When we think of Alfas we tend to think “performance and power”. This is only after taking into account the usually extrovert “personality”, of course. And then we lose the smile when we see what the “price” is.This one is a bit different, so let’s see in what way.
Firstly the personality. What can one say? It’s rather stunning whether you admire it from the front, with its traditional heart-shaped grille plus oversized airdam reminiscent of the early Giuliettas. Or from the rear, with the badge and name elegantly placed right in the centre. Or from the side, with the hidden rear door handles. Red suits the car well, but I think that that white would look just as good – in fact any colour.
The interior is just as classy as the exterior and the cloth seats provide sufficient support and comfort without having the hardness of leather. The traditional deep-set instruments, large air con and easy-to-use heating controls with matching red back-lighting are stand-out features. The only criticisable function is the audio volume control, which can prove difficult to turn, but then it won’t be used all that much with the steering wheel audi control buttons falling easily to hand. The brushed aluminium finish looks cool but does reflect sunlight, which can annoy the driver. The rear seats do not look anything special but I took a family on a trip to Worcester and the overall comfort was great. I moved my seat forwards, expecting to be uncomfortable, but with lots of steering wheel adjustment, seat height adjustment and pedals that are much better placed than older Alfas, it was a very satisfying few hours of motoring. The boot is larger than average and can swallow a lot of luggage.
With regards to dthis model’s performance and dynamics, another surprise was about to reveal itself. This is the entry-level model with a lowly 88 kW and 206 N.m of torque – nothing like the 125 kW served up by the MultiAir engine or the 173 kW of grunt from the 1750TBi. So, while I knew that there was still a turbo attached to the 1,4-litre, I wasn’t expecting any “kick” of the type I loved so much with my long-term Fiat Bravo (110 kW). But, a kick it still has – not torque steer inducing stuff – just a neat woosh whenever you need to get out of someone’s way quickly. A neat little touch is the multi-function display, which includes a boost pressure gauge in digital form to see how much pressure you are summoning. There are also two fuel consumption trip computers so you can have a long distance overall figure plus a trip figure for shorter term results. This is especially useful to see how economically you can drive. I managed to get a figure below 8-litres/100 km but this won’t happen if you spool the turbo up a lot!
Our performance testing penned a figure of 9,8 seconds from standstill to 100 km/h, which is good when you consider that this is not a light car – 1 343 kg on our scales with a full tank of juice. The DNA system sharpens up the throttle but doesn’t seem to do much more. Wheelspin is allowed in dynamic mode and there is also a winter setting to ensure composure in slippery conditions. Flexibility is a strong attribute with the engine able to pull (albeit slowly) from below 1 000 r/min. Another feature is start/stop to save more fuel and a shift indicator suggests up and down shifts, but only in normal mode, not dynamic.
Another surprise was the ride. One would expect it to be quite hard but it is actually – let’s not use the word “stunning” again – how about “superb”? It really glides over speed bumps much better than anticipated but still manages to corner like an Alfa should, thanks to correct set-up and anti-roll bars. The steering feels about right and the brakes managed repeated emergency stops in just under 3 seconds which is average but not outstanding.
So all that’s left to analyse is the “price”. R246 917 might be far too much for a mere journalist’s pocket, but when you compare it with the class leader VW Golf you can get a 1,4 TSI with 90 kW and less features (no stop/start for example) for R247 000.
So the choice is yours – Alfa or Golf. Sure, the Golf will have the better resale value, but what’s that I hear? Life’s too short and all that? I know what I’d choose, then off to the Pizzeria for a pasta and glass of Chianti, or, if you don’t like wine – what did Jack Parow say? Ek drink Klipdrift, jy drink Peroni, Jy’t vriende in Swede, Ek het vriende in Benoni!