The Road Ahead : June 2013
QUEENSLAND'S LARGEST CLUB 45 ROAD TEST | MOTORING JUN/JUL 2013 THE ROAD AHEAD HATCHES ARE A little like chilli. How 'hot' do you like it? For some, only firebrands such as the VW Golf GTi, Megane RS265, Ford Focus ST and the new-to-market OPC Astra will satisfy their taste buds. But, if you prefer your small car served up spicy, not sizzling, then you need to peruse further down the motoring menu. Enter, in alphabetical order, the Alfa Romeo Giulietta 1.4 Distinctive, Hyundai Veloster SR Turbo and Opel's Astra Sport, all of which we put to the test recently. The MY14 Cruze SRi-V with new, 1.6-litre turbo engine was also meant to be a starter, except that Holden could not get one to us on time. However, we have since tested the SRi-V, the results of which are in a sidebar to our main story. Each (this applies to Cruze, too) is comprehensively equipped. There is a complete suite of safety equipment, while creature comforts include dual- zone climate-control airconditioning, cruise control, tilt/reach steering, trip computer, CD player with MP3 compatibility, auxiliary input, USB and bluetooth, front fog lights and powered/ heated external mirrors. Veloster and Astra's inventories also boast active front head rests, satellite navigation, leather trim and premium audio. For the former, tick off also an alarm, tyre pressure monitor, rear view camera, hill start assist, alloy pedals, sports body kit and rear spoiler, LED rear lights and proximity key, while the latter scores front park sensors, rear fog lights, daytime running lights, rear spoiler, front centre sliding armrest, rear armrest with storage, rear reading lights and keyless entry. All come with five (out of five) ANCAP stars for safety, together with solid Green Vehicle Guide environmental ratings (4.5 stars for the Alfa and Hyundai; four for the Opel). And, for the record, all are six-speed manual, although a six-speed auto is a $2000 option on each. ALFA ROMEO GIULIETTA 1.4 DISTINCTIVE Who would have thought the stylish Italian would be the cheapest by well over $2000? Put that down to a February price drop across much of the Fiat and Alfa Romeo range, which slashed this entry-level Giulietta by a whopping $7640. Unfortunately, in terms of value for money, that's as good as it gets. High depreciation (a residual of 30 percent after five years/70,000km), no capped price servicing, costliest insurance premium (nearly $200 dearer than Veloster and close to $100 more than Astra) all contribute to evaporate much of that afore-mentioned price saving. With an ADR combined fuel cycle average of 5.9 litres/100km, Giulietta's 1.4-litre turbo engine imbibes the least, although it does require dearer 95 RON PULP. On test, the Alfa returned best economy of 7.8 litres/100km. In terms of interior and cargo space, Giulietta is 'piggy in the middle', being fractionally more accommodating than Veloster, but losing out to Astra. The seats are comfy, though driving ergonomics are compromised by pedals being too closely placed (exacerbated by a clutch action that requires awkward application of the left foot) and no footrest. With lesser engine capacity, we weren't expecting the Alfa to be the quickest in all four of our acceleration tests, but it was -- albeit by hundredths to tenths of a second. The key to its free-spirited performance is a 'DNA' switch, which alters the drive mode to suit. 'D' is for Dynamic, 'N' is for Normal and 'A' is for All-weather (i.e., low grip) conditions. 'Dynamic' not only liberates an extra 20Nm of torque from the 125kW, 230Nm TB MultiAir engine, but acts on the brakes, steering, suspension and gearbox to allow the driver to hone the car's responses to the conditions at hand. And when those conditions include a ribbon of quiet, twisty back roads, the Alfa is at its best. The steering is crisp and communicative, chassis lithe and alive, engine responsive yet flexible. Given its Euro heritage, we were expecting some harshness of ride. Not so. In 'Normal' setting, Giulietta irons out the road creases, and even on the stiffer 'Dynamic' setting, it's easy to live with. HYUNDAI VELOSTER SR TURBO Even Hyundai appears a little uncertain as to whether Veloster is a hatchback or coupe, but for the purposes of this exercise, we will claim it as a hatch. Korean cars usually offer great value for money, and the SR Turbo is no exception. As well as being competitive IMAGES: FROM LEFT, VELOSTER, ASTRA AND GIULIETTA. THANKS TO THE FOX & HOUNDS COUNTRY INN AT WONGAWALLAN FOR MAKING AVAILABLE OUR PHOTO SHOOT LOCATION. ... each is comprehensively equipped. There is a complete suite of safety equipment...