Produced at Alfa's new factory in South Italy, (hence the name Alfasud - "Alfa South"), the Alfasud was produced as a more affordable Alfa for the many enthusiasts.
Expectations were so high that it was believed the Alfasud would transform Alfa Romeo into a big car maker! New technologies were adopted, such as front-wheel drive and MacPherson strut suspension.
But undoubtedly the highlight was the new boxer engine (horizontally-opposed/flat engine). Although only a single cam rather than the twin cam designs of other Alfa's, it had superior smoothness and its responsiveness earnt it the reputation of being the sweetest engine available in the class for more than a decade.
While the original power of 63 hp from 1186 c.c. was not completely convincing, at least its low center of gravity enabled exceptional handling. Of course, the sport-setting suspensions also contributed very much to the good handling.
The engine was later enlarged to 1.3 liters, and the car named the 1.3Ti. At the end of the decade, it was even upgraded to 1.5Ti, with 105 hp on tap.
Performance was of course superb - zero to sixty took just over 10 seconds, which was rocket-fast then. This could be only eclipsed by the 1600c.c. Golf GTi.
It is rather sad then that such a good little car was to suffer many serious problems over the ensuing years. Both rust and build quality problems turned out to be more severe than parent company Fiat. Sales declined and Alfa Romeo's reputation dropped to the lowest level - not recovering until the late 80's.
The Alfasud was to survive until 1983 in a 4 door 1.5 liter engine form, when it was replaced by Alfa 33. Its coupe version, the Sprint, continued selling as a baby GTV until the end of the decade.
The Alfasud Ti
The Ti went a long way to endearing itself to motoring journalists at release. The result of the improvements realised much more of the Alfasud's design potential and went a long way to making what "should" have been the finest small car then on the road. The Ti version of the Alfasud was distinguished by quadruple headlamps, front and rear spoilers, two instead of four doors, ventilated wheels and much more appealing characteristics.
Taking mechanical matters first, the Ti flat-four engine mounted ahead of the front wheels retained the same capacity of 1,186 c.c. but various modifications raised the DIN b.h.p. from 63 @ 6,000 r.p.m. to 68 at the same revs., while maximum torque had been raised from 61 lb. ft. DIN @ 3,500 r.p.m. to 65 @ 300 r.p.m. less. This was been achieved by replacing the single-choke downdraught carburetter with a twin-choke downdraught Weber carburetter, raising the compression ratio to 9:1 and improving the profiles of the two overhead camshafts. This uprated engine was then mated to a 5-speed gearbox, the extra gear being accommodated in the same casing as the 4-speed model. The McPherson strut front suspension and rear beam axle were unchanged, as were the 4-wheel disc brakes, though a servo became standard.
The most obvious changes were to the diminutive and attractive exterior. Only two doors were availlable on the Ti and a neat Porsche-type spoiler plus four circular instead of two rectangular headlamps enhanced the frontal appearance. Unfortunately the screwed on plastic boot lid spoiler was a little less classy, and looked every bit the "tack on", however one way to make it more appealing was to have the spoiler painted in body color instead of matt black. Semi-sculpted, ventilated steel wheels without hubcaps (still the same size at 5 J x 13 in.) and overriders were the other exterior changes.
The interior was changed quite connsiderably compared with the ordinary Alfaasud, removing most of the cheapness with the latter iteration. A vital 8,000 r.p.m. rev.-counter containing the fuel gauge was joined the 180 k.p.h. speedometer in the same twin gauge cowl, while usefully angled oil-pressure and water temperature gauges plus a blank for an optional electric clock were grouped
in the centre of the facia, below which was a central console with repositioned ash-tray, a cigarette lighter next to the heater controls, provision for radio along with some useful stowage space.
The facing of the facia was of neater quality, extremely comfortable cloth-trimmed seats had built-in headrests and the cheap plastic matting had been replaced by a well-cut fitted carpet (which was available as an option on the standard Alfasud). A heated rear screen became standard kit, this being operated by a button on the end of the right-hand steering column stalk. The dished steering wheel had the same soft plastic rim as the Alfasud, but the spokes were hollowed out.
The Alfasud's Boxer engine was mated to arguably the best 5 speed gearbox ever developed in a mass produced car...
The Alfasud Ti On The Road
Because of the improved torque and the reliable mixture distribution the Ti had everything the basic version lacked in terms of flexibility. The engine was crisp and responsive and would potter along in third gear through town more easily than the other would in second. The five ratios were superb: there was a slightly noticeable gap between second and third, but the other ratios remained ultra-close.
In true Alfa tradiition, fifth was a usable gear rather than an overdrive. Even the most useless driver would find the gearbox easy to operate without finding the wrong gear at the wrong time, and some motoring journalists at the time declared it "the finest 5-speed gearbox fitted to a mass-production car". Improved sound-deadening made the engine even quieter than the ordinary Alfasud, reducing it to a distant buzz, though the exhaust note from behind had even more of a raspberry noise.
The handling and braking through of the Alfasud Ti was exhilarating, the feeling helped by the excellent driving position, good ride and low noise level. When it came to front-wheel-drive small cars, there were few that could steer as well as the Ti. That said, the tires did play a big part in the type of handling you could expect, the 165/70 Ceat radials seeming to produce a virtually neutral handling expericnce, while the Pirellis produced a degree of oversteer. The steering was a delight and the brakes were impressive, although they were prone to fade after prolonged punishment.
Quiet, Comfortable, Relaxing and Fast
During testing many journalists discovered the Alfasud Ti capable of pulling 6,500 r.p.m. in fifth gear, well into the red sector, equal to 107 m.p.h. Alfa claimed a top speed of exactly 100 m.p.h. at 6,000 r.p.m. Many believed the ordinary Alfasud did not represent particularly good value for money, however so superior was the Ti that all that changed for the better.
Alfasud Series III
Some ten years after Alfa Romeo launched the Alfasud saloon, it was still considered by many to possess a highly-advanced technical layout, zestful performance, and superb handling, all of which helped keep the 'Sud' a front runner in its class, in spite of fierce competition. The agile front-drive car with water-cooled boxer motor was, over the years, produced in several forms: four-door, two-door (TI), three-door Sprint, and Giardinetta estate.
Series III models which were introduced one by one during 1980, exhibited considerable improvement both in finish and equipment, the grille being redesigned, and the new synthetic bumpers incorporating a front spoiler. On the high-performance TI the 1.5-liter engine was equipped with the two twin-choke carburetters from the Sprint Veloce, putting maximum power up to 95 bhp (71 kW), and endowing the likeable two-door saloon with a 109 mph plus (175 km/h plus) top speed. For high speed stability the TI was also equipped with a rear spoiler.
Alfasud 1.3 and 1.5 Series III models (saloons and TI) were re-equipped with larger light clusters front and rear, fitted with lengthened front seats (1.96 in/5 cm) for increased comfort, a redesigned fascia, and a folding rear seat for the loading of lengthy items like skis etc. The door panels were new, as were carpets and color schemes.