by MIKE TORPEY
IMES and fortunes have changed for Alfa Romeo. While the image and emotion of owning an Alfa was never in doubt, issues like reliability and residual values were a concern. But the last couple of years, and 12 months in particular, have seen a much needed boost for the Italian brand. A pair of sporty compact models, the MiTo and more recently the cool-looking Giulietta, have helped the marque gain a new customer following – including from families. The figures are interesting. Last year saw Alfa’s sales leap by more than 30 per cent in a market which saw most of its rivals suffer a dip. And a top ten placing in the benchmark J.D. Power customer satisfaction chart as well as a slot in the top ten table for residual values from Glass’s guide have widened the smile on Alfa executives’ faces. Now the company has raised the stakes in the battle for sales against opposition like the Volkswagen Golf, Audi A3 and higher performing Ford Focus models. It comes courtesy of a new dual dry clutch gearbox that combines the benefits of automatic and manual transmission, without any downsides. Featured in the new Giulietta TCT model – still rated the safest car in its class – the set-up has been developed in-house by Fiat Powertrain. Of course twin clutch technology is nothing new, but where Alfa scores is in achieving improvements, albeit small ones, in fuel economy and acceleration. More significant is that with TCT the Giulietta’s emissions are substantially lowered – by 13g/km to 121g/km in the petrol model and by 5g/km to 119 in the diesel compared to manual transmission versions. That means company car tax is down to 15 per cent for petrol and 17 per cent for diesel models, important figures seeing as two thirds of Giulietta sales are to the fleets. How good is TCT though? Well firstly it is only available in 170bhp versions and in the higher spec Lusso and Veloce trim grades. The prices are £21,855 for a 1.4 MultiAir Lusso petrol model and £23,155 for Veloce, and £23,550 for a 2.0 JTDm Lusso diesel and £24,800 for Veloce, meaning a premium of £1,345 over manual transmission. Where the system scores is in its operation, in effect using two gearboxes – one for the odd numbered gears and another for the even ones, so the gearbox is ready for the next shift when it’s already engaged. What Alfa fans will appreciate are the fast, smooth responses along with the company’s DNA rocker switch offering the choice of Normal, Dynamic or All Weather driving mode, plus the benefit of a fuel-saving Start/Stop system. And because the transmission works as either all-auto or sequential, the driver can manually
Edited by Mike Torpey
R A E G IN lietta Alfa raises the stakes with Giu
‘It’s a chic machine in every sense’ shift up or down using the gearlever or flicking the steering wheel paddles. Both petrol and diesel models proved a treat to drive, especially in Dynamic setting, over a route in Scotland that took in motorways, sweeping country roads and the
urban bustle. Not for the first time on a car launch event though, we were unable to match the claimed fuel figures, in the petrol model at least. Alfa’s figure for the MultiAir is a combined 54.3mpg, though the best we could manage was 42.
What you do get though is a chic machine in every sense – from the trademark V-shaped grille and LED running lights to the taut, muscular lines and upmarket interior. As for space, there’s reasonable room for rear passengers provided the driver’s seat isn’t slid
completely back, though the centre rear position is uncomfortable, plus an adequate sized boot. Of the TCT’s options you pay £260 for paddles and £160 for Alfa Red trim inserts on the dashboard – extras I would have thought might be included in the car’s price.
Friday, April 13, 2012
Friday, April 13, 2012
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Friday, April 13, 2012
Suzuki Kizashi 2.4 CVT Saloon
Future’s bright with Suzuki
SUZI CUE: The new Suzuki Kizashi literally translated means ‘a sign of great things to come’
OU may sometimes wonder how car companies dream up some of the more oddball names for their new
vehicles. In the case of Suzuki, and its first venture into the mid-size area of the market, Kizashi isn’t just a random word that sounds sort of Japanese. It actually reflects the manufacturer’s vision of the future and literally translated means ‘a sign of great things to come’. So far as the UK is concerned Suzuki has adopted a suck it and see policy with this car. Having proved a hit in its homeland, the Japanese producer extended it to the USA, Australia, parts of Europe and in the past few months to Britain. While deemed by Suzuki to be a niche product – the aim is to sell just 500 cars here during 2012 potential buyers can rest assured
with MIKE TORPEY
they will be getting a car of genuine quality and style. Low slung, elegant and very well appointed, the Kizashi is only available in a single Sport specification with a 178PS 2.4-litre petrol engine under the bonnet. And taking into account that 93 per cent of the company’s customer base is retail, and those people want petrol powered vehicles, there are no plans for a diesel option. Nor will there be any manual gearbox as the company has decided to go with an automatic CVT continuously variable
transmission set-up with steering wheel-mounted paddles for manual shifts. Tested and tuned in areas as diverse as Death Valley and English country lanes with the precision of BMW and Audi as the benchmark, the Kizashi not only looks racy but boasts plenty of punch and a smooth ride. It also has a four-wheel drive set-up similar to the one first used on Suzuki’s SX4 compact MPV, that can be engaged on the move for extra grip in poor weather. Fuel economy isn’t fantastic though, its official average consumption figure of 34 miles per gallon rather on the optimistic side. In fact the tested model only returned 28.3mpg. While the Kizashi looks stylish rather than practical, closer inspection reveals the opposite. Ample room for three back seat passengers, nets in the rear seat
Info from Stoneacre Wallasey, Rowson Street, CH45 2NA. Tel: 0151 639 8121
SpecCheck MAKE: Suzuki MODEL Kizashi 2.4 Sport CVT ENGINE: 2,393cc, 4-cyl petrol POWER: 178PS at 6,500rpm PERFORMANCE: 0-62 in 8.8 secs, top speed 127mph ECONOMY: 25.0mpg Urban, 42.8 Extra Urban, 34.0 Combined CO2 EMISSIONS: 191g/km BiK RATING: 28% INSURANCE: Group 26 (1-50) backs, pop-out cup holders from the rear armrest, bins with cup/bottle holders in all four doors plus a flap through to the boot, which itself is huge, all contribute to its appeal. Both front seats are heated and electrically adjustable and the standard spec list is comprehensive outside of a sat-nav, which is an £800 option.
PRICE: £21,995 on the road WHAT’S HOT: Passenger space, kit, boot, switchable 4WD WHAT’S NOT: No manual transmission, thirst for fuel RATINGS (out of five):
LOOKS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . EQUIPMENT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . RIDE AND HANDLING . . . . . . . . PERFORMANCE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . VALUE FOR MONEY . . . . . . . . . . .
What you do get are the likes of leather upholstery, Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control, sunroof, keyless entry, air-con, CD player, 18-inch alloys and seven airbags. It all adds up to a value package when compared to considerably more expensive rivals like the Audi A4 quattro and Subaru Legacy.
Renault Scenic 1.6 Dynamique TomTom dCi 130 Stop & Start LIKE the football manager cock-a-hoop at beating the league leaders away from home, a few months completely trouble-free driving can be hailed as a ‘sound’ result. No breakdowns, punctures, chipped windscreens, scuffs, parking scrapes or stone chips – just motoring as we would all like it to be, without any hassle or stress.
That’s been the case with Renault’s family-friendly Scenic model, the original multi-purpose vehicle now in its fourth generation. The best part of 5,500 miles down a pretty harsh road, it has taken leave of us – in one piece. Sure, the upholstery has had to withstand a severe examination, not that the kaleidoscopic effect from a
mixture of Cream Soda (the green variety), Irn Bru and Ribena was in any way deliberate. But it was nothing a good dollop of industrial quality cleaning goo couldn’t shift, before a visit to the supermarket jet-wash plus wax finish returned the Renault’s showroom sparkle. While the Scenic’s cabin has
ample space for five with individual seating all round, no less than 40 stowage areas dotted around the show along with 86 litre of storage space, the real star has been its engine. The 1.6-litre 130bhp dCi diesel is a quiet but lively unit mated to a six-speed manual gearbox and offers smooth acceleration plus bags of pulling power.
4 5 3 4 4
Compared to the former 1.9-litre diesel with the same power, its CO2 emissions have been slashed by more than a fifth, from 149 to 115g/km. With Stop&Start technology on board, the Scenic has an official Combined fuel figure of 64.2mpg, though my own average ended up at 57mpg. And like the proverbial soccer boss, I reckon that was a result.