New cars: Alfa 33

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Bridging a gap which may not be there?

Earlier this month the wraps came off Alfa Romeo’s new medium class car, the front-wheel-drive Alfa 33. Following the habit started with the Alfetta in carrying the name of a superseded competition machine of some merit, the 33 takes its name from the series of V8 and flat-12-engined sports racing cars which defended the quadrofoglio’s honour between 1968 and ’76. This Alfa 33, however, will be facing far more serious opposition in its intended task than its namesake with the 12-cylinder “boxer” engine, so it was good to discover, on a trip to Italy, that Alfa Romeo’s first new model of the decade shapes up well to the rivals it will oppose in the commercial market place.

Touted by Alfa Romeo as “bridging the gap” between the Sud and the Giulietta, it didn’t take long for company spokesmen to concede that the former model would be quietly phased out in due course, probably over the next eighteen months. And whatever the market research claims may say, the 33 is so much like the Sud that it wouldn’t make a great deal of commercial sense in continuing both cars, side-by-side, for any length of time. The pricing is interesting: in Britain, the three-model range extends between £5,690 and £6,590, while the Sud saloons range between £5,230 and £6,240, so it is clear that the 33 is closer to its f.w.d. stablemate than the Giulietta, now rather outdated and priced between £6,500 and £7,560. The Alfa 33 is available only in five-door “notchback” configuration, the styling of which is distinctively different while, at the same time, identifying with the Alfa image. The high waistline at the rear is very reminiscent of the Giulietta, but, that point apart, the 33 offers a totally fresh profile for Alfa Romeo customers. A drag coefficient (Cd) of 0.36 has resulted from plenty of aerodynamic detail work and a great deal of effort to improve product quality, notably in rust-preventative steps at the manufacturing stage, are intended to produce not only a highly appealing driver’s car, but one which is also commercially profitable in its highly competitive market sector.

The delightful, willing 1,490 c.c. (84 x 67.2 mm.) 85 b.h.p. flat four was fitted to the top of the range quadrofoglio model which we tried — to be marketed in Britain as the Alfa 33 Cloverleaf. In our assessment, from about 80 miles of motoring in streaming rain, it retains most of the splendid Alfasud qualities and refines many of them. If you were blindfolded you would be convinced that this was an Alfasud: the ride, perhaps, is a touch softer and true Sud afictonados might suggest that the 33’s initial turn-in isn’t quite so crisp, but in general terms, if you liked the Sud, you’ll love the 33. The Cloverleaf model is equipped with such refinements as electric windows, but you’ll be surprised to hear that Alfa has decided on outboard mounted front disc brakes to replace the inboard ones used on the Sud. It was claimed that reasons of technical efficiency were behind this move, but it may really be simply financial expediency in order to keep costs down, and thus present the 33 at the most favourable price possible. By the time readers see this issue of Motor Sport, the first Alfa 33s should be appearing in the showrooms with a 1.3-litre base model opening the batting at £5,690. The 1.5-litre saloon is precisely £6,000 and the aforementioned Cloverleaf just under £600 more. We look forward to a full road test in the near future, but would reckon, on first impressions, that if Alfa Romeo has really licked its quality control problems at last, then the new 33 could prove even more popular than the Alfasud. AH.

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