Alfa Romeo is to celebrate its 2010 centenary year by launching an all-new, five-door Volkswagen Golf chaser. Company bosses believe it could become the best-selling Alfa in history.
The car replaces the 147 and has been through three name changes already. Originally called 148, it was then renamed Milano. That name has now been changed due to pressure from Alfa workers in the firm's home city of Milan, who are unhappy with the use of the name following Alfa's decision to relocate to Turin. The firm has now settled on calling it Giulietta.
Alfa plans to launch the Giulietta in Italy in late March. The UK launch will coincide with the Goodwood Festival of Speed in June, where Alfa Romeo will be the featured marque.
The car will be made as a five-door only. It features a Golf-sized rear compartment but a coupe-like roofline and disguised rear door handles (as used on the 147) to enhance its sporting credentials. The shape draws obvious influence from both the outgoing 147 and the new Mito supermini, but it looks more modern than either.
It has the most striking three-dimensional version of Alfa’s shield grille yet, supported by two prominent lower lateral air intakes. The muscular sculpting of the body sides leads to prominent rear haunches, with twin exhausts and a diffuser beneath a rear panel whose LED tail-lights echo shapes pioneered in the 156.
Suspension is MacPherson struts at the front and a new multi-link design at the rear.
Inside, the Giulietta echoes the twin-binnacle, driver-oriented fascia design that Alfas have traditionally used, but with the familiar centre stack replaced with a simplified, lateral panel. The interior uses novel trim textures and body-coloured metal to signify a change from Alfa traditions.
At 4.35m in length, the car is 130mm longer than the Golf or the 147. The 2.63m wheelbase is about 50mm longer than the Golf’s or 147’s, and although its extra length makes it look low, it is 50mm higher than the car it replaces.
Alfa engineers say rear seat space and boot capacity are “the same or bigger” than a Golf’s and that the overall weight is “a little bit heavier” than a comparable 147’s, even though the body-in-white is lighter.
Buyers will be offered three different designs of 16in, 17in and 18in wheel - a thick-spoke design, a multi-spoke and Alfa’s familiar ‘telephone dial’ design.
A range of the Fiat Group’s transversely mounted four-cylinder diesel and petrol engines, all turbocharged, will drive the front wheels, ranging from a 120bhp 1.4-litre petrol to a 170bhp 2.0-litre diesel. Later next year there will be a 230bhp Cloverleaf model.
All Giuliettas will eventually be available with Fiat’s Multiair electro-hydraulic valve actuation. And all get automatic stop-start as standard.
The line-up will feature five and six-speed manual gearboxes, but Fiat is working on a semi-auto twin-clutch alternative. The cars will get Alfa’s DNA suspension and engine settings system.
Alfa’s production targets for the car are aggressive. It aims to make as many as 100,000 cars a year when the model has been launched in all markets, against a predicted Mito volume of 60,000-plus.
After a lengthy spell in the doldrums, Alfa’s volume is tipped to rise from 107,000 units in 2007 to about 115,000 this year and about 140,000 in 2010, with further expansion after that if the car gets off to a good start. Alfa officials say it is too early to forecast pricing but emphasise the fact that, like that of the Mito, it will be very competitive.