The Irish Mail on Sunday
Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sportiva Nav
Have you heard the one about Brussels and its ‘ electric cars are too quiet’ legislation? You couldn’t make it up. The geniuses of the EU have decided that some electric cars are now too quiet, so they are going to force manufacturers to add a synthetic engine noise, or any noise for that matter, as long as it lets people know they may be about to get squished and they might want to think about jumping out of the way.
Here’s the best bit, though: only where vehicles travelling at or below 13mph. Now the argument per se makes total and utter sense, especially where children, elderly folks and those who are partially sighted are concerned, not to mention our beloved pooches and moggies – but you might have thought somebody would have realised they were going to be dangerous quite a bit earlier. Say, before billions had been spent on thousands of vehicles that are now already out there. I could have told them as much if only they’d asked.
One car the EU will not have to worry about being a silent menace, however, is the all-new Alfa Romeo Giulietta.
’Twas a frosty April day morn when Alfa’s uprated and updated Giulietta and I encountered each other for the first time. And my, didn’t she look pretty, glistening in the ever-warming glow of an early spring sun. But not so fast, sonny. I have learnt to temper my enthusiasm where new Alfas are concerned, having been here several times before only to be hugely disappointed. The hypnotic spell of her famous Alfa badge has a svengali-like knack of turning most middle-aged, otherwise level-headed men into salivating, doe-eyed wrecks – but the cars often have few credentials to warrant such a reaction. Please God, I whispered, let this one be at least a bit good.
She looked fab, of course she did; rarely has an Alfa not. She smelled good, too, thanks to a lot of quite serious leather adorning her natty sports seats and various parts of her previously drab dash and door panels. I sat there a good while longer than I usually would before firing her up. Longer still as I caressed the steering wheel while secretly making the noises in my head I hoped I might be about to hear. Reality was a turn of the key away, the clock was ticking and I needed to leave for work. It was time to discover the truth. Oh dear. Tick, tick, tick, clatter, clatter, clatter – another awful diesel soundtrack to endure. Can’t Brussels also promulgate a law banning beautiful cars from sounding this terrible? And it wasn’t just the thrash-metal engine my ears had to put up with. Once under way, another much stranger noise began to emanate from behind me. Surely that couldn’t be... could it? Blimey, yes it was. The incredible sound of fuel sloshing around in the tank. Bizarre, I’ve never come across this before.
As our journey continued and the sloshing (gradually) began to abate, the new turbocharged power unit began to work its magic and redress the argument. This was more like it – in spite of, that is, the evermore familiar barrage of annoying flashing arrows constantly urging me to change gear the second I dare even think about taking the revs over 3,000rpm.
When did these LED tics of varying design become de rigueur? And who are they to question why on earth we would ever want to use the extra few thousand rpm we’ve paid for?
Nonsense, unlike the Giulietta’s gearbox, which is wonderful – one of those tight little affairs that knows exactly where to go. As