CarAdvice Melbourne's long term Alfa Romeo Giulietta cements itself as part of the family.
When you find you’ve given an inanimate object a name, you can’t help but admit there’s a relationship there. The Alfa Romeo Giulietta QV has become simply ‘Ralph’ and is now truly part of the CarAdvice Melbourne family.
As the Melbourne office is the smaller of the CA locations, the role of our only long term vehicle is a bit different to the cars in Sydney.
The Alfa serves as a camera-tracking vehicle, support (read: load carrier) for multi-car tests, transport for interstate team members and basically a day-to-day runaround for Melbourne staff.
Christian squeezed into the boot for our Jaguar E-type retrospective, no fewer than eight suitcases were crammed in when we moved into the Richmond office, Dave even slid in circles around the parked Giulietta in an Alfa 4C. Ralph has transported furniture, concrete (long story), some hinges (longer story), a Lego Unimog, a bunch of inflatable cats, even a fridge.
Through these roles, and with a multitude of drivers, the Alfa has won fans throughout the business, with charm and character inherent to the Italian marque.
Like the family Labrador though, charisma doesn’t necessarily mean perfection, and there are a number of idiosyncrasies with the Alfa Romeo that do frustrate our ownership experience.
First of all, there is nowhere to put anything. This is a multi-faceted gripe so bear with me as I run through items that most normal people may have with them in the car…
Your phone. There is a little cubbyhole in front of the gearshift that isn’t big enough to hold an iPhone, let alone one of those phonebook sized Samsung things. If you put it there, it moves around and occasionally gets in the way of your gearshifts. Solution – use the cup holder.
A bottle of water. There is a twin cup holder in the centre console that will fit a water bottle, but only if you raise the armrest. If you have a short bottle and can keep the armrest down, then you can’t actually get the bottle out to have a drink. You can only have one drink too as your phone is in the other holder.
Change and keys. The storage box in the armrest seems logical, but once you’ve put some coins in here and then had to raise it up to get to your water bottle in the cup holder, the coins slip down the back and get stuck in the hinge mechanism – meaning you can never open it again. Hope your keys weren’t in there too…
Basically, the door pockets are your only friends.
What about the glovebox and its handy integrated drink/wine rack you say? That’s full with the removable TomTom navigation screen and cradle which can’t be left on the dash for fear of a ‘commercially minded’ passer by smashing the window and popping it on Gumtree for some extra pocket money.
The 2014 European Giulietta has a multifunction touch screen built into the dash, with even the 2013 model utilising a flip out LCD on the dash top – why we still have the archaic plug-in TomTom in Australia is a mystery.
The ergonomics and finish aren’t exactly class leading, with poorly fitted trim around the roof console and functional buttons in split locations (the trip computer uses the end of the wiper stalk as well as a panel on the lower dash).
If you do manage to connect your Bluetooth phone (hint: don’t use the voice commands) and you want to end the call… then you can’t. Not without touching your phone, which in Victoria we never do. Right folks? Oh and Bluetooth audio – nope, not possible.
If economy is your game, then the only green part of the QV is the four-leaf clover on the flank badges, as we are regularly seeing usage above 10-litres/100km on combined urban/highway cycle.
You may read this and think ‘oh dear’, but like Homer with his hoagie, we can’t stay mad at the little Alfa for long. Quite the opposite – Ralph may frustrate you at first, but the sheer fun and character of the car redeems any misgivings.
As with any vehicle ownership, you soon learn to get used to, and forgive any failings and just get on with life. No place to put my phone… so it stays in my pocket (probably for the best – although much harder to hang up those calls…) – nothing stops me from being able to and more to the point, wanting to drive the car.
The Giulietta continues to feel tight, confident and fun. Using our CarAdvice ‘seat of the pants-ometer', the punchy 1.75-litre turbo engine feels faster than it actually is and regardless of which car you come from, returning to the Alfa is always a pleasant experience.
Ralph is flexible and practical, and with more than 3000km under our Alfa ownership belt, perfectly reliable. Every wash, the brilliant Alfa red paint shines like new and the car still manages to turn heads.
Style and character? Most definitely.
Part of the family? I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Traveled this month: 1676km
Average fuel economy : 11.6L/100km
Read our first long-term review of Ralph here.