Romeo 147 1.9 JTD
VW Golf 2.0 TDi Sport
dates : 5th December 2004
9th December 2004
Alfa Romeo and Volkswagen have been at the forefront of
the diesel revolution that has changed the face of
motoring in Europe after the past decade.
It’s said that next year fifty per cent of all new
cars sold in Europe will be diesel powered and the
numbers in this country for diesel cars are rising too.
The first diesel-powered Alfa Romeo 147 to appear in
South Africa uses the second-generation JTD engine
developed in conjunction with parent company Fiat.
It employs the common rail system, which pre-pressurises
the fuel in a rail system so that very fine control of
the injectors for each cylinder is always possible.
The JTD engine uses a new-generation variable vane
turbocharger to obtain very quick spool-up time on the
turbo from low revs.
This reduces the so-called turbo lag that is sometimes
still encountered on diesel engines in general.
The Volkswagen engine employed in the two-litre diesel
version of the latest Golf range is an all-new unit. It’s
Volkswagen’s first four-valves-per-cylinder diesel
unit to be offered locally in diesel form.
The two-litre TDI uses VW’s patented pump-injector
system to arrive at very high charging pressures.
This engine is the more expensive diesel option
available on Golf 5, and at just under R228 000, costs
nearly R30 000 more than the Alfa 147 JTD.
There is a one-comma-nine-litre TDi Golf available and
at R198 100, priced almost identically to the Alfa 147.
Given the price differences of our two test models, we
assessed the cars more in terms of feel and concept
rather than outright performance.
The Alfa 147 is a design that has been with us since
2001, but it still feels fresh and contemporary more
than three years after its introduction here.
It’s a smaller, lighter car than the Golf which was
introduced in mid-2004, and in terms of space it cannot
compete head-to-head with the new Golf.
The Alfa has an excellent level of cabin trim and build
quality and a certain deftness of operation that reveals
just why it won many international awards in Europe.
The new Golf 5 was criticized initially for not being a
bold enough step forward in terms of styling. However,
this evolutionary approach has been a Golf stronghold
rather than a negative.
The Golf’s new suspension system at the rear
introduces very refined ride quality to this class of
Although the cabin and exterior styling is not the most
avant garde on the planet, it will no doubt still hold
its appeal over the next six years before Golf 6 is
The Golf’s engine is rated at a hundred-and-three
kiloWatts, some twenty-eight kiloWatts more than the
The day-to-day difference in performance between the two
is apparent but not dramatic.
Alfa claims a ten-second naught-to-one-hundred
kilometres-per-hour sprint time, whereas the Golf is
rated at nine-comma-three seconds for the same
acceleration benchmark. Not a huge difference
In the top speed department the Alfa weighs in with a
hundred-and-ninety-one kilometres-per-hour, while the
Golf goes on to a claimed two-hundred-and-three
A clue to the acceptance that diesel cars now have as
performance models is in the wheels fitted to these
cars. Both have very sporty alloy wheels and sporty
There are none of the black plastic mouldings, and the
plain steel wheels with hubcaps, items that would have
marked the introduction of a diesel model a few years
The Golf is quicker, bigger and more modern, but in
day-to-day driving the differences are not huge and for
many people what sways the decision either way will be
in the very different feel that the two cars provide.
The Alfa is more alive in terms of steering feedback,
brake feel and handling, the Golf more composed, more
clinical in these departments, but a bit more competent
Perhaps the biggest dynamic difference is that the Golf
has a six-speed manual gearbox, whereas the Alfa is
fitted with a five-speed manual ‘box.
On the safety front both the Alfa and Golf have frontal
and side airbags for the front occupants and the Golf
also has curtain airbags.
Both cars also have traction control and ABS.
One of the biggest reasons for buying a diesel is fuel
consumption. Here Alfa claims five-comma-eight
litres-per-hundred-kilometres in overall usage.
Thanks to the latest four-valve technology and the use
of a sixth gear, Volkswagen claims five-comma-four
litres-per-hundred-kilometres overall for its more
In fact around town these figures will drop to around
the seven litre mark for both cars, whereas on long
trips the sixth gear fitted to the Golf should give it
Both cars are fitted with remote controls on the
steering wheel for audio and both have cruise control
for long journeys.
The Golf was fitted with a number of extra cost options.
Balanced against the excellent fuel economy, one has to
consider the servicing costs with a diesel.
In the case of the Golf service intervals are
fifteen-thousand kilometres, but oil changes are at
seven-thousand-five-hundred kilometre intervals. The
Alfa has twenty-thousand kilometre service intervals,
with no intermediate oil changes required.
Car Torque is