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Tested 11.7.90

When Alfa Romeo updated its 33, the range-topper became the most powerful hot hatch in its class, but dynamic failings and archaic ergonomics let it down. 

The reworked 1.7-litre fourcylinder boxer engine gained fuel injection and doubled its cams and valves to four and 16 respectively, adding 19bhp in the process. The front MacPherson struts and rear torsion beam were both relocated to combat torque steer, the exterior styling was refreshed by Walter de Silva and the interior was updated.

The engine’s charge to its 6750rpm redline was even more zestful than before, but poor traction meant a meagre 0.2sec improvement in the 33’s 0-60mph time while a lack of low-rev tractability actually worsened in-gear performance. The new engine shone above 80mph, however, and a top speed of 128mph was classleading. The five-speed manual gearbox was swift if rubbery. 

Torque steer still blighted the 33, while the steering itself lacked feel. The ride impressed for the most part but suffered motorway nervousness. 

Fit and finish had improved and interior space was good, but the flawed driving position uncomfortably angled the pilot towards the centre of the car.

For: Fine engine, roomy interior, fuel economy 

Against: Driving position, handling, torque steer

Factfile 

Price £11,790 Engine 4 cyls horizontally opposed, 1712cc, petrol Power 137bhp at 6500rpm Torque 119lb ft at 4600rpm 0-60mph 8.9sec 0-100mph 25.0sec Standing quarter mile 16.7sec, 84mph Top speed 128mph Economy 29.7mpg

What happened next?

The 33 continued in hatch and Sportwagon estate bodystyles until the three-door 145 and five-door 146 arrived in the mid-1990s. Interesting variants included the four-wheel-drive Permanent 4 and the Turismo, complete with wooden steering wheel rim. Only a handful of 33s remain in service in the UK.

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