This is the home of automobile road tests in South Africa. We drive South African cars, SUVs and LCVs under South African conditions. It also just happens that most of the vehicles we drive are world cars as well, so what you read here probably applies to the models you can get at home.
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*Please remember too, that prices quoted were those ruling on the days I wrote the reports.
This is a launch report. In other words, it's simply a new model announcement. The driving experience was limited to a short drive over a prepared course chosen to make the product look good. We can therefore not tell you what it will be like to live with over an extended period, how economical it is, or how reliable it will be. A very brief first impression is all we can give you until such time as we get an actual test unit for trial. Thank you for your patience.
Published in Weekend Witness Motoring on Saturday February 26, 2011
That tall BBC motoring fellow apparently once said that unless you have owned an Alfa Romeo, you are not a true petrolhead. There was something about the noises made by that lyrical DOHC inline four; the rustle of the camshaft chain, its exhaust note, and the love-hate passion one feels for a high-maintenance girlfriend.
I say high-maintenance because one always felt that the 1300cc engines in 50s and 60s Alfas were tuned almost to breaking point. It was like waiting for the prima soprano to reach up one note too high, only to find herself standing hoarse and humbled on a darkened stage. I had one for a while, a badly abused rebuild project I could not afford. A used car dealer eventually agreed to tow it away. During the heady few weeks in which it ran right, it was young love, but the time in the workshop is best forgotten.
Alfa Romeo opened a factory in Brits during 1978 and by the time the plant closed in 1986, South Africa was the company's biggest market outside Italy, thanks in part to a string of local racing and rally successes. Since returning to SA as an importer, Alfa Romeo has tried hard, but scarcely set the market alight. The company obviously wants that to change as it seeks out marketing opportunities and introduces new products to fill them.
Enter the new Giulietta, an iconic brand revived and thrown into the deep end of the very competitive "C" segment hatchback market that accounts for about 21 percent of SA sales. It is a midsized car built on an entirely new platform, with a wheelbase of 2 634 mm and total length of 4 351 mm. There are three models, powered by two 1 400 cc engines and a 1 750, all equipped with six-speed manual 'boxes. The entry-level 1,4 TBi Progression using the 88 kW T-jet engine and the 1,4 TBi Distinctive with its 125 kW MultiAir motor are aimed squarely at the likes of Golf6. The 1 750 cc 173 kW Quadrifoglio Verde unashamedly wants a piece of the small-to-medium Audi and BMW action.
Its credentials are impressive. The 88 kW Progression version comes with the Alfa DNA system with Q2 electronic differential and Dynamic Steering Torque, Vehicle Dynamic Control including Anti Slip Regulation and hill holder, six airbags, front seat belts with dual pretensioners and front seats with anti-whiplash system. Standard equipment includes manual climate control, 16’’ alloy wheels, front and rear electric windows, radio with CD and MP3 player and dual tuner function as well as "Blue&Me" Bluetooth connectivity.
The 125 kW Distinctive adds dual zone automatic climate control, leather steering wheel with radio controls, trip computer, front armrest with storage compartment, fog lights, reconfigurable control panel, seats upholstered in Competizione fabric, 17” alloys and a stylish chrome line framing the side windows. The dashboard insert is available in magnesium grey, Ghiaccio white, Alfa Red or brushed burnished aluminium, dependent upon choice of outside colour. A review of this model can be found here.
As befits the most powerful model, additions to the 1 750 Quadrifoglio Verde include special alloy wheels, lowered sport suspension, twin tailpipes, red brake calipers, aluminium pedals, leather and microfibre seats, standard cruise control, a leather-trimmed sports steering wheel with red stitching, side skirts and four-leaf clover emblems on the front fenders.
Plug-in Tomtom satnav that integrates with the car's onboard systems is a R750 option available across the range. Others include alternative wheels, special seats, upgraded music equipment, a visibility pack (automatic lights and wipers, self-dipping mirror and humidity detector), rear parking sensor, bi-xenon lights, sunroof and fog lamps.
Local MD Oscar Rivoli pointed out that wooing new clients to the fold requires more than a well-built car and a magical drive. The total ownership experience has to be good as well. To reassure those who still harbour doubts, the standard warranty has been extended to five years/150 000 km, with a six year/90 000 km service plan (services at 30 000 km intervals) on the two 1400 cc models. Because the 1750 enjoys 35 000 km service intervals, its service plan extends to 105 000 km. Further, because somebody will still own the car after the warranty and prepaid service period has elapsed, competitive parts pricing was prioritised. For example, the 2010 Kinsey Report placed Alfa's MiTo a very close second to the Nissan Tiida. Allied to this, Rivoli said that Fiat and Alfa Romeo's parts availability and distribution has been rated best overall, while the existing 18-dealer network is being expanded.
Familiarisation runs in the 125 kW 1400 and in the 1750, on a long loop from Franschoek to Du Toit's Kloof Pass and back, showed both to be solid, well built and fun to drive. The 1400 proved to be potentially a very pleasant family car while the 1750 brought back memories of the glory days of 2.0 litre GTVs. It was awesome; I could even bury painful recollections of that early project car and become a "true" petrolhead again.
88 kW/206 Nm 1400cc Progression - R243 000
125 kW/230 Nm 1400cc Distinctive - R279 900
173 kW/340 Nm 1750cc Quadrifoglio Verde - R330 275
Engines: 1 368cc and 1 742 cc, inline four-cylinder, petrol, turbocharged
Average fuel economy (claimed): 6.4/5.8/7.6 l/100 km
Warranty: 5 years/150 000 km
AA Fleetcare roadside assistance: 3 years
Service plan: 6 years/90 000 km (105 000 km on 1750 QV)
Alfa Romeo Giulietta 125 kW
Alfa Romeo Giulietta 1750 Quadrifoglio Verde
Alfa Giulietta 125 kW - interior
Alfa Romeo Giulietta 1750 Quadrifoglio Verde
This is a one-man show, which means that road test cars entrusted to me are driven only by me. Some reviewers hand test cars over to their partners to use as day-to-day transport and barely experience them for themselves.
What this means to you is that every car reviewed is given my own personal evaluation and receives my own seat of the pants judgement - no second hand input here.
Every car goes through real world testing; on city streets littered with potholes, speed bumps and rumble strips, on freeways and if its profile demands, dirt roads as well.
I am based in Pietermaritzburg, KZN, South Africa. This is the central hub of the KZN Midlands farming community; the place farmers go to to buy their supplies and equipment, truck their goods to market, send their kids to school and go to kick back and relax.
So occasionally a cow, a goat or a horse may add a little local colour by finding its way into the story or one of the pictures. It's all part of the ambience!
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