Living up to the hype

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 July, 2012, 12:00am


Alfa Romeo has a long tradition of making stylish, racy cars.

Founded in 1910 as A.L.F.A (Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili), the marque began at the Portello factory in Milan and, in the following year, entered a car in the Targa Florio, an open road endurance race.

In 1915 industrialist Nicola Romeo took over the company and three years later cars sold as Alfa Romeo.

The marque made its name on the track in the 1920s, '30s and '50s, and more recently the 156 saloon was named Europe's 1998 Car of the Year, with the 147 compact hatchback similarly honoured three years later.

The 2003 launch of the 8C Competizione put Alfa Romeo back in the supercar league, and recent designs such as the MiTo saloon have sold well.

Now represented in Hong Kong by Swire Motors, the marque has a strong following here, with two 'Alfisti' clubs, Alfistizone Hong Kong and the Alfa Romeo Owners' Club Hong Kong.

The local Alfisti have good reason to be proud of the marque's latest launch in Hong Kong, the Giulietta. Resplendent in Italian red, and available as the GTS (HK$349,000) and the GT (from HK$269,000), the five-door, five-seater hatchback is a best-seller in Europe, thanks to its sporty looks, innovative equipment and 'class leading' five-star safety, the marque says. The Giulietta also seems suitable for compact Hong Kong because it is easy to drive, the steering is light and offers a tight turning circle of 10.9 metres.

Spacious and comfortable with sporty dials and leather seats, the hatchback's 350-litre boot extends to 700 litres with the rear seats flattened.

The Hong Kong government has designated the Giulietta as an Environmentally Friendly Car, and eligible for a discount on first registration tax.

The Giulietta has a 170-horsepower, 1.4-litre engine that promises sprints to 100km/h in about eight seconds and a top speed of 218km/h, but consumes an average of 5.8 litres of petrol per 100km on a 60-litre tank on combined runs. Carbon-dioxide emissions are 134 grams per kilometre, the marque says.

The car proves a comfortable and surprisingly powerful commute with three drive settings: dynamic for speed; normal to save fuel; and all-weather, which programmes the car's electronic systems for slippery road conditions.