Tag: Launch Drive

Some are made while others are created, the 2021 Alfa Romeo Giulia and Stelvio

Alfa Romeo is a marquee that needs no introduction, with an impressive 111 year lifespan their legacy has been cemented into the halls of fame with pedigree racers and breathtaking designs. Despite the respectable history, the famed Italian marquee has faltered somewhat over the past few decades, losing market share with an ever dwindling range of vehicles. Just over half a decade ago, Giulia and Stelvio were introduced and intended to reinvigorate the historic iconicity of the Turin based automaker. We got to spend some time on launch with their mid-life refresh to see if they could bring more success in the next half of their product cycle.

First thing is first, in typical Italian fashion models are designed to spend considerably more time in production than their competitors’ offerings. Giulia has been available since 2015 while Stelvio is one year younger. For general context, a fellow Stellantis model we recently had on test; the Fiat 500C Dolcevita has been in production since 2007 with only minor updates implemented over the years.

What this means is that the typical mass-creations from Milan, Torino and Bologna are designed to last, with their platforms being initially overengineered to accommodate updates far into the future. Inadvertently, the styling is intended to retain its aesthetic over time and is therefore minimal, timeless and without excess. While I think the designers at Centro Stile Alfa Romeo were restrained in unleashing a truly captivating and unmistakable Italian design a few years ago, what has nevertheless resulted are two pretty contenders in the D-SUV and D-Saloon segment that still look as good as the day they were birthed to the world. 

To that extent, not much has changed with the exterior styling other than the addition of a few new paint swatches which includes the envy-inducing Visconti Green and standard circular shaped alloy wheels. Giulia’s front end details have also been altered ever so slightly with a gloss black sheath fitted in the scudetto grille while Stelvio has stayed identical from before save from updated 20” alloys. 

Alfa Romeo astutely comes all in with their range so the list price of R989 900 for the Giulia Veloce and R1 159 900 for the Stelvio Super includes all the bells and whistles a premium vehicle should have. Both models are identically equipped with tech and safety, the only significant difference being the Q4 all-wheel drive system on Stelvio. 

What this considerable sum of money gets you is a dashboard integrated 8.8” infotainment screen surrounded by a wealthy amount of soft touch leather, a 7” colour TFT instrument cluster flanked by a scoped analog tachometer and speedometer, Apple CarPlay and AndroidAuto screen mirroring via cable, leather front seats with electric adjustment, a small reverse camera and fixed aluminium paddle shifters that are tactile to the touch.

Giulia also comes standard with fresher looking Bi-Xenon headlights and DRL’s, no more halogen reflectors on base-spec derivatives since there are no more base-spec derivatives, this is something the brand is proud of. All in remember? A 5 year/100 000km full warranty and maintenance plan is standard for anyone that has their doubts on ill reliability.

The interior of Stelvio feels more premium with material use despite Giulia sharing a similar aesthetic albeit in a much lower, sport-inspired seating position. This sums up the packages adequately since the Alfa Romeo SUV ticks all the boxes in the comfort and luxury department while the saloon has a much more exciting, driver orientated appeal to it. 

The updates to the infotainment system are the biggest improvement to the 2021 models, with widget based functionality coupled alongside screen mirroring. Operation is logically laid out and modernises the UX with expected current generation usability. A coloured 7” TFT instrument cluster has now been incorporated alongside the timeless analog dials making all displayed  information behind the steering wheel much more prominent. You also get wireless charging in a mostly-concealed compartment beneath the armrest too which is ideal for prying eyes into the cabin. 

In comparison to its competitors, the reverse camera is the one let down which is minutely displayed on a quadrant of the already small infotainment screen through a less than desirable camera. However where other brands are continually in search of different ways of improving interacting with the on board systems, Alfa Romeo have opted for an old school rotary dial in-front of the gear shifter for the infotainment screen and steering mounted buttons to control the TFT instrument cluster. Modern day haptic surfaces and touch screens for every conceivable feature don’t always cut it for me, traditional buttons are still far more satisfying and rewarding to the touch. 

All of this is justified in a statement made from the current Alfa Romeo CEO Jean-Philippe Imparato who insists that the cars must remain “driver centered” reiterating that i-Pad festooned interiors are not the future of the brand. Relief for the few consumers who enjoy the no-fuss- driving approach which is devoid of soon-to-be-outdated user interfaces displayed on screens spanning the length of the cockpit. 

As with most releases in the premium segments, the more affordable yet equally luxurious derivatives always live in the shadow of their high performance siblings. The Giulia Quadrifoglio Verde was no different which immediately dominated the Nordschleife at the Nurburgring and became the fastest 4 door production sedan to lap the circuit at the time. This took all the shine away from the impressive all-aluminum 2 litre turbocharged motor that sufficiently and comfortably propels both Super SUV and Veloce saloon forward. 

The motor in the 2021 derivatives is exactly the same as before but more compliant with emission regulations. The same 206kW and 400Nm from the four-cylinder are still readily available under the right pedal and delivered through an 8 speed ZF gearbox to either the rear wheels of Giulia or all four corners of Stelvio through a carbon fiber prop shaft.

There is an ongoing theme of weight reduction for the heavier drivetrain components that Alfa Romeo has continuously followed. Aluminium and carbon fiber are notoriously structural but lightweight materials in their application so Giulia expectedly tips the scales at a feathery 1429kg while Stelvio, with the Q4 system comes in at a respectable 1660kg. To put it into context, a comparable Jaguar F-Pace comes in at 1775kg – or the equivalent difference of a rugby prop the day after Christmas lunch. The results in terms of comfort and performance are noticeable. 

Not only can you experience a nippy 0-100 sprint time of 5.7 seconds in both derivatives but also achieve a claimed economy of around 8.4l/100km, which is fairly frugal in the premium D-Segment. The sensation of the direct steering probably won’t allow that though as it inspires enthusiastic driving confidence, particularly in roads with sequences of corners. 

The Q4 system of Stelvio is commendable in its application, its performance is highly regarded as it simply does not feel as top-heavy or bulky as a typical SUV in its segment. It confidently plants itself around high speed corners while momentary understeer in tight hairpins is mitigated through its all-wheel drive system. It is after all based on the same Giorgio platform as the athletic Giulia and Giulia QV. 

Speaking of which, Giulia has received revised rear suspension which still achieves Alfa Romeo’s ideal 50/50 weight distribution. The improvements keep it more planted than before and make the entire driving experience highly interactive and rewarding. For those of us that really relish the drive, this premium saloon will not disappoint. 

The different driving modes of the dna toggle are all well suited to their functions with much snappier gearshifts and throttle response in dynamic mode. While the majority of the journey was spent thrashing the motor to redline in this setting, both other modes were plush and comfortable, still capable of commanding power and downshifting the ZF gearbox to overtake slow moving traffic on single lane country roads.

The host of updates to the 2021 model year has also been implemented in the 375kW Giulia QV and Stelvio Q which are powered by the Ferrari derived 2.9l V6. Giulia QV will set you back R1 599 900 while the family hauling all-wheel drive Stelvio Q will come in at R1 749 900. Both models can now also be finished in Ocra GT, which pays homage to some of Alfa Romeo’s yellow colour swatches from the 1970s. 

With recent news of the 500 limited edition Sauber co-developed Giulia GTA and GTAm (modificata) selling out globally, 8 are rumored to be entering our shores. A high number considering our local sales numbers are less than that for standard stock, reaffirming that the brand is still very much locally adored by enthusiasts and Alfisti alike. 

Alfa Romeo Giulia GTAm images shot by Daniela Pirnbaum for @alfattitude

The return of the Gran Turismo Alleggerita (alleggerita – Italian for lightweight) icon adds power and drops 100kg of weight from the standard QV model. The 2.9l V6 biturbo has been bumped up to 390kW and 600Nm while the back seats of the GTAm have been replaced with a half cage and full carbon fibre bucket seats and racing harnesses keep the driver and passenger at bay. Externally, an adjustable Sauber front and rear aero kit improves downforce while a massive adjustable rear wing features on the GTAm. The GTA includes 4 seats while the rear spoiler and splitter have been optimised for daily use on the road. This will also be the first saloon to feature centre-locking wheels as standard. 

The lucky local clientele of the eye watering list price of R3 999 900 for the GTA and R4 299 900 for GTAm also receive a personalized experience package during the  sales process which also includes a kit comprising a custom GTA liveried Bell helmet, an Alpinestars race suit, helmet and shoes while the car receives a personalized wool cover. 

With no immediate plans to extend the lifespan of the dynamic Giorgio platform after emerging in the new era of the Stellantis automobile group, this may also be the last traditional Internal Combustion Engine powered Alfa Romeo saloon the world will receive considering an all-electric future. The seductive Tonale Compact SUV concept looks set to carry the predominant sales of the brand in the coming years as an electrified flagship. It may be over 6 years on from their initial release, but the Giulia Veloce and Stelvio Super are more recommendable than ever. They’ve been in the market for half a decade now which means that they are not brand new in shape but have proven the brands improved reliability, despite initial concerns from naysayers and critics. While sales numbers are a fraction of the competitors, one must not forget that Alfa Romeo is not a numbers brand but a brand more focused on driving passion and feeling. Their sporting dna and driver focused ergonomics nullify the slightly less equipped technological features. For those that enjoy being in command of the metal, glass and rubber machines that bring us closer to the places and people we love, these are cars that will captivate from first glance. In Giulia or Stelvio, you may even find yourself grinning from ear to ear until you have arrived at your destination.

Touring Gauteng in the updated Citroën C3

Citroën South Africa recently hosted national media at the upmarket Hotel Sky in Sandton for the launch of the updated Citroën C3.


In recent times, manufacturers have introduced products with minor revisions in what they call a “soft launch.” In other words, a press release and a call from the fleet manager asking when they can drop off the vehicle for you and your team to review.

So to host an opulent event (in typical French style) for a car that has mainly cosmetic updates seemed strange. However, this wasn’t just the launch of the C3 but also an introduction into the new mother ship, Stellantis!

A recent merger between the PSA Groupe and FCA has birthed Stellantis which houses brands such as Peugeot, Citroën, Opel, Fiat, Jeep, Alfa Romeo and Abarth to name those relevant to our market.

Stellantis falls into the world’s top four motoring groups, with Q1 2021 seeing them come out as the sales leader in Europe with a market share of 26,6%. While overall group sold for the first 3 months were over 1,5-million vehicles.


With a strong product offensive still on the cards for 2021, which will see a host of new models from the aforementioned brands, we look forward to seeing what the local arm of the group has in store!

Back to the topic at hand, we piloted the range-topping Shine model which uses a 1.2-litre 81kW 3-cylinder engine and is paired exclusively to a 6-speed auto. There is a cheaper Feel model on offer which employs a naturally aspirated engine with the same displacement to the tune of just 60kW. And you have to change your own gears. Prices start at R269 900 for the Feel and hits R324 900 for the Shine.

So what’s actually new? Well, there’s nothing to report in terms of the oily bits – that’s all carried over from the previous model. Instead, the most notable changes are upfront which include resigned headlights that feature new LED signatures. The front bumper has been incorporated into the headlights while Citroën’s updated logo takes centre stage both front and back.


Some love it others hate it, but the AirBumps are here to stay! If you’ve gotten used to BMW’s new grille, the AirBumps don’t seem like too much of a hurdle to get over. Especially as they are actually practical and protect your car from those who have a little less respect in the parking lots!

Speaking of parking lots, we were leaving the ones in Sandton and on our way out to Hartebeesport. In and around the city, the engine had plenty of punch enabling you to accelerate into gaps with ease. There was however some harsh feedback through the steering wheel over more jarring road surfaces. While the 16-inch alloys look great, they do contribute to a slightly firmer ride than if you had opted for the 15-inches on the Feel model.

On the open road, the engine again impressed as it was able to cruise up to the national speed without breaking a sweat and managed to maintain that speed even when traveling at steeper gradients. The 3-cylinder engine also makes a lovely noise when pushing on!
Overall NVH levels were on par for this segment and the niceties fitted to the cabin made our trip that much more enjoyable.

The 7-inch infotainment system is fitted with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto while there are a host of other standard features. The C3 also comes with an array of safety features which includes active safety braking, lane keep assist, collision warning and driver attention warning. The seats were a standout for me as they were extremely supportive and cosseting but are only available in cloth.

All-in-all, the C3 remains a solid contender in this segment – with a host of standard features and an enjoyable driving characteristic. Citroën have slightly tweaked the recipe to make the new C3 a more desirable car and in doing so, reminded us why it should be a product certainly worth being on your shortlist.

The New Opel Corsa: Is It Worth the Wait?

Having launched internationally almost 2 years ago, the local arm of Opel has finally debuted the new Corsa into Mzansi! Alex Shahini took it for a spin

Opel South Africa may have introduced the initial 55kW range of the updated Corsa and Corsa Edition at the start of 2021, but they were waiting for the arrival of the range-topping Elegance derivative before doing an official press launch. So, we got comfortable with the peppy 96kW model and took it along the scenic mountain routes of the Magaliesburg earlier this month. 

While the selected route was filled with long stretches of straight tarmac and the occasional undulating hillclimb-esque road profile, the new Opel arrival made light work of it all. In addition to its sprightly-orientated handling and lightweight steering input, the expanses of tarmac filled with creviced surfaces and potholes were comfortably traversed, while overtaking slow moving traffic on single lane roads was as effortless as pushing the accelerator pedal down. The overall impression after the first 10 minutes at the wheel impressed significantly enough to immediately justify stacking it up to some of its immediate competitors; the Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Polo and Hyundai i20. 

Historically, Opel have enjoyed a strong rapport in South Africa – with 86 uninterrupted years more recently winning 4 local prestigious Car Of The Year titles and selling 500 000 vehicles since 1994 (180 000 being the Corsa but excluding the Utility bakkie). This is a longer relationship than most of the aforementioned brands. This has enabled the brand to cement itself into the hearts of many locals with cult favorites such as the Superboss, OPC and GSI. 

While the 6 generations of the Corsa have successfully sold 14 million units globally since its inception in 1982, the automotive world has changed significantly since then. New market offerings from brands are seldom bad and general quality and user interface with vehicles has increased exponentially. The new Opel Corsa is a prime example of this – not that any of their previous 5 generations have been severely sub-par with the segment. 

The new generation, in line with refreshed brand identity has elevated itself, partially due to the recent Stellantis merger of FCA and PSA. What this means for the consumer is the Corsa has become the first Opel branded car to be based on a Stellantis platform – the front-engine, front-wheel drive Common Modular Platform (CMP) already proven with the Peugeot 208 and Citroen C4. This results in less time squandered by Opel developing a platform/chassis, allowing for more focus and budget on refinement and usability. Affiliations with the 4th largest automobile manufacturer by volume have their perks.

Lightness and efficiency form core aspects of the updated brand pillar of ‘greenovation’, with the entire local range making use of the frugal 1.2-litre 3-cylinder motors, our range topping 96kW turbocharged derivative sipped just over 6L/100km over a 300km open road journey. The low consumption can be partially accredited to flat underbody panelling spanning the length of the car while its drag coefficient of just 0.29 enables it to use less energy to keep its momentum. With an all-aluminum engine and weight reduction all around, the Corsa is 10% lighter than the outgoing car tipping the scales at just 980kg depending on the selected spec. This feathery automotive mass enables responsive braking in sticky situations while speeds in excess of freeway markings still feel safe with the car remaining planted to the tarmac while maneuvering. This can also be accredited to its firm but comfortable suspension which combined with its lightness mitigates excessive body roll and improves general handling characteristics. 

Powering the Corsa is a choice of 2 motors spread across 3 derivatives, both the entry-level Corsa and mid-range Corsa Edition make use of a naturally aspirated 1.2-litre 3 cylinder petrol motor with a maximum power output of 55kW coupled to a 5-speed manual gearbox mounted transversely across the engine bay. The Elegance derivative which we tested makes use of the same motor with the benefit of forced induction, the added turbo bumps its ratings up to 96kW and a smooth 6-speed automatic seamlessly takes care of the gearing. The auto-box provided a comfortable and refined journey, with sensibly laid out gear ratios and easy changes, particularly when downshifting for overtaking. 

In line with the ‘Modern German’ brand identity, the Corsa adds a bit of funk into the mixture with a selection of 7 factory colours including show stopping shades such as Orange Fizz, Pepperoncino Red or Voltaic Blue – which compliment the aesthetics of the car. A two tone option can be specced with a black roof on any of the exterior colours.

The interior amenities are adequate, with a central infotainment system capable of navigation, Apple CarPlay and AndroidAuto. The non-configurable driver screen (on the Elegance models) displays all crucial information in a rudimentary but sensible manner – more affordable models in the range get analog dials. The interior combines a selection of different materials and comfortable touchpoints creating an enjoyable environment for the driver. The rear door-well is slightly narrow and awkward to interact with but interior space once seated is impressive, with taller passengers afforded reasonable leg and knee room in the rear. 

While no 2 door variants are on the cards, Opel has confirmed pricing on the full Corsa range of 2021. Starting at R274 900 for the Corsa base model and progressing to R386 900 for the Elegance. With its handsome looks and funky attitude, it should give the usual B-Hatchback contenders a good run for their money. 

Opel Crossland X – Launch Drive.

Opel Crossland X

We drive the Opel Crossland X

The Mokka X having proved itself to be a worthy contender to the likes of the Mazda CX-5, Suzuki Vitara, and Renault Captur, will now be joined by the all-new family focused Crossland X. The recent accusation of the Opel brand by the French through the PSA group has resulted in a culmination of minds and the two have promised an onslaught of a total of nine PSA based models in the pipeline before 2020. The first of these collaborative efforts is the Opel Crossland X, based on the same  PF1 platform that underpins the Peugeot 2008. The Crossland X joins the ever popular B-SUV segment and thus aims to be a serious contender in this very competitive game.

Opel Crossland X

Interior

The inside of the Crossland will be rather familiar to the owners of modern Opel products. Much like that of the Corsa, the interior is simple and comprehensive with standard equipment like the Intellilink 4.0 system, which offers a 7-inch touchscreen screen, Apple CarPlay and the usual Bluetooth and USB connectivity options to supplement the radio. The list of standard features on the Crossland also include Hill start assist, attractive LED driving lights, Auto headlights and traffic sign recognition. The Enjoy model adds auto wipers, rear-view camera, front and rear PDC and front fog lamps.  

Opel Crossland X

The top spec Cosmo completes the package with a list of driver aids and safety assistance systems that Opel calls a Safety Pack. This encompasses Forward Collision Alert, Automatic Emergency Breaking, Blind Spot Assist and Driver Drowsiness systems. Finally, the upgraded 8-inch Intellilink 5.0 system with navigation replaces the smaller unit.

Engines

The base Crossland will be the only atmospheric engine in the line-up. Offering 60kW and 118N.m at 2 750 rpm, from a 3 cylinder 1.2-litre engine. The higher spec models will gain some turbo induction and boasts  81kW and 205N.m. The naturally aspirated motor is said to return 5.2l/100km and 4.8l/100km with the turbo engine. All models are linked to a 5-speed manual baring the 6 speed automatic Cosmo. All models drive the front wheels exclusively and highlight the family orientated market it aims to occupy

Opel Crossland X

Driving Impressions:

On launch journos were ushered into the Crossland experience with the full range of models on display, and ready for testing. TheMotorist was presented with a rather handsome machine in the form of the Enjoy variant of the Crossland X. The overall dimensions suggest it to be a bit of an elevated SUV like drive, yet it doesn’t make the car feel large or cumbersome. The Enjoy will likely be the most popular model given it falls above the lower spec base Crossland X and in between the Cosmo and Automatic Cosmo, whilst not feeling sparse in equipment and spec.

The launch route was a good combination of the typical traffic and city driving that the Crossland X will mostly be subjected to. Longer, faster single lane country roads that are a part and parcel of any road trip were also included. The Crossland X offers a very well dampened suspension that offers a rather comfortable ride and well-weighted controls that are light and ideal for this class of vehicle. The transmission action is smooth and the clutch is light and easy to modulate in traffic. Shove from the engine proved to be ample, with the turbo model pulling nicely all the way up to the national limit, whilst also doing a good job of providing enough torque to overtake slower moving traffic. Space in the rear is impressive, given I can sit comfortably behind my 183cm self, and have enough head and shin room even in this position.

Summary

Overall the drive, build and feel is impressive from the not so little Opel and the package it offers will prove to be highly competitive if consumers give it the attention it deserves.

Opel Crossland X Pricing In South Africa

The based model Crossland X starts off pricing at R265 000, with the Enjoy raising this to R305 000. The top Spec Cosmo comes in at R345 000 and R365 000 for the auto. All models are sold with a 120000km/5 year warranty and a 3 year/60 000km service plan.