Car reviews - Alfa Romeo - 33 - Boxer 16V QV 5dr hatch
Alfa Romeo models
Room for improvement
Iffy build quality, heavy-handed styling, bitsy interior
7 May 2003
ANONIMA Lombardo Fabbrica Automobili started manufacturing cars in Milan, Italy, in 1910.
Nicola Romeo joined the firm five years later and the name Alfa Romeo was born.
The make has always been synonymous with high performance motoring, producing many classic sports models, winning the Le Mans 24 Hour race four times in succession and taking Dr Guiseppe Farina to victory in the first Formula One World Championship.
Although taken over by the giant government-owned Fiat company, Alfa has retained a high degree of character in its post-Fiat models.
The Alfa 33 was introduced into Australia in 1984.
Powered by a 1490cc, flat four cylinder ?boxer? engine (a la Volkswagen, but water cooled), the model was successively upgraded with the announcement of the 1.5 Super model in 1987 and the 1.7-litre, 16-valve QV in 1990.
The 33 is a sporting sedan, its performance and handling giving the high degree of driver satisfaction for which the marque is famous.
In its 16 QV form, the Alfa 33 is powered by a 1.7-litre, twin cam, 16-valve, electronically fuel-injected, flat four engine.
The 'boxer' design allows a lower bonnet height and lower centre of gravity for the front-mounted engine, resulting in improved handling. The transmission is five-speed manual, driving the front wheels.
Suspension is conventional front-wheel drive with MacPherson struts at the front and beam axle and trailing arms at the rear.
Attractive alloy wheels are standard, originally fitted with Pirelli high performance tyres.
The steering is rack and pinion with speed sensitive power assistance while the brakes are power-assisted discs at the front and drums at the rear.
Styling of the 33 QV is typically Italian with short, sloping bonnet and high boot line giving a wedge effect, enhanced by the colour coded grille with classic Alfa shield and aerodynamic additions to the front (airdam with light clusters), body sills and boot lid spoiler.
Inside, sports seats give plenty of lateral support and the rear seat backs are split into two assymetrical parts that can be folded down separately or together. Seatbelts are height adjustable.
Heater and ventilation controls are the rotating type, superseding the sliding type of previous models.
The high rear body line provides excellent boot space.
Standard equipment includes air-conditioning, alloy wheels, central locking, power steering, power windows and radio/cassette.
On the road, the 33QV is a lively performer, the upgraded 16-valve, fuel-injected engine providing impressive torque and giving genuine sports car performance. On its home Autostradas in Italy the car will top 200km/h but local motoring will require a little more restraint.
Handling and braking match the marque's high standard.
Alfas enjoy a reputation for great driver satisfaction but this has not always been matched by mechanical reliability.
Alfa drivers must also get accustomed to the unusual driving position of the 33. The pedals are close together and offset in relation to the steering wheel. Drivers used to more orthodox - and more comfortable - Japanese layouts may be bothered by this at first.
The Alfa 33, being a well developed design, does not have major faults but a few points are worth noting.
It is important that the cam drive belt is changed at or before the specified interval of 60,000km or three years. With a DOHC 16-valve engine, the financial consequences of a cam belt failure are most unpleasant.
Check for correct function of the gearbox syncromesh which can suffer from forceful use. Slow syncro operation with the gearbox cold is not unusual.
Alfas have been known to suffer from niggling electrical problems and brake pad wear can also be heavy if the car is driven vigorously - which it invites.
Earlier Alfas had a reputation for rusting prematurely but this problem seems to have been controlled with the 33.
Servicing costs are generally in line with other continental makes.
It would be wise to have a potential purchase checked over by an Alfa dealer or reputable specialist Alfa workshop before finally making a decision.
It is interesting to note the drop in new price from 1990 to 1992, a reflection of the market difficulties Alfa and its market rivals were experiencing at the time.
The Alfa 33 16 QV is a delightful sporting sedan with impressive performance from its fuel-injected engine.
An impressive list of standard equipment and practical five-door design coupled with Italian styling flair make it an excellent choice for the sporting/family enthusiast.
The Alfa 33QV is a classic sports sedan designed for driving satisfaction. It has some quirks but for those who derive pleasure out of exploring the upper limits of performance, it is an exciting car.
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