By Sandy Myhre
There are numerous reasons why the Alfa Romeo brand has generated a collective noun to describe lovers of such cars. Alfisti is unique both in name and raison d’etre since no other car company in the world has generated such a descriptive nomenclature. Not even Ferrari, Porsche, or Mercedes.
It’s an amusing irony that an Alfa Romeo is so quintessentially Italian and, yet, Alfa was founded by Frenchman, Alexandre Darracq. His company was later acquired by an Italian state holding company before becoming part of the Fiat Group, now Fiat Chrysler.
Throughout the years Alfa Romeo has always insisted on courageous design and distinctive engine construction. There is such a thing as an Alfa ‘vroooom’ and that, coupled to considerable motor racing success over the years and distinctive fabricated flair, has created an unparalleled passion among those who appreciate these things. And who does not?
In fact, Henry Ford is reputed to have said “when I see an Alfa Romeo go by, I tip my hat”.
To an Alfisti, any Alfa is addictive. You don’t own one, you share your life with it to make a personal erudite statement.
In any event, to be given the chance to drive one from Melbourne to north-east Victoria and back (around 600ks) is not to be missed. On this occasion it was the Alfa Romeo Giulia, 2.0 litre turbo petrol, from Fiat Chrysler Australia, what’s termed an executive compact except, you don’t need to be an executive to drive one, do you?
Immediately apparent, of course, is styling. Alfa Romeo have consistently achieved distinctive design over more than one hundred years of manufacture. Swathes, curvatures and arcs have always dominated to form an idiosyncratic Italian signature in a way that no other manufacturer has quite managed to imitate.
Although the Giulia reviewed here is termed the entry-level model, none of those individual features are missing. It thankfully remains pure Alfa Romeo and if the grille doesn’t signal that immediately then many other uniquely flared body ribbons would. The design DNA has remained true to form with this latest model.
Also characteristic is the driving position. It’s not lie-back as with Formula One or Ferrari, but more upright like V8 Supercars. The racing heritage is retained with side-hugging security, the view is scenic, the position comfortable and the important thing here is, very few other car companies in the world manage to achieve what is (IMHO) this ideal.
Then there’s the steering wheel. Of course it has racing heritage with two ‘flat bits’ at the bottom and AR designers have wisely positioned the controls for several functions in the middle of the horizontal dividing bar and not on some stalk stuck out the side.
The instrument panel is clear and concise, with prominent white information superimposed over a black background. The only issue we had was using the SatNav. Try as we might we couldn’t get the rural address of our destination to register. We will put that down to an out-of-the-way farm on the horizon and (in part) operator incompetence.
Despite the ‘compact’ strapline used to describe this latest Giulia, the cabin dimensions are surprisingly generous with plenty of legroom for both front and rear seat passengers.
Boot space is generous, too. Three suitcases fitted easily with room to spare. The bubble-wrapped guitar was placed carefully on the back seat and strapped in for good measure.
Performance figures tell their own story. It is, of course, meaty but for general driving purposes (in this case the Hume Freeway northwards) it represents effortless motoring. Handling competence comes from the front engine, rear-wheel-drive layout and is a significant contributor to this Giulia handling corners exceptionally well by ironing them out – helped considerably by an eight-speed auto transmission.
As an aside, it’s worth mentioning that Australian drivers are generally far more considerate than New Zealanders. Kiwis don’t have these seemingly endless straight roads as freeways because the country’s topography doesn’t allow for it but, even so, the politeness of truck drivers was noted and the fact that other cars passing would tuck back into the left hand lane readily.
What was also noticeable was that any drivers passing along the way gave the car a second look. Yes, you wanted to say, it’s an Alfa Romeo. It suggests Aussies appreciate well-made Italian machinery as much as the rest of us.
So, in fact, did the Kiwis inside, both of whom have driven in other countries around the world. As already stated, given the opportunity to drive an Alfa Romeo Giulia in Australia, is certainly not to be missed. Compact it might be described as but, unfortunately, not quite compressed enough to bring her home as extra luggage, more’s the pity.
At journey’s end we were at one with others around the globe. We, too, are Alfisti.