New Cars - Alfa Romeo 33 1.5 ie

The Alfa 33 is now available to those with tighter purse strings because Alfa Romeo have added to their 1.7 16 valve and 1.7 ie range with a 1.5 fuel injected version of their car which will sell for a modest £9895. Despite being 222 cc and eight valves short of the 140 bhp top of the line model, the 1.5 ie remains relatively punchy with 98 bhp at 6000 rpm and 95 lb/ft of torque at 4500 rpm. Still enough power to extract enjoyment from the capable chassis.

The chassis has been modified from the old 33 and the 1.5 carries the same specification as the 1.7-litre cars we tested in the July 1990 issue. This essentially consists of a revised Macpherson strut front suspension, with new mounting blocks and bearings, while the solid rear axle has altered strut mounting positions. Our first impression of the 33s cornering capabilities were favourable when we tested the car last year, and they were endorsed by our week with the 1.5. Torque steer is undoubtedly present but only becomes obtrusive if you make it so, and although the relative lack of power compared to the 16 valver makes the poise of the car less spirited, it is still very capable when pushed hard, behaving at the limit like a car with predictable front wheel drive characteristics.

The brakes, disc at front, drum at rear, with a bias proportioning valve, were equally impressive, showing little signs of fade along a fast country road and on one occasion hauling me up very quickly indeed when the driver in front (surprisingly without a caravan in tow) decided to stop on a fast sweeping corner to look at a hedge. Powered by the well-known horizontally opposed four cylinder engine this 33 has the same rorty sound effects that boxer Alfa owners have come to expect. It sounds lovely to some, rough as old ‘brain damage’ scrumpy to others. With a ten second 0-60 mph time, the acceleration is by no means eye-ball flattening by modern standards, but the power is delivered at lower revs than the 16 valve car and this may be appealing to some. Fitted with Bosch L 3.1 electronic fuel injection and Bosch EZ 10 digital ignition the 1.5 is reasonably economical, giving about 35-40 mpg on a motorway run.

The styling remains unchanged on the 1.5, and in fact it looks better for not having the rear wing that adorns the 16 valve car. The work of Walter de Silva, it is typically Alfa Romeo in its pleasant idiosyncrasy. If you can live with the occasionally apparent electrical eccentricities, after all, not knowing how much petrol you really have makes the journey so much more of an adventure, then the 1.5 33 would seem to represent excellent value for money. CS R-W