The rebirth of Alfa Romeo will step up a gear with the arrival of its first new-generation mainstream model in 18 months’ time, according to company executives.
Damien Dally, Alfa’s UK brand manager, said all-new mainstream models, developed under the testing regime of Fiat boss Sergio Marchionne, would start to arrive in the UK late next year.
Dally also revealed that the first new model range was unlikely to be the 159-replacing Giulia. This means that Alfa’s long-awaited compact SUV model will be launched first, an understandable move because SUVs continue to sell well in the depressed European market.
The mainstream Alfa performance engine is expected to be same all-aluminium, four-cylinder, 1750cc unit that has been launched in the Alfa 4C sports car. It develops 240bhp and 236lb ft of torque from just under 2000rpm in the 4C.
Because the carbonfibre-chassis 4C weighs just 895kg (compared, for example, with 1680kg for an all-wheel-drive Brera coupé), this engine can propel the 4C to 62mph in 4.2sec and should return an average of 42mpg. Indeed, the 4C is lighter than Alfa’s Mito.
The 4C’s combination of lightness and a powerful, downsized engine will also be reflected in the new-generation Alfas, according to Dally. Although no more details have been revealed, the mainstream production models are expected to be lighter than rival models.
Alfa is also emphasising that the new engine has been designed and built by Fiat Powertrain, which also produces Ferrari’s V12 engines. Alfa’s own internal 4C presentations make much of the fact that most of the 4C is sourced from Italian suppliers.
However, as Autocar reported last week, plans to build the new-generation Maserati and Alfa models in Italy have been called into question by Marchionne, after a dispute with an Italian union.
Marchionne’s pledge to invest in home-market factories and build premium-priced cars from Maserati and Alfa there is contingent on new working practices being agreed with local unions.
Sources have pointed out that, with Fiat and Chrysler sharing platforms, the new Alfa and Maserati models could be made in the US if the union agreement isn’t reached.
Meanwhile, Alfa UK has sold 50 of the 4C Launch Editions and expects to shift a larger number once the 1000-per-year production is in train. Dally says when 4C deliveries start in September, it will provide a “sports car halo” for the brand just ahead of the launch of the new-generation mainstream models.
Dally also says the Mito will eventually be replaced because Alfa wants to stay in what’s a booming market segment. The only big difference from today’s car will be the inclusion of five doors. The market for three-door cars in Europe is in significant decline.
Before that, a major makeover for the Giulietta is on the cards, Autocar sources suggest. This will include the option of the 4C’s 1750cc engine, although in a more moderate state of tune.
The refreshed Giulietta is also likely to be developed under the new, stringent demands of Marchionne. The Fiat boss regards the upcoming
relaunch of Alfa Romeo as a last chance for the brand under Italian ownership and he has insisted on the new models meeting a punishing test and durability regime.