Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Han Solo Mio

On test… Alfa Romeo Giulietta Distinctive 1.4 Turbo MultiAir

Star Wars. It’s the perfect reference manual for life’s big decisions. Seriously. There’s no better place to seek advice than within that first great trilogy. Estranged father-son relationship? Stars Wars has the answer. Weird desire to rule the galaxy? Once again, Star Wars. Not sure what hot hatch to buy? Yup, it even helps with that.

Take the new Alfa Giulietta for example. Built on Alfa’s new Compact platform, its McPherson strut front suspension setup, multi-link rear design, and fancy Q2 electronic diff provide driving dynamics that rank right up there with the class -leading VW Golf. And like the Millennium Falcon could match the Empire’s battle cruisers light-year for light-year, so can the Giulietta match the German.

I tested the mid-range 125 kW, MultAir 1.4 turbo version with stop/start technology – an engine that provides impressive power and an even more impressive ability to pull from as low as 2000rpm. Plus, like the Millennium Falcon, it also has a hyperspace button. Yes, just like that little go-faster switch on Han Solo’s exotic space cruiser, the Giulietta too has a little rocker switch called the “DNA” selector that allows you to toggle between all-weather, normal and warp speed characteristics.

Where the Italian does unquestionably upstage the Golf though, is in the looks department. Whereas the Golf battle-cruiser is an exercise in form-meets-funktion design that keeps things neat, tidy and purposefully simple, the Falcon Giulietta is all about flair, quirkiness and surprising little details. The Alfa’s skull-nosed, squinty eyed font end might be a matter of taste, but the three-quarter rear view undoubtedly sets the benchmark for hatch design aesthetics.

Step inside the cockpit and there’s no doubt who vaporises who though. The Alfa’s interior is simply brilliant. Forgoing the retro touches of its smaller Mito sibling, the Giulietta is both elegant and contemporary. The Golf’s is really good… but this is a thing of beauty.

Choosing between these natural rivals inevitably boils down to a matter of personal preference. The Alfa is Han solo and his Millennium Falcon. Fast, flashy, debonair, though somewhat emotional and historically temperamental. The Golf is the Imperial cruiser and faceless commander – solid, utterly reliable and able to hit warp speed at will. On the down side, though, Golfs are everywhere, clogging up the space lanes from PE to Tatooine. And, as I recall, Han Solo and his ship out ran the imperial fleet on more than one occasion.

The Giulietta 14.TBi Distinctive costs R279 900. Stats (claimed): 0-100 in 7.8 sec, top speed

(as appeared in the April issue of the Kulula in-flight mag)