I’ve always rather liked Alfas. Not in that deluded, blinkered “you aren’t a proper petrolhead unless you’ve owned one” fashion so oft espoused by one J. “Clobber” Clarkson Esq but in a more curious and organic way. My first memory of one is from a holiday in Wales as a child, being hooned around twisty lanes in someone’s Dad’s Alfasud, 1.3 litres of mayhem fizzing away under the bonnet through which valves were attempting escape and attacking every bend con grande entusiasmo. Since then I’ve watched Alfas of varying success come and go but with ever present curiosity.

alfa romeo 155 btcc simoni

I remember Gabriele Tarquini scooping the 1994 British Touring Car Championship, marveling at the “bread van” styling of the 146, driving a mate’s 75 and being astonished at all those stories requiring limb proportions akin to a chimp being true, convincing my ex-wife’s sister that a 147 Lusso Multijet Diesel would be a far more stylish option than a black Audi A3 but “for God’s sake get the cam belt checked” and then feeling somewhat smug when she hadn’t and it let go on the motorway requiring a whole top-end engine rebuild. I’ve watched this wayward Italian marque lurch from pillar to post for four decades and with each model launch asked myself if this is the car to make this once proud company stand as tall as its heritage deserves.

alfa romeo 159 sportwagon black front three quartersWe’ve seen hints over the last couple of decades. The 156 saloon conned us it was a coupe with it’s hidden rear doors handles, proved once and for all that offset number plates have been and always will be cool, and had a shape which has aged remarkably well and will continue so to do if kept in the right environment. The Brera followed 5 years later with its stunning face if somewhat excessive rump due to overly wide C-pillars (I call this Alfa’s J-Lo period). The Brera’s looks were then grafted onto the 156’s successor, the 159, a car so stunning from every angle in saloon or touring form it stood out from the Germans in the car park like Monica Bellucci at a barn dance.

alfa romeo 8c red sideAlfa then upped their game further with the incredible, Maserati-derived 8C Competizione, the limited production GT that looked better than anything out of Maranello for nearly 40 years and on the back of that it’s baby sibling, the carbon fibre 4C, sparsely equipped but agile and driver-focussed.

Was Alfa on a roll? Well yes, and then no. To keep the numbers up it introduced the MiTo and then the Giulietta, Fiat-based hatchbacks both of which look like they have had a recent visit from the vet’s gloved forearm but in 2009 they announced a return to their roots and that the FWD 159 would be replaced by the new Giulia, with a rear-drive chassis aimed squarely at the driver as well as Jaguar and ze Tchermannss. The 159 was put down prematurely in 2011 and the waiting began. And went on. And on.

Development on the car began in 2009 but the launch was put back to 2013 because then boss Sergio Marchionne was unhappy with the styling as well as various manufacturing issues with new engines being developed at the new combined Alfa/Maserati “skunk works” in Modena. New Alfa models, he said, “would be sold on character and charm rather than efficiency” while dismissing established Teutonic rivals as “mostly cold and clinical.” Situation normal, Alfa Romeo; deliver cars that appeal to the heart and not the head, the soul rather than solvency. And the waiting went on.

Until today when the wraps officially came off the new Giulia at a press conference in Milano and well? Oh dear God, no. Not so much Monica Bellucci as moniker: beluga whale.

Much of the PR blurb being spouted by the Alfa bosses concerns what is underneath, cylinder deactivation, weight distribution, trick suspension, downforce management, and the most direct steering in its class, all of which seems designed to deflect from the fact that this thing is an utter minger. I know it has had a difficult birth but this one was definitely a forceps delivery; Alfas are supposed to invoke cries of “Que Bella!” not whatever the Italian is for WTF?

Alfa design boss Lorenzo Ramacotti said the car was “not over-styled, which is very easy to do today. It can be defined with just three strokes. Form and function doesn’t mean it’s cold. It’s an Alfa so it is still connected, and is an object of desire that you experience.” Sorry, Loz old chum, but it just isn’t. In fact I don’t think it has been styled at all. Working back to front the tail lights might hark back to the 155 a wee bit but in side profile it’s cut and paste with the roofline from the Jaguar X-Type plus bits from Deutschland and as for the front….. Frowning headlamps coupled with an oversized Alfa grille that resembles a beak; it looks like it is suffering from irritable owl syndrome. And you can’t take on BMW with DNW*.

*Do Not Want.

alfa romeo giulia red front

This is the car that is supposed to kick start a new dawn for Alfa, to drag its sales figures kicking and screaming from a paltry 68,000 a year north of 400k but I simply can’t see it happening. Alfas are supposed to be the cars you buy without consideration for the consequences or the opinion of your bank manager because they stir something so strong and so primal that you choose a linen suit and breakdown cover over common sense. They should speak to you in a way that can’t be ignored and engender reckless folly in grown ups who otherwise should know better. Alfa’s reputation for vertical depreciation means it will always be largely ignored as an option by fleet buyers who make safe choices so it has to rely purely on those using their own money to buy something they truly desire. But if the desire isn’t there….

Of course I could be completely wide of the mark and the Giulia could be a runaway sales success in the vein of other recent gompers like the BMW X6 but I’ll stake a fiver of my own money that I’m not.

Sorry, Alfa, but there is only so long you can milk your heritage and I think today is the day the teat finally ran dry.

5 Responses

  1. Richard Gray

    The new car (above) looks like Clarkson waiting at the breakfast table for his morning Prozac.

  2. John

    aren’t you a dumbfuck. trying to be a “motoring journalist” but failing hard. trying to be somebody but failing hard. getting his ego massaged on a shitty american forum, where the main theme is autism over old shitty cars being presented shittly by tards…and then you think you can “impress” the autists on FG by being so imposingly mighty and shit on Alfa to come over all “look at me with my edgy opinion”. lol.

    • Matt

      I guess I must be. No point in trying to indulge a heartfelt passion when I could use my time far more constructively shuffling around in cyberspace and attempting to undermine other people with the luxury of total anonymity that the Internet affords.

      Forgive me for wasting a few minutes of what is obviously a precious and wholly worthwhile life. If you need me I shall be in the bathtub with the Scotch and the razor blades bringing my pitiful and pointless existence to an end.

  3. ninjacoco

    If you don’t want it, I’ll gladly strap Fluffy in the back seat and do donuts with it.

  4. Krystal LeChuck

    Remove the rims, front grille and badge and this could easily be sold as a Jag or a Ford. What is wrong with Alfa? Their cars aren’t supposed to make sense! They are supposed to make you cream your pants and when they break down make you feel like your terminally ill best friend finally passing away. You know it will happen, but you never get to terms with it.
    Alfas are supposed to work not with engineering but with magic and willpower. Take this European engineered reliable thing away from me! I want the drug addicted supermodel that will empty your bank account and divorce you taking half your fortune back… I still love her.


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