New cars: Alfa Romeo 33 1.5 and 1.7

Tide-turners?

Alfa Romeo has not had a happy time in Britain throughout the past five years, with sales declining remorselessly. But with new management both in Italy and in the UK, and improving products, it looks as though the tide will turn in 1987. One of the reasons for the saga was a reluctance among former Alfasud owners to take the 33 model to their hearts. Introduced four years ago, it lacked all the ingredients of the Sud except, perhaps, its proneness to rust.

The launch of the "second generation" Alfa Romeo 33 should put heart back into the range. The 1.5-litre and, especially, 1.7-litre versions just launched in Britain are lusty performers, and quiet too when cruising at high speeds. They are what you would call driver's cars, full of Italian brio, comfortably out-performing the beloved Sud Ti while offering better build. more spacious interiors and greater room for luggage.

There was great excitement among Sud owners when the 1186cc flat-four alloy engine was taken out to 1.3-litres, and still more when it became a 1.5-litre. Now, with a twin-choke carburettor on each bank. the 1.5-litre develops 105 bhp and a new 1712cc version, with a larger bore and stroke at 87 72.2mm, develops 118 bhp. Their respective 0-60 mph acceleration times and top speeds are 9.5 sec/115 mph and 8.7 sec/122 mph.

"Veloce" versions of both models are packaged for the British market with colour-keyed radiator grilles, side skirts, front and rear air dams, and rear wings which intrude a little on rear vision. Prices range from £7599 for the 1.5 Ti to £8999 for the 1.7 Veloce. The re-launched 33 models have improved suspension, better brakes, close ratio gearboxes and restyled interiors, and have made the transition from family transport models to enthusiasts' cars which are much more worthy of the Alfa Romeo badge. A full driving appraisal will be published soon. MLC