Stark reminder of how far Alfa has to go
TIME was when an Alfa Romeo badge conjured up images of romance, style and speed, peppered by daring secret agents, leggy blondes and a pinch of pzazz.
Time has moved on and its ravages have stripped it of much of its once signature panache.
Now, on Alfa's own admission – and an unsatisfying 250-kilometre test drive in northern Italy in the Giulietta and Mito – it's facing an uphill battle, especially in Ireland, to re-establish itself.
True, determined efforts are under way to etch out a new foothold but there's some way to go and details are, at best, sketchy.
The face-lifted Giulietta and Mito are on the way here for sure.
But hard and fast details on models, specification engines and emissions for the Irish market are uncertain.
Pricing has not been determined either but expect a 2pc/3pc increase.
The market here is likely to become more closely aligned with Britain so there should be a wider choice and earlier availability.
However, Alfa engineers will have to take a look at several features of the cars, both driven over a far too undemanding test route comprising boring and unchallenging stretches of motorway.
When the road ahead all-too-rarely began to rise, wind and twist, the Mito behaved with characteristic gusto and surefootedness but, over scant hills and dales, the Giulietta (2-litre, 150hp ) felt flat, with an edgy steering system requiring constant adjustment, detracting significantly from the drive.
Frontal visibility is slightly hindered by thickish pillars while views to the rear are also restricted.
Room in the rear in both cars is not over-generous.
At motorway speeds the 'Giulietta growl' occasionally made its presence felt to no one's great annoyance, but there was some invasive tyre/road noise.
Eye-catching cars – but a lot of ground has to be made up.