despite being the least powerful (10kW/10Nm less than the MiTo, 20kW/20Nm less than the Cooper S) – is the next quickest from 0-100km/h. It reaches peak torque at just 1400rpm, which is 300rpm sooner than the MINI and 1100rpm before the Alfa.

The MINI features an overboost system, increasing peak torque from 240Nm to 260Nm under hard acceleration. The MINI is also the only sports variant that can be ordered with an automatic transmission, which is a $2350 option for the six-speed unit.

In terms of bang for your buck, the Cooper S is 45kW/100Nm more powerful than the entry-level Cooper, but comes with a $9200 price premium. Compared with the DS3 DStyle, the DSport has an extra 27kW and 80Nm of torque for just $3000 more, representing the biggest bargain of the three. The MiTo offers the least significant differential, with QV buyers having to fork out an extra $5000 for 11kW and 20Nm over the standard MiTo Sport.


Fuel consumption and emissions

Alfa Romeo MiTo QV Citroen DS3 DSport MINI Cooper S
Fuel tank capacity 45 litres 50 litres 50 litres
Fuel type Premium Unleaded Premium Unleaded Premium Unleaded
Theoretical range (based on combined cycle fuel consumption) 750km 746km 862km
Combined cycle fuel consumption 6.0 litres/100km 6.7 litres/100km 5.8 litres/100km
Urban fuel consumption 8.1 litres/100km 9.4 litres/100km 7.3 litres/100km
Extra urban fuel consumption 4.8 litres/100km 5.1 litres/100km 5.0 litres/100km
Carbon dioxide emissions 139g/km 155g/km 136g/km

Despite being the most powerful, the MINI is also the most frugal, using just 5.8 litres/100km on the combined cycle. Consequently, it is also narrowly ahead of the Alfa and the Citroen in terms of CO2 emissions.

The Citroen is the least frugal of the bunch – substantially so. Its combined cycle consumption is only 0.6 litres/100km better than the MINI’s urban consumption. The DS3 DSport is dreadful in the city, burning through 9.4 litres/100km – 29 percent more than the Cooper S and 16 percent more than the MiTo QV.

The three are evenly matched on the highway, with the MiTo narrowly taking the environmental points. The MiTo is the only one to feature stop-start engine technology, which turns off the engine when the vehicle is stationary and idling in neutral, and restarts it automatically when the clutch is depressed.

The MINI’s 100km-plus extra range will appeal to those who don’t like petrol stations. The extra distance is courtesy of a five-litre volume advantage over the MiTo and the superior fuel consumption compared with the DS3.


Exterior and dimensions

Alfa Romeo MiTo QV Citroen DS3 DSport MINI Cooper S
Length 4063mm 3948mm 3714mm
Width 1720mm 1715mm 1683mm
Height 1446mm 1483mm 1407mm
Weight 1145kg 1165kg 1215kg
Luggage capacity 270 litres 285 litres 160 litres
Luggage capacity (expanded) Not supplied 980 litres 680 litres

The MINI lives up to its name from outside, measuring up shorter, skinnier and lower to the ground than the other two. The MiTo is the longest and the widest of the three. Despite its small size, the MINI is surprisingly the heaviest of the trio, 50kg above the Citroen and 70kg clear of the Alfa Romeo. It is the DS3 that takes the points from a luggage capacity perspective, offering 15 litres more than the larger MiTo. The MINI’s boot is not much more than half the size of the class-leading DS3, and is among the smallest on offer across the entire new vehicle market. Expanded with the rear seats folded down, it trails the Citroen by a whopping 300 litres.

From the outside, each vehicle has its own standout standard attractions, but the Italian has more of them. The MiTo QV’s red brake calipers just scream hot hatch, and the green carbon fibre cloverleaf badges are a sporty touch. The MiTo also scores 18-inch darkened alloy wheels (the largest here), brushed titanium highlights, aluminium kickplates, front fog lights, LED taillights, rear parking sensors, tinted windows and twin chrome exhaust pipes.

The MINI Cooper S also gets LED taillights, fog lights and centrally positioned double chrome tailpipes. The MINI’s attention grabber is the scoop on the bonnet, which makes it impossible to confuse for a less powerful model, along with the side air inlets with ‘S’ badging. You would be comfortable enough with the MINI’s standard 16-inch alloys if not for the massive rims on the MiTo, which make the Cooper’s rims seem rather inadequate.

The Citroen DS3 DSport splits the middle in terms of wheel size with its 17-inch ‘diamond-tipped’ design. It also gets a chrome grille, door handles and other highlights, as well as front lights and a rear spoiler. The DSport’s party piece is its LED daytime running lights, which may be desirable enough on their own to swing buyers in this category.

The MiTo lags behind the competition from a personalisation perspective. It is available in just five colours: black, white, red, silver and grey. The DS3 and MINI can each be ordered in hundreds of different combinations – ranging from body, roof and mirror colours, alloy wheels and roof sticker patterns – allowing customers to design a more individual vehicle.

Another consideration that affects new vehicle purchases is the spare wheel. You won’t find a full-size spare in any of these cars. The Alfa Romeo and the Citroen come with space savers while the MINI comes with an even more impractical ‘mobility system’, which is simply a puncture repair kit with sealant and a compressor. Run-flat tyres are available optionally for $260.


Interior and equipment

The MiTo takes the points again in terms of standard interior equipment. All three vehicles have metallic sports pedals, leather steering wheel with audio controls, CD player, six-speaker audio system, cruise control (DS3 with speed limiter), day/night rear-view mirror and distinctive sports cloth seats.

A potential deal-breaker for the MINI is its lack of a middle seat in the rear. Both the MiTo and the DS3 have room for three in the back and feature a 60:40 split-fold rear bench, but the MINI seats just two and splits straight down the middle.

The DS3 and the MiTo get climate control (dual-zone in the Alfa), while the MINI is forced to make do with a manual system. All three include special air and pollen filters, but the DS3 goes to another level with an integrated air freshener diffuser.

The DS3 misses out on much of the tech, however. In terms of audio, it gets only an AUX plug. The MiTo gets a USB port and the MINI gets both. Bluetooth hands-free phone functionality is standard on all but the DS3, but audio streaming is not standard on any vehicle (optional in DS3 and MINI).


The DS3 also misses out on a driving mode button. The MINI gets a ‘Sport’ button, which sharpens the steering and accelerator response. The MiTo gets Alfa’s three-mode ‘DNA’ system (Dynamic, Normal, All-Weather). Tweaks are made to the engine, steering, suspension and gearbox to best suit the conditions.

The MiTo and the MINI get automatic headlights and rain sensors (MiTo also adds a condensation sensor).

Individually, the MiTo adds passenger seat lumbar adjustment, the DS3 gets tinted windows and a chilled glovebox, and the MINI gets velour floor mats, brake pad wear indicator an a driver’s seat backrest memory.

For an additional $900, you can add the ‘Chilli’ package to the Cooper S, which adds climate control, Harmon Kardon audio system and cloth/leather combination upholstery on the inside, as well as 17-inch alloy wheels and bi-xenon headlights on the outside.



All three vehicles earned Euro NCAP’s maximum five-star safety rating. The MINI and the Alfa Romeo have also been acknowledged as five-star cars by ANCAP, with the Citroen expected to follow suit shortly. The MiTo is the second-highest scoring small car on ANCAP’s list, thanks to its standard fitment of a driver’s knee airbag.

All vehicles feature dual front, side and curtain airbags, as well as Anti-lock brakes (ABS), electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD), emergency brake assist (EBA) and electronic stability control (ESC). All three automatically activate the hazard lights under hard braking, and the MINI also flashes the rear taillights to warn following motorists.


Warranty, servicing and availability

Alfa Romeo MiTo QV Citroen DS3 DSport MINI Cooper S
Vehicle warranty Three years/ 100,000km Three years/ 100,000km Three years/ Unlimited km
Service intervals 12 months/ 20,000km Six months/ 10,000km 12 months/ 25,000km
Build time Two to three months Three months Three months

For those who are not fussy about colours, options and other personalisation elements, there is currently stock of all three vehicles in Australia.

Edward Rowe from Ateco Automotive, the Australian importer of Alfa Romeo and Citroen vehicles, said there was healthy stock levels of the MiTo QV and DS3 DSport. Mr Rowe said dealers tried to keep a diverse combination of colours and features in Australia at all times, although he admitted the vast array of personalisation options available for the DS3 meant that from time to time a small number of vehicles had to be ordered specially from the factory.

MINI Australia’s Michelle Lang confirmed there was no waiting time for the MINI Cooper S either, although one ordered full of individual specifications would take around three months to be delivered.



The 2011 Alfa Romeo MiTo QV is the car for you if:

  • You want the most inexpensive sexy hatch of the three
  • You want the sportiest exterior and the best equipped interior
  • You want great fuel economy and low emissions with solid performance
  • You want to experience that famous Alfa Romeo ‘soul’ for under $35,000

The 2011 Citroen DS3 DSport is the car for you if:

  • You must have LED daytime running lamps
  • You’re prepared to pay a hefty fuel bill if you drive mostly in city traffic
  • You can do without audio and other interior technology features, or are prepared to pay more for them
  • You can’t resist one of the funkiest French cars of the past decade

The 2011 MINI Cooper S is the car for you if:

  • You want the best engine, from both a performance and efficiency perspective
  • You can make do with a tiny boot and only two seats in the back
  • You’re not fazed by the lack of a spare wheel, even a space saver
  • You can stretch beyond $40,000 and justify the extra spend over the other two