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The Alfa Romeo 33 is a small family car produced by the Italian automaker Alfa Romeo between 1983 and 1995. It was essentially an evolution of its predecessor, the Alfasud, which was based on the same floorplan, chassis and mechanicals albeit with some minor modifications. The Nissan based Alfa Romeo Arna was launched shortly after, offering a similar size car but at a lower cost.

The 33 has a unique place in Alfa Romeo history - nearly 1 million of these cars were produced internationally. During its 11 year lifespan the 33 saw a light facelift in 1986 and a significant restyle in 1989. The 33 was discontinued in 1994 and replaced by the Alfa Romeo 145 and 146, which used the same boxer engines but built around an entirely new platform based on the Fiat Tipo.

Launch model (1983-1986)

Initially known as the Alfa 33, the 5-door hatchback was launched in 1983 and a station wagon version (initially badged Giardinetta, later badged SportWagon) was introduced the following year at the same time as a four-wheel drive version of the hatchback. The hatchback was styled by Ermanno Cressoni] at the Centro Stile Alfa Romeo, while the station wagon was designed by Pininfarina. Unlike the Alfasud, a 3-door was never launched.

The 33 became renowned for its nimble handling and powerful boxer engines, but also became equally well known for its unreliable electronics and tendencies to rust (a frequent complaint on Italian cars in general at the time). Another issue was its braking and increased unsprung weight — the Alfasud's inboard front disc brakes (mounted on the gearbox) had been moved to the more common outboard discs (mounted on the wheel hubs). The rear discs of the Sud's four-wheel disc arrangement had also been replaced with drums.

The car featured numerous innovations for the company, including an instrument binnacle that moved up and down with the adjustable steering wheel, and a plastic bonnet. The UK launch promoted the sleek design, and the Daily Mail noted its low drag coefficient of 0.36, and very impressive in 1983 with only bigger cars such as the Ford Sierra and Audi 100 able to better it.

Engines

  • 1.2 1,186 cc flat-4, 50 kW (68 PS; 67 bhp) at 6,000 rpm, 92 N·m (68 ft·lbf) at 3,200 rpm (Single carburettor)
  • 1.3 1,351 cc flat-4, 58 kW (79 PS; 78 bhp) at 6,000 rpm, 113 N·m (83 ft·lbf) at 3,500 rpm (Single carburettor)
  • 1.3 1,351 cc flat-4, 63 kW (86 PS; 84 bhp) at 5,800 rpm, 121 N·m (89 ft·lbf) at 4,000 rpm
  • 1.5 1,490 cc flat-4, 62 kW (84 PS; 83 bhp) at 5,800 rpm, 123 N·m (91 ft·lbf) at 3,500 rpm
  • 1.5 1,490 cc flat-4, 70 kW (95 PS; 94 bhp) at 5,750 rpm, 133 N·m (98 ft·lbf) at 4,000 rpm (Twin carburettor)
  • 1.5 1,490 cc flat-4, 77 kW (105 PS; 103 bhp) at 6,000 rpm, 136 N·m (100 ft·lbf) at 4,000 rpm (Two-Twin carburettor)

Facelift (1986-1989)

A mild facelift in autumn 1986 resulted in a revised range when the 1.7 litre engine was introduced and a new interior which simplified the dashboard, and lost the innovative moveable instrument binnacle. Exterior alterations were limited to indicator lens colour changes and minor amendments to grill and bumpers. A 1.8 litre diesel engine was also introduced in some markets.

Engines

  • 1.3 1,351 cc flat-4, 58 kW (79 PS; 78 bhp) (Single carburettor)
  • 1.3 1,351 cc flat-4, 63 kW (86 PS; 84 bhp) (Twin carburettor)
  • 1.5 1,490 cc flat-4, 77 kW (105 PS; 103 bhp) (Twin carburettor)
  • 1.5 i.e. 1,490 cc flat-4, 72 kW (98 PS; 97 bhp) (EFI)
  • 1.7 1,712 cc flat-4, 87 kW (118 PS; 117 bhp) (Twin carburettor)
  • 1.8 TD 1,779 cc straight-3, 54 kW (73 PS; 72 bhp) (KKK 14 turbocharger)

Z33 Free Time prototype

Zagato made a tall-bodied three-door prototype, a Compact MPV anticipating the Renault Scénic by over a decade. Called the "Z33 Free Time" this was shown at the 1984 Geneva Motor Show, but the project remained a single prototype. The "Free Time" was no longer than the regular "33" at just under 4 metres (157 in) and retained most of its driving characteristics, but with greatly increased interior space. The tiny six-seater was based on the chassis of the 33 but was visually more related to the Giulietta.