The international build-up and hype preceding the launch of the Alfa Romeo Giulia in South Africa on March 07, 2017 also promoted a journalistic feeding frenzy as auto writers vied desperately to be the first to road test the new cars.
This, after all, was Alfa’s ‘revival’.
But wait. Hold up. Let’s roll back the years a bit. As a petrolhead in my formative years, Alfa Romeo was the aspirational brand. It was what we looked up to and lusted after; a feeling cemented by the antics of the likes of Arnold Chatz on the race tracks of South Africa.
There were others that followed him such as Abel D’Oliviera and then Nicolo Bianco and none can forget Louis Cloete punishing a GTV through the Sabie forests on rally roads.
It truly was a fine time.
In 1970, Alfa Romeo established a production facility at Brits and it was so successful, between 1972 and 1998, South Africa had the highest number of Alfas on the road outside of Italy.
When the doors closed on the factory, it started a very quiet period for the marque locally with only the Alfisti trying desperately to keep the name alive – then in a sea of new vehicles coming to the fore that grabbed the sport-minded ones’ attention such as the BMW 3-Series, Golf GTi, Opel Kadett and others (in no particular order).
It was not until 1997 that Alfa gained any attention locally. Nissan had re-introduced the brand a while before (1996) with the 145 and 146 and Fiat formally reurned to South Africa practically on the eve of the launch of the stunning Walter da Silva penned 156, shown at Geneva in 1997 – copies of his sketches still taking pride of place on my office wall.
This was supposed to be (again) the re-invention of Alfa Romeo. In Europe and elsewhere it had been struggling as had parent company Fiat. However, there was sufficient momentum and Fiat formally came to South Africa to launch the 156 and win the South African Car of the Year title.
The 159 followed (2004) , gaining some fame in the opening sequence of the James Bond movie ‘Quantum of Solace’ and the 2,4-litre JTDM diesel engine won the Alternative Energy Class in each of the three Bathurst 12-hour races contested (2007, 2009, 2010).
The 159 used the GM/Fiat Premium platform, shared with the Alfa Romeo Brera and Spider production cars.
Then came the horrible 166 (even though it had been designed before the 156) and, again, Alfa seemed to fade like the mist in a forest (except, possibly for the Brera) until the company was bought up to become part of Chrysler stable. Even then, the promised Alfa revival seemed to stutter along until the launch of the Mito.
In itself, hardly a ‘real’ Alfa Romeo but, it did bring with it the cleverly engineered ‘DNA’ gearbox that lives on in the current Giulia.
As the initial lustre on the Mito faded so did Alfa Romeo – until the first information on the all-new Alfa Romeo revival Giulia started appearing. Not part of the initial launch shark pool, it has taken a long while to get a car to test, so rather than a regular road review, we look at how it has fared in the two years since launch.
Still achingly beautiful the Giulia certainly has not had its shine dimmed by fashion trends and if launched today, would still garner many of the same accolades for design and styling.
To recap – Alfa Romeo’s D-Segment offering, the Giulia boasts outstanding weight distribution across the two axles, a sophisticated suspension and the most direct steering in its segment.
The Giulia Base features a high level of standard equipment that includes 16-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, Cruise Control as well as Stop / Start technology.
On the safety front, the Alfa Romeo Giulia earned a prestigious Euro NCAP 5-star rating, scoring 98% in adult occupant protection. This was the highest score ever achieved by a car despite the more stringent evaluation system introduced in 2015.
Giulia heralded the début of the new 2,0-litre petrol engine – a 4-cylinder engine made entirely of aluminium – which generates 147 kW at 5,000 r/min and a maximum torque of 33 0Nm at 1 750 r/min. In addition to the MultiAir electro-hydraulic valve activation system, the particular features of this engine include the ‘2-in-1” turbo-charger system and a 200-bar direct injection high pressure system, which combine to deliver quick response to accelerator commands at all speeds while permitting highly efficient fuel consumption levels.
All Giulia models come with an 8-speed automatic transmission as standard.
The suspension layout implemented on Giulia utilises a double wishbone setup with semi-virtual steering axis at the front and a 4,5-link suspension with a solution for toe adjustment – patented by Alfa Romeo – for the rear axle.
The Base model launched at R555 000. Taking a quick troll through the 2017 models on offer as second-hand purchases on AutoTrader, the average mileage on the cars looked at comes to 23 982 kilometres with an average asking price of R446 162.
For any car a value retention of 80,38% over two years is pretty good going. However, based on the original launch price and doing a quick calculation on the lease cost and using our average as the RV, the Giulia has not been the cheapest car on the market to run on a cents/kilometre basis.
Considering that during those two years the fuel price has seen some scandalous increases, the running costs in the region of R5,00 a kilometre and the fact the economy has also taken a major dive may point to the reason such low mileage examples are up for sale.
It does, however, have a 3 year / 100 000 km warranty and 6 year / 100 000 km Maintenance Plan.
Damn pity. The Alfa is such a pleasure to drive even in its most basic form. It is everything an Alfa Romeo should be. Rear wheel drive, taught, points where the steering aims and just oozes a desire to be thrashed out on the open road and through ever-tightening corners.
In that regard, the two-year wait was more than worth it.
The lust is back.
(Images may show specification different to tested vehicle)