Another Make Or Break Car From Alfa Romeo
Pretty Little Machine Which Will Turn Heads
Alfa Makes Safety A Priority, Maybe Things Really Have Changed
rating **** out of 5
“benefitting from the alleged old Alfa Romeo tradition that the biggest part of the research and development budget should go into making the engines sound great”
The new Alfa Romeo Giulietta looks pretty, drives well, and the most expensive one makes an awesome noise. So far, so standard, for new Alfa Romeos.
Unfortunately over the years, “standard” for Alfa has also meant unreliability, poor quality, and plunging second hand values. At Alfa new car launches over the years, the assembled media has been told that, sure, this time things are different, we’ve changed our ways, while at the same time even the models specially selected for the press have often been unreliable or flawed.
The stakes are much higher now. Alfa Romeo owner Fiat of Italy also controls Chrysler, which was rescued from bankruptcy by the American government. Fiat owns 20 per cent of Chrysler, which will gradually rise to 35 per cent, and eventually majority control. Fiat’s business plan for Chrysler is based on adapting small, fuel-efficient Italian cars and making them acceptable to the American public. Some Chryslers, like the stylish but huge 300C and the massive Voyager minivan will be making the opposite journey, to be sold in Europe as Lancias, Fiat’s more upmarket brand.
The new Alfa Giulietta is crucial to this plan, and its basic engineering (the so-called Compact Platform – engines, transmission, suspension, components) will also be used to produce Chrysler vehicles, including a small SUV. Fiat’s plan also calls for Alfa Romeo to return to the U.S. market, which it left in the mid-1990s, although the Giulietta won’t be going.
Fiat’s targets for Alfa are very ambitious, some say impossible. There had been speculation that Fiat would kill Alfa because it had lost between €220 million and €430 million a year for the last 10 years. But the storied company is now charged with increasing sales to 500,000 by 2014, with 85,000 in America; this from a base of a total of about 120,000 this year.
Looks the part
So is the Giulietta, which replaces the 147, up to scratch?
The five-door hatchback certainly looks the part. It’s a bit like a coupe from the side, with the hidden rear-door handles. The front styling with the familiar trademark triangular grille is pure Alfa. The interior is stylish. There is a solid, almost German feel to the door handles and fittings. The dashboard is very impressive, with the air conditioning vents neatly incorporated in its sweeping design. Some of the switches are designed in a retro way, rather like those in the Mini.
The choice of two diesels and three petrol engines are all turbo-charged, with capacity from 1.4 to 2.0 litres. Even the diesels sound great, presumably benefiting from the alleged old Alfa Romeo tradition that the biggest part of the research and development budget should go into making the engines sound racy.
All versions have six speed manual gearboxes. An automatic gearbox is promised, vaguely. Prices start at £17,000-€20,000. The range topping petrol engine is a four-cylinder 1.75 litre motor, which produces a huge, 235 hp using direct injection, variable valve timing, a turbocharger and a “revolutionary scavenging control system that nullifies any turbo lag”. It sounds much nicer than a vuvuzela.
“The resulting performance is comparable to – or better than – many 3 litre engines, while still delivering fuel consumption typical of a compact four-cylinder unit,” Alfa said.
Standard on all Giuliettas is the DNA selector, a gimmicky piece of kit that allows the driver to change the settings for the engine, brakes, steering, suspension and gearbox. “D” stands for Dynamic and provides a sporty ride, “Normal” is designed for relaxed driving and “A” is for all-weather conditions to provide maximum safety in low grip conditions. This is a button, which might well wither away with neglect over the life of the car.
Also standard across the range (except the range-topper) is stop-start, with electric windows all round, manual air-conditioning electrically heated and adjustable wing-mirrors. The range starts with the Turismo, then moves on to the Lusso, Veloce, and Cloverleaf. The Lusso adds dual zone automatic climate control, fog lights, leather steering wheel with audio controls and Blue&Me hands free “infotainment”. The Veloce has sports suspension, while the Cloverleaf is 10mm lower. Both have extra sporty stuff.
Perhaps one indication that things have changed for the better is a statement the company released recently headed “Alfa Romeo Giulietta – the safest compact ever”, following its award of a Euro NCAP five-star rating.
This must the first time the Italian maker of exciting but often flawed machines has ever bragged about anything as dull as safety.
Neil Winton – July 15, 2010
|Alfa Romeo Giulietta 1750 TBi
|Engine:||1.75 litre, 4-cylinder petrol
|Power:||232 hp @ 5,500
|Torque:||340 Nm @ 1,900
|Acceleration:||0-62 mph-100 km/h 6.8 seconds
|Top Speed:||150 mph-242 km/h
|Fuel Consumption:||claimed combined – 37.2 mpg-7.6 l/km
|Boot capacity:||350 litres
|Competition:||VW Golf, Ford Focus, Mazda3, Audi A3, BMW 1 Series, Vauxhall/Opel Astra, Proton GEN-2, Peugeot 308, Renault Megane, Toyota Auris, Honda Civic, Nissan Note, Nissan Qashqai, Citroen C4, Kia Ceed, Hyundai i30, Chevrolet Lacetti, Fiat Brava, Skoda Octavia, Mitsubishi Lancer, SEAT Leon, Suzuki Liana, Volvo C30
|Price:||£24,500 - €29,300 on sale now across Europe
|For:||beautiful, well made, excellent performance
|Against:||with “well made” now in the “For” column, perhaps this is the turning point for Alfa Romeo we’ve been promised
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