Wednesday – Kia Orange


Probably not something my late father would want me to admit to but he was surely the first person in our town to own an orange car. A very vivid, orange Datsun that turned heads for all the wrong reasons.

And when I passed my test at 17, I ended up buying it from him and using the orange-mobile to get to college. It was very economical, had a radio-cassette (classy) and was probably the perfect car for a young driver.

Except I wanted something that turned heads for the right reason and swapped it for a rust bucket Alfa Romeo in red, naturally. I mention this story because Kia has somehow managed to  make orange cool again with our Sportage.

I know Clarkson had a rant recently about the ‘boring car colours’ offered by car manufacturers these days. The Kia SUV bucks that trend and might even persuade you to think orange again too.

Thursday – Another Lingering Goodbye


The last Alfa Romeo I waved goodbye to was welded to my father’s driveway. The 1971 GT Junior came from an era when Italian cars had more rust holes than Swiss cheese. It was lifted onto a scrap lorry and never seen again…

There was a hint of the same feeling when the driver arrived to collect the Giulietta this afternoon. Some cars just get under your skin – some cars don’t. You have to be passionate about driving to own an Alfa, or you may as well buy a Ford and talk about fuel economy.

Yes, it’s not perfect – our earlier reports warned drivers of the perils of tiny, Italianate foot pedals. Then there are the niggly little things, like a sun visor that is either up or down, with no stopping in-between.

Jessica found an rather wicked blind spot on the driver’s side, I loathe the ‘beep-beep’ alarm warning that is so 1980s and the seats that require you to supply your own padding.

But hey, this is an Alfa Romeo and you just learn to live with it – and enjoy a family hatchback that looks like no other, is powered by a remarkable 1.4 petrol engine and puts a little passion back into your daily drive to the office.

Wednesday – TB Or Not TB


Alfa Romeo might not thank me for saying so but secondhand Giulietta‘s look like great value to me. I would have opted for diesel every time if I was buying – until I tried out this white 1.4 TB petrol.

I’ve driven the Volkswagen Golf with a 1.4 TSI and despite being quick, it just doesn’t pack the excitement you want from a relatively small, high performance engine.

The difference is that DNA switch by the gearstick. In ‘Normal’ mode the Alfa is  Golf-like. Push the lever forward to ‘Dynamic’ and the Giulietta surges forward with an instant, unmistakable rush.

I honestly thought it was a gimmick when the car arrived. Then I realised it’s what sets the Alfa apart. Perhaps the only question is, why isn’t DNA active all the time?

The fuel gauge is almost on red now. We’ve been averaging 39mpg most of the week. Final thoughts on this great car tomorrow.



Tuesday – Accuracy All Areas


Jessica Just for the information of the motoring public, I am not a size 9 shoe! I may be tall but accuracy in foot size is definitely needed here, I’m a size 8 shoe and proud of it… one does need suitable feet to hold up a 5’10” frame but there are limits!

But yes, it has to be said there could be a problem if you try to change gear in a hurry driving the Giulietta and your foot can’t find it’s way out from under the clutch.

I love the fact that Alfa Romeo are trying to impress by going their own way with this car.

The dashboard is especially thoughtful, with tactile buttons and intuitive options – but without the standard looks and positioning that seems to prevail in many new cars.

I love the hidden back door and handles handles, as they lull you into believing this is a coupe. The design is inspired but also streamlined and practical.

Would I swap it for a Golf? Not sure. My main problem was a distinct lack of vision beside the car ( a major blind spot), which made me nervous on a busy Sunday evening M25.

That said,  I may have been irritable due to the extreme numbness of my buttocks after only one hour in the seat.  It certainly wins the ‘numb rear of the year award 2013’ and will be hard to beat I’ll wager.

It reminds me of my slightly leaky, green Alfa Romeo Spider that I drove in my early 20s. It was fun, a little out of control but certainly looked good. There is something of that character here.

The Giulietta is exciting, good to look but suffers from some edgy flaws, which may be enough to put off less adventurous types.

Saturday – White Riot

cropped-alfa1.jpgThe White Lion at Aldeburgh is right on the beach. It’s painted white, the same as our Giulietta and, just like the Alfa, is rather well equipped inside.

I spent breakfast this morning staring out of the dining room window at the sea. Or to be honest, rather longingly at the Giulietta which had just whisked me here from the West Country.

The 150-mile journey is one of my least favourite – tortuous might be a better description. What the Alfa did last night more than any other car was take me back to my teenage years, when my 1971 Alfa GT Junior was the vehicle parked outside the family home.

The Giulietta is a throughly modern Alfa Romeo but there’s still more than a trace of ‘old school’ Alfa DNA about it. The ribbed leather seats, the speedometer dials labelled in Italian and the timeless Alfa grille, to name but a few.

The 1.4-litre TB engine is a revelation too – how did they squeeze so much performance out of such a modest unit? No wonder it was New Engine of the Year in 2012.

I’ve never liked white cars but like the drive to the White Lion last night, because of the Giulietta, I’m warming to them all the time.

Friday – Red Alfa v Orange Nissan

alfa2It was the start of a lifelong love of sports cars – and it started with Alfa Romeo. While Jessica was riding horses around the family estate, I was getting into serious trouble with my father, selling a ‘safe’ Datsun 120Y in sunburst orange (eek!) for a rust bucket Italian car.

Not just any Italian car but an Alfa Romeo GT Junior. It was red, with optional holes in the floor that probably weren’t there when it originally left the factory in Milan. I can’t tell you how much that car cost me but it eventually rusted to the driveway. I can tell you it was a lot of fun.

Alfa Romeo is no longer laden with a rusty reputation. And in the UK right now, the Giulietta and Mito supermini are their two rather sporty models.

Slipping behind the wheel of our Giulietta still gives me the same buzz as when I was an 18-year-old. Just like the GT Junior. I can spot the flaws too! The steering column that doesn’t adjust low enough, a slightly cramped rear space and a rather uncomfortable driving position.

But it doesn’t matter a jot. I know the next seven days are going to be fun and I can’t wait. A 300-mile round trip to Suffolk seems a good way to start…


Thursday – Fun Behind The Wheel


Jeremy The Mazda2 is one of those city cars that rather blends in with the crowd. It’s well styled and almost cute but you aren’t going to turn heads like you would driving a Citroen DS3 or an Alfa Romeo Mito.

Never mind because it still has more about it than the bland Ford Fiesta and is something of a revelation once you slip behind the steering wheel. Why? Because just like the Suzuki Swift, this is a car that loves to be driven hard and rewards you with a thoroughly entertaining drive.

The 2 has such a short wheelbase that it is very controllable at speed. I found it very easy to turn in hard to a corner and come out the other side on exactly the right driving line.

If it all goes horribly wrong, then the good news is that this Sport version has Dynamic Stability Control to get you out of a fix. The 16-inch alloys add to the grip and the sporty seats keep you and your front seat passenger firmly in place.

Good things come in small packages and the Mazda2 is no exception.

Friday – Sweden vs Germany


Jeremy There’s something endearing, likeable and rather ‘safe’ about the V40. Stepping into the cabin this morning was like getting reacquainted with an old friend. The last Volvo I owned was an 340, back in the 1980s. It was my father’s choice – he was paying – as the one car even I couldn’t get hurt in.

I traded the 340 in for an Alfa Romeo as quickly as possible and quickly regretted it. My student grant didn’t extend to major rust treatment on a monthly basis… Had that first flirtation with Volvo been a secondhand V40, I would probably still be driving it now.

V40 is the replacement model for the S40 and V50 and it needs to be good to beat the best of German. Well, it certainly has a more distinct look than a VW Golf, or the exceptional Audi A3. It probably holds it own about the BMW 1 Series too, although I have to say, I think the new Mercedes A-class might be the winner for best design.

From the rear, the V40 in R-Design trim looks amazing. The twin tailpipes and small rear screen tick lots of boxes. Nose on, it’s on a par with the German competition. Which begs the question, is the V40 good enough to tempt Audi/BMW/VW drivers away from their normal car purchase?

That could well come down to the driving experience and I shall give my verdict on that tomorrow…



Bank Holiday Monday – Buy One Get One Free


Jeremy The first memorable car I ever owned was an Alfa Romeo GT Junior from 1972. Great machine but like every Alfa of the era, it eventually rusted to my driveway and had to be towed away. I replaced it with an MBG Roadster and that’s when my love of motoring started…

The MX-5 is often compared with the MG – because it is also a sensational, value-for-money, sports car. There are plenty faster, possibly prettier and offering more stylish interiors yet, with cars like the MG and Mazda, it’s all about getting behind the wheel.

If you enjoy ‘enthusiastic’ driving, sportsters the MX-5 usually cost a whole lot more. You could include two-seaters like the BMW Z4, Audi TT and Porsche Boxster in this category. Great cars but considerably more cash.

I’d say the MX-5 is equally as much fun as all of them and the benefits of the folding hard-top roof make it a serious competitor for those three German machines. If £23,000 is out of your range for a new, 2.0-litre MX-5, a two year old model with less than 15,000 miles on the clock will set you back around £12,000.

You could buy a classic MGB with the money you save too…